Public servant loses fight over Twitter attack on government

Judge Neville found Australians had no ”unfettered implied right (or freedom) of political expression”. There is no Commonwealth legislation enshrining a general right to freedom of expression. The High Court has inferred a freedom of political communication primarily from sections 7 and 24 of the Constitution.

‘Australia is a party to seven core international human rights treaties. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is contained in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

You will need to consider the right to freedom of opinion and expression if you are working on legislation, a policy or a program that:

  • regulates the content of any speech, publication, broadcast, display or promotion
  • regulates the format or manner of any form of expression (for example requires prior approval for public protest or places restrictions on the uses of places in which protest activity may take place)
  • restricts or censors media coverage, including in relation to political matters
  • requires material to be approved before it may be published
  • attaches criminal or civil liability to the publication of opinions or information
  • regulates or restricts access to information, including on the internet
  • imposes censorship or provides for classification of entertainment content, or
  • regulates commercial expression (such as advertising).

So it goes without saying 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.

Ms Banerji, thought what she had posted was anonymous and would not be traced back to her account. In this day and age, there is no such thing as anonymous. There is always a way to discover who posted what material.
Unfortunately for many in the Public service, who would like to announce their displeasure with the Government of the day. They are subject to the Australian Public Service’s code of conduct.