Guidelines give the green light to get involved
Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) Guidelines (Values and Code of Conduct in Practice) state: “APS employees may participate in political activities as part of normal community affairs. They may also join, or hold office in, political parties.” The only exception is for staff working in the Australian Electoral Commission. However, “If an APS employee is involved in political campaigning, they should make it clear they are not undertaking these activities as part of their official duties.”
Stay safe and smart
In practice, this means you should not campaign during work time, use work resources for campaigning, or behave in a way that might infer that your political campaigning is a part of your official duties or that your employer supports your political views. For example, you shouldn’t hand out election campaign material or wear clothing with political messages while at work.
Your time, your rights:
You are free to do any of the following in your own time:
- attend political rallies or functions
- display campaign posters on your property
- letterboxing, door-knocking and other volunteer campaign work
- handing out how-to-votes on election day
Your workplace activities:
- attend union meetings
- discuss union issues with colleagues
- receive and read union information and emails
APSC Guidance states “Broadly speaking, APS employees have the right to post, and participate in online debate, on a range of issues – including topics of political or social interest, government policy, and the merits of various parties’ policies in the lead-up to an election (subject to agency-specific requirements).” (Guidance for APS Employees, September 2020, p. 5).
You should avoid making comment on policies that are directly related to the agency you work in. The APSC also advises that employees should consider:
- Seniority – If you are more senior, then your behaviour online is more likely to affect public confidence in the APS.
- The connection between the topic and your work – Avoid making comment on policies directly related to your work, comments that could reasonably be perceived to be made on behalf of your agency
or the Government, or which could be seen to compromise your capacity to fulfil their duties in an unbiased manner.
- Expression - Always avoid offensive and discriminatory comments, and language that is overly harsh or extreme. Avoid comments could be seen as gratuitous attacks on your employer, the Government, Members of Parliament etc.
Should I use my real name?
The guidelines say that employees must still uphold the APS Values even when material is posted anonymously, or using an alias or pseudonym. As a general rule we advise members to remove any information about where they work or who they work for from their social media profiles.
So what can I do online?
In an unofficial capacity and in your own time, members should feel free to ‘like’ and ‘share’ posts which are not offensive (racist, violent, sexual and defamatory) and are in line with the APS Code of Conduct. Social media conventions take comments on other people’s posts as a direct personal comment by you and the policy also applies to these.
Paid campaign work
Under APS guidelines, employees wishing to take leave to work on a campaign should obtain approval from their agency head.
If you feel you are being unfairly treated at work in relation to expressing your democratic rights, or simply require clarification, please contact the CPSU immediately on 1300 137 636.
More information on the APSC guidelines: