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Public servants bagging employers to suffer severe consequences

Public servants who use social media to bag their employers should not be surprised if they suffer severe "consequences", the government's chief technical officer says.

If you spend time bagging your organisation online or offline you should not think that your employment is going to continue unconditionally. 

The Finance Department's John Sheridan told a gathering of public servants in Canberra that rules for the behaviour of federal public servants were clear and reasonable, and departments were entitled to act when they were broken.

Mr Sheridan said public servants on Twitter and Facebook were no different to other workers using a noticeboard to disparage their employers.

"If you spend time bagging your organisation online or offline, you should not think that your employment is going to continue unconditionally," he told the audience.

"You shouldn't be surprised by the consequences."

"If you post defamatory material on a pinboard in the office, this behaviour should be treated in the same way as posting that material online."

His comments followed news that the sacking of Immigration Department official Michaela Banerji appeared all but certain, over harshly critical comments she made on Twitter against her employer, albeit anonymously.

The Federal Court refused on Monday to grant a stay of dismissal to Ms Banerji, who was in the audience to hear Mr Sheridan's comments.

Another bureaucrat, the Foreign Affairs Department's Darryl Morris, also looks certain to be sacked over the activities of a Facebook group of which he is allegedly a member.

Mr Sheridan told the forum, hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia's ACT division, that public servants were bound to remain impartial in political matters.

"The public service centres upon principles of impartiality, so that we can provide services to whatever side of politics holds government at a given point," he said.

Fairfax Media revealed on Tuesday that the Immigration Department's combative spokesman, Sandi Logan, himself a target of Ms Banerji's tweets, has had his online voice silenced by the new Abbott government.

17 comments

  • Are we to assume that Roger Corbett of the Reserve Bank, who criticised the Labor party openly just before the election, will now loose his job due to his lack of impartiality?

    I didnt think so.

    Commenter
    cos1
    Date and time
    September 25, 2013, 11:53AM
    • Big deal...
      Most contracts these days have a clause for dismissal and damages for improper use of social media!

      Commenter
      Storm
      Location
      In a teacup
      Date and time
      September 25, 2013, 3:02PM
  • If the employer conveying this news was anyone other than the PS this would not be news.

    @cos1 - I think you will find that the reserve bank being independent of Government is at the core of our monetary system as it is in many countries around the world.

    Commenter
    Little Johnny
    Date and time
    September 25, 2013, 12:29PM
    • No one points a gun at you to work for an employer you hate. If you don't like it, leave.

      Commenter
      Boringpie
      Date and time
      September 25, 2013, 12:38PM
      • So if I say bad things about my employer, I get the sack? So, therefore, if I say good things, I get a bonus/pay raise/promotion? If only ......

        Commenter
        Dee2
        Date and time
        September 25, 2013, 12:50PM
        • Wouldn't it be wise to ask why these people are complaining?

          Commenter
          Guru
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          September 25, 2013, 1:12PM
          • If you asked every whinging public servant why they complain it would take a very long time.

            Commenter
            WotTha?????
            Date and time
            September 25, 2013, 2:41PM
        • But... She said it anonymously. How is it politicizing the pubic service to speak anonymously?

          Commenter
          John
          Date and time
          September 25, 2013, 1:28PM
          • I recently worked for the federal public service. I have recent experience of this policy.
            It is nothing to do with being impartial when doing your job, it is all about silencing dissent of any kind. An anonymous facebook post? Wow, now there's a threat to national security and the stability of the nation, eh? No, boys and girls, it is an ongoing legacy of the Howard years, where any dissenting opionion was crushed - ruthlessly I might add - however good the advice may have been.
            The irony of this is that the senior bureaucrats who are doing the sackings are the very same bullying incompetents who deserve all the criticisms they get. It's effectively a management cartel of mediocrity, using the public service act to get rid of anyone who points out that the emperor is indeed self-evidently naked.

            Commenter
            Truthy
            Date and time
            September 25, 2013, 1:49PM
            • Yep, more oftan than not, that's correct. All the forever-mediocre, useless, time-wasting, old-boys-club staff in the PS need to be given the flick, with the priority given to getting rid of those such at the highest levels first. Hopefully that will be the lasting legacy of this Government after they leave office. Interesting that Sandi Logan at the Immigration Department was told to put a sock in it by the Government. Great to see, actually. I hope it's a prelude to more of the same.

              Commenter
              RobP
              Date and time
              September 25, 2013, 2:24PM

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