National

No stay of termination for 'rogue' public servant tweeter

A public servant who tweeted criticism of the Australian government's immigration policy will work her last day on Friday, after failing in a bid to delay her sacking.

Public affairs officer Michaela Banerji is fighting the Immigration Department's move to fire her after she tweeted comments that were critical of the government, the department and its spokesman, Sandi Logan.

"What will I do on Monday?"... asked Michaela Banerji.
"What will I do on Monday?"... asked Michaela Banerji. Photo: Jay Cronan

She applied for a stay on her sacking until her appeal was heard in the Federal Court.

On Monday, she repeatedly asked the court "what would I do on Monday" if her firing by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship was allowed to take effect. 

Last month, a Federal Circuit Court judge found there was no "unfettered implied right (or freedom) of political expression" in the matter.

Ms Banerji said her comments – made under the Twitter user name "LaLegale" and without identifying herself as a government employee – did not affect her capacity to work in an impartial way.

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Lawyers for the department's secretary, Martin Bowles, argued there was no need for Ms Banerji to remain employed until her appeal and the department's cross-appeal were heard in court, because she would be reinstated if her appeal was successful and her entitlements would be paid.

Ms Banerji disputed the argument.

"What will I do on Monday? I will not be able to see my colleagues … I have a mortgage to pay," she told the court.

"My feeling is that I have done nothing wrong, and I think it is unfair that I have to suffer further detriment until that [appeal is decided]."

The department gave Ms Banerji a notice of termination, taking effect this Friday, after last month's judgment was made.

Justice Jane Jagot, sitting in Sydney with Ms Banerji appearing by videolink from Canberra, said the balance of convenience favoured the department, and she was not prepared to force the organisation to employ Ms Banerji when it could be found she had been validly sacked.

"The appellant has already had an opportunity to put her case to the Federal Circuit Court ... there is a decision of that court contrary to the appellant," Justice Jagot said.

No date has been set yet for the appeals but the matter will return to court for a directions hearing in October.