Coalition warns Australian public servants over social media attacks

Coalition warns Australian public servants over social media attacks, by Ewin Hannan.

The Turnbull government will today seek to impose restrictions on public servants criticising the Coalition on social media, warning that employees risk disciplinary action for “liking” anti-government posts or privately emailing negative mat­erial to a friend from home.

Documents obtained by The Australian show public servants would also be warned they could be in breach of the public service code of conduct if they do not ­remove “nasty comments” about the government posted by others on the ­employee’s Facebook page.

Under the new policy, liking or sharing anti-government material on a social media platform will generally be taken as an endorsement and as though the public servant had created the material. …

Declaring the code operates “in effect” to limit an individual’s right to freedom of expression, the ­government also warned public ­servants against posting criticism anonymously or under a pseudonym. Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd said last night that “objectionable material was not miraculously sanitised” by a public servant posting anonymously or using a pseudonym. “That argument is similar to a burglar arguing that charges should be dismissed because he wore a balaclava,’’ he said. …

In relation to posts made after hours, the government says a public servant’s capacity to affect the reputation of their agency and the public service “does not stop when you leave the office”. …

That goes too far, surely?

The Community and Public Sector Union last night accused the government of “overreach”. …

“The notion that the mum of a gay son who happens to work in Centrelink can’t like a Facebook post on marriage equality without endangering her job is patently ­absurd.

“It is one thing to say that public servants working on a particular government policy shouldn’t be publicly criticising that policy, quite another to say they have no right to engage on social media on anything that could be a community issue.”