National

He who must not be named at the ATO... It's Eric Abetz

Public servants at the Australian Taxation Office are being threatened with official punishment if they mention the name of Public Service Minister Eric Abetz in internal online discussions about pay and conditions at the agency.

Managers have phoned rank-and-file tax officials, warning them to remove even innocuous references to the minister from the electronic notice boards or face disciplinary action.

The Taxation Office has officially confirmed the policy is in place saying the internal discussions on the current round of enterprise bargaining talks must remain "apolitical".

The minister's office said on Monday that this was a matter for the individual agency without any input from the minister.

The news comes in the wake of a row over ATO managers trying to "censor" material pinned to traditional physical notice boards at its office with the agency told by Fair Work Australia that they should not remove items unless they broke the law.

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The combination of online communications and Eric Abetz is a sensitive one for the ATO, with the minister one of several conservative politicians who welcomed the resignation of tax official Darryl Adams this year over his "ill-advised" Tweeting about anti-porn campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist.

Enterprise bargaining talks are stalled across the Australian Public Service and the minister has weighed into the debate, urging bureaucrats at the largest department, Human Services, not to vote for strike action.

But an ATO spokeswoman said the internal discussion boards were no place for politics and the mention of politicians' names was not acceptable.

"The ATO's enterprise agreement discussion board is a forum for employees to share ideas and opinions about the ATO's bargaining process," the spokeswoman said.

"We require our staff to ensure posts comply with the APS values and code of conduct, which includes treating each other with respect and courtesy and being apolitical.

"On rare occasions we ask staff to modify or remove posts where the language does not meet the requirements of the APS values or code of conduct."

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