The updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants has been released.
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The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, leaves absolutely no room for employees to make critical comments of any of their ministers, superiors, or departments. Furthermore, it suggests public servants are liable to be disciplined even if they don’t promptly delete a critical post on their social media account by an outsider. First brought to light by a critical article in The Australian newspaper, the nine-page, 3,000+ word guide goes into some detail as to what is and what is not acceptable. Now listen up! “As members of the Australian community, Australian Public Service (APS) employees have the right to participate in public and political debate,” the document begins. “But this is not an unlimited right. APS employees have particular responsibilities under the Public Service Act 1999 that come with being employed as a public servant by the Commonwealth of Australia. In some cases, these responsibilities limit their ability to participate fully in public discussions, including on social media.” Criticism is a definite no-no. Whether it is the employee’s current agency, Minister, previous agency, or observations of a person, the guide is clear to begin with: “Criticising the work, or the administration, of your agency is almost always going to be seen as a breach of the Code. The closer your criticism is to your area of work, the more likely this will be.” The guide then goes on to warn that critical posts are not allowed after hours or in a declared private capacity, or even anonymously: “Even if you don’t identify yourself you can still be identified by someone else.” And just in case you’re wondering, your right to freedom of speech is, well, worthless: “The common law recognises an individual right to freedom of expression. This right is subject to limitations such as those imposed by the Public Service Act. In effect, the Code of Conduct operates to limit this right.” The commissioner responds The Australian Public Service Commissioner The Hon John Lloyd has responded to the detailed article published by The Australian newspaper, declaring it to be misrepresentative: “The use of social media by employees requires discretion and judgement,” he writes. “For this reason it is important that all employers, including those in the APS, ensure their employees clearly understand the expectations of their behaviour when they use social media. “The APSC consulted extensively with APS agencies and employees in late 2016. This consultation indicated that the policy settings did not need to change, but that current obligations were not well understood by employees. The CPSU encouraged its members to participate, and made a submission. “It is not more restrictive than previous guidance. Rather, it clarifies the parameters around what public servants can and cannot say, and should give greater confidence to APS employees when they are participating online activity. Submissions to the review indicated that aspects of the previous guidance was unclear and ambiguous, and that revised guidance should be simpler and easy to understand.” Straight from the Trump playbook: The Greens Greens employment spokesperson Adam Bandt MP slammed reports in The Australian that the Turnbull government will impose restrictions on public servants criticising his government on social media. "There must have been a few paragraphs missing from the leaked Trump/Turnbull transcript, because this latest crackdown on the public service is straight from the Trump playbook," said Mr Bandt. "If anyone challenges Trump, they get fired. Malcolm Turnbull, in his desperation to hang onto power, is trying to do the same. "Holding public servants responsible for what others post on their page is the stuff of the thought police. Your job shouldn't be in danger because someone shares a post on your page about marriage equality or action on climate change and you don't delete it. "This is a ruthless assault on freedom of speech that would make any demagogue proud.” The guide, Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees, is available here. [post_title] => Though shalt not criticise [post_excerpt] => The updated guide to social media use by Federal public servants has been released. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => though-shalt-not-criticise [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-07 14:53:04 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-07 04:53:04 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27775 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27781 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-08-07 09:03:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-06 23:03:28 [post_content] => Andrew Ferrington The third series of 'Utopia', the fan favourite for all who have worked in an office, premiered last month. The series — created by the prolific Working Dog team — tells of the National Building Authority's coexisting contrary tensions of bureaucracy and ‘blue sky’ ambitions. At the outset, let me disclose that I spent more than 15 years in a variety of roles in public service and am now back in the private world. The show is great — the ministerial adviser tries to highlight the positives of the NBA's ambitions, while the authority itself grapples with its commission to be ambitious in its outlook. The show makes its mark by illustrating the tensions between the government, its ministers and the institutions that oversee it, all while the NBA attempts to complete public brief it has to envision the future. The thing that concerns me is not the laughs at the bureaucracy's expense, it’s what it points out about the private sector. The big-picture thinking that always gets a laugh, is now nowhere to be seen. Because it can't be. Only government is able to take the risk to lead such big change. The private sector not only can't – but won't. It doesn't have the mandate, the appetite or the ability to dream large with these projects. The trope that "we don't need the government" as Rob Sitch's character says in episode one, becomes simply wrong. No entity but the government can make a decision or show the leadership that is needed to execute projects that bring about fundamental changes to society. Further, the contemporary discussion about ‘small’ government and that it should get out of the way of business is also a nonsense. If we didn't have government imagining these large projects, taking risks that the private sector can't even conceive of, and spending the money (yes, our money), society would be nothing like it is today. We do well to understand the context in which government works, because it is important. This leadership trickles down: while the government mandates that women, people with a disability or indigenous peoples have a significant contribution to play in society, the private sector is far behind. As a former bureaucrat, 'Utopia' makes me laugh. Yes, I've seen these behaviours: where the tyranny and vanity of politics overrules all. But it also makes me sad, because it mocks the leadership role that government plays, and the vision and ideas that the private sector can't possibly imagine. Next time you leave home (which is standing solidly, because government regulations mandated it should be built to a certain standard), think about the water, electricity and other services you use, the roads you drive on, footpaths you walk on, and trains you might catch. While they may be delivered by the private sector, they were planned and imagined by governments. And without them, we would be significantly worse off. Andrew Ferrington is the national tenders manager at Findex Group. [post_title] => There is no private ‘Utopia’ [post_excerpt] => Government is the only one working to create a 'Utopia'. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => no-private-utopia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-07 15:04:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-07 05:04:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27781 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26113 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-01-31 10:31:15 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-30 23:31:15 [post_content] => It took Victoria’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages more than a year to give a grieving mum birth and death certificates for her son who died when he was 18 weeks old. A Victorian Ombudsman investigation into the Registry’s behaviour, published yesterday (Monday), found that its actions had likely prolonged the mother’s distress and grief and pointed to “serious service delivery problems” in the organisation, reflected in the growing number of complaints the Ombudsman had received. Ms X gave birth to twins in 14 weeks prematurely in March 2015. One of the boys survived but the other died 4.5 months later. She battled for more than a year to get the Registry to issue birth certificates for both boys and death certificates for Twin A. Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass uncovered a litany of failures in the way the Registry dealt with Ms X. “A grieving parent, having lost an infant twin child seeking basic documentation about his very existence – found herself immersed in a bureaucratic netherworld,” said Ms Glass. “Over 20 contacts with the Registry, with concerns still not resolved over 12 months, unanswered and unreturned phone calls, discovering the Registry had lost certified documents.” Ms X had made a mistake on the form and had registered the births two months late but the Ombudsman chided the Registry for showing no understanding of the “intense sadness and despair” that Ms X had been going through. Unfortunately, Ms X’s case was not an isolated one, said Ms Glass. Complaints about the Registry shot up from 14 cases in January 2016 to 34 cases in April 2016. “Given the sensitive nature of much of its caseload, we would expect the Registry to fulfil its statutory obligations with efficiency and accuracy. But as this investigation demonstrates, far too often, this did not happen,” Ms Glass said. “Sadly, Ms X’s experience with the Registry was not unique. My office had received an increasing number of complaints about the Registry and its delays in issuing certificates or responding to complaints." She said complaints were most often about long waits on the telephone that failed to resolve issues, sloppy or non-existent record keeping, poor communication and confusing policies. Some people said they had waited more than two hours on the phone before having their calls cut off without speaking to Registry staff. The Victorian Ombudsman recommended that there be an external audit of the Registry’s performance and business practices in 18 months’ time; that it consider the particular circumstances of each individual case and ensure applicants who have paid a fee are told if their application is non-compliant. Ms Glass welcomed the response of the Department of Justice and Regulation in accepting the recommendations: “The Department has acknowledged that the Registry has been experiencing serious service delivery problems, and happily, matters are improving with more staff engaged, improved technology and the adoption of complaint handling procedures. The further recommendations contained in this report will help the Registry do what all Victorians should reasonably expect from this key public service. ” A restructure of the Registry between 2012 and 2015 cut the number of employees in back office roles. Registry employees fell from 111 FTE staff to 85 FTE and roles and responsibilities substantially changed. Ms Glass mentioned in her report that agency cuts were at least partly responsible for the Registry’s poor performance. But the report mentions that the Registry has been trying to clean up its act by hiring more staff, making IT improvements and adopting complaint handling procedures. [post_title] => Mum's grief worse after bureaucratic nightmare with Births, Deaths and Marriages [post_excerpt] => Ombudsman uncovers serious problems at Registry. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => births-deaths-marriages-takes-year-supply-babys-death-certificate [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-31 13:39:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-31 02:39:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26113 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25363 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-10-25 11:05:42 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-25 00:05:42 [post_content] => Marie Coleman from the National Foundation of Australian Women has spent multiple decades campaigning for all women to have access to a decent paid parental leave (PPL) scheme but she now faces the painful prospect of those hard-won gains being snatched away from up to 80,000 Australian women. Ms Coleman, who has spent years lobbying various Prime Ministers, including John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on maternity leave, believes the federal government’s Fairer Paid Parental Leave Bill will have serious consequences for women and their families if it is passed. She says she is “deeply, deeply unimpressed” by the government’s approach and believes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should look for savings elsewhere. “Clean up the administration of family day care and the cesspit of the private sector VET-FEE HELP,” Ms Coleman said. “If we have to save money – and I firmly believe we should save money – I don’t believe we should be putting the health of babies and months at risk by this extremely vindictive measure.” The Bill’s beginnings were far from auspicious. Witness the unedifying spectacle of then Treasurer Joe Hockey delivering the Abbott/Hockey budget, telling the nation’s women on Mother’s Day that they were a pack of freeloaders, “double dippers” and rorters, while conveniently forgetting the wives of senior politicians - including his own - had (legally) been doing exactly that. The new Bill aims to overhaul the current PPL scheme, ushered in under Labor’s Paid Parental Leave Act 2010, where new parents are entitled to 18 weeks of PPL at minimum wage, which is $11,826 per household, regardless of whether they also received PPL from their employer. Those earning more than $150,000 are not entitled to government-paid PPL. The original aim of the scheme was to fit together both sources of PPL where possible and to move towards giving women 26 weeks with their babies, the World Health Organisation’s target. The Productivity Commission reported in February 2009 that the evidence was incontrovertible that 18 weeks PPL was valuable and it found 26 weeks desirable. The new Fairer PPL Bill 2016 stipulates:
- No paid parental leave from the government if a person receives PPL from their employer which is equal or more than the national minimum wage
- Parents will no longer be able to receive employer-provided PPL as well as the full amount of parental leave pay under the government’s PPL scheme
- Parents who get no employer-provided payments or receive less than the total amount of parental leave pay under the PPL scheme will get a top-up
- Employers will have to opt in to administer government payments. Employees will be paid directly by the Department of Human Services, which will cost the government an extra $7 million over five years
- Minor amendments will include more generous backdating provisions so parents have more time to lodge a claim in certain circumstances
- Centrelink bunging Youth Allowance and Austudy payments
- Call waiting times of more than an hour to get through to Centrelink
- One-quarter of all 57 million phone calls to Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support agencies last year going unanswered (Auditor General’s report 2015)Complaints up almost 19 per cent on last year, and customer satisfaction is down by per cent (DHS Annual Report)
- An avalanche of customer complaints about online services, particularly myGov
- A litany of complaints about mobile apps for child support, Medicare and Centrelink
- Restore adequate funding to DHS
- Invest in high quality, in-house IT systems so clients can access a reliable online service
- Increase DHS permanent staff numbers so that claims and queries are processed quickly and clients who need over-the-phone or in-person services can get them
- Ensure rural and regional Australia has fair access to government services.
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