A Canberra public servant has lost her appeal against being dismissed for running an anonymous twitter account that criticised her Department and Department Secretary. She never disclosed her job to her followers.
Ms Banerji, a public affairs officer, used microblogging website Twitter under the name @LaLegale. She had more than 700 ”followers”, or readers, when her department* investigated her comments.
She regularly posted critical tweets about Australia’s immigration detention policies, the security company that works at detention centres, and government and opposition frontbenchers.
[The investigator] recommended Ms Banerji be dismissed as a result of the two breaches of the Australian Public Service’s code of conduct, noting bureaucrats must avoid making ”harsh or extreme” criticisms of politicians or their policies.
However, Ms Banerji, who has a law degree and represented herself in the case, argued none of her tweets were ”offensive or damaging to individual persons, but instead, they are expressions of political opinion, to which all Australian citizens have a constitutionally implied right”.
”It is evident that they are a simple expression of political opinion, made in [my] own time away from work.”
She said any finding of misconduct against a public servant ”for expressing a political opinion contravenes the implied constitutional freedom of political communication”.
So, do public servants have an implied constitutional freedom of political communication?
*DIAC – Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Please note: this is not the forum for airing personal views about public servants in general. As far as I am aware the public servant in this case did her tweeting on her own time on her own computer.