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Abbott’s tyrannical silencing of 1,892,100 possibly critical political opinions

Image from pinterest.com

Image from pinterest.com

‘It is tyrannical to forcibly silence critical political opinion with the threat of loss of livelihood’ writes Jennifer Wilson in her response the government’s threat to dismiss public servants who express dissenting opinions on social media.

The recent directive from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on the lack of freedom of speech public servants have as private citizens, includes the expectation that government employees will dob in colleagues they believe are criticising the government.

This report in the Guardian, linked above, begins with a declaration by Tony Abbott before he became PM:

There is no case, none, to limit debate about the performance of national leaders. The more powerful people are, the more important the presumption must be that less powerful people should be able to say exactly what they think of them.

I’m baffled as to why this noble sentiment isn’t applied to public servants. Engaging anonymously on social media is no protection for them, as is evidenced by the sacking of Immigration Department employee Michaela Banerji who tweeted critically of the department using a pseudonym, and lost her job.

In subsequent action, Ms Banerji argued that there is an constitutionally implied freedom of political communication for public servants, however, the prospective costs of prolonged legal action caused her to withdraw and settle out of court, leaving the claim untested.

There are some 1,892,100 public servants in Australia, accounting for 16.4 per cent of the workforce. None of them are permitted to offer personal political opinions critical of the government on social media. It is unlikely that this restriction will be challenge by an individual. The government has deep pockets and access to the best advice, when it comes to defending legal action against it. Yet it would seem a matter of urgency that a challenge to such tyranny is launched.

It is tyrannical to forcibly silence critical political opinion with the threat of loss of livelihood. While no one can reasonably endorse public servants using knowledge obtained in the course of their work to criticise the government of the day, general personal opinion, of the kind expressed by Ms Banerji in her tweets ought to be permitted, unless the government is so insecure it cannot bear scrutiny.

A robust and confident government should not fear robust critique. Politicians need to be reminded that they have their jobs only because the electorate allows them that privilege. Stifling dissent will never endear governments to the citizenry. Part of a politician’s job is to weather the inevitable storms of criticism, and if they are too weak to do this, they are too weak to govern a country.

Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, Tim Wilson, has this interesting take on the responsibility of public servants to the governments that employ them, noting that respect and civilising behaviour are the admirable goals of speech conduct codes.

As Mr Wilson once tweeted that protesters should have a water cannon turned on them, his notions of civilised behaviour are likely unreliable:

@timwilsoncomau Walked past Occupy Melbourne protest, all people who think freedom of speech = freedom 2 b heard, time wasters … send in the water cannons

Wilson also draws a comparison between criticism and respect, which to my mind is totally false. Respect does not, and never has implied inevitable agreement or lack of criticism. It is a very dangerous conflation Mr Wilson makes, and it is especially concerning that the Commissioner for Freedom (I still don’t know what that means) seems unable or unwilling to consider the complexities of competing rights.

My sympathies are with the many people I know who work for the government. To live in the knowledge that one must be constantly aware of one’s speech for fear of losing one’s job is not how one expects to dwell in a liberal democracy. It is absolutely unacceptable that so many Australians must live this way, with the additional fear that a colleague may at any time dob them in. I am at a loss as to understand just what kind of society the Abbott government envisions for our country. The tyrannical silencing of so many people because it is too weak to withstand critical commentary, does not augur well.

If any public servant wants to be an un-named source, he or she is very welcome on this blog.

This article was first posted on Jennifer’s blog “No Place For Sheep” and reproduced with permission.

 

96 comments

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  1. contriteshadow

    I think, by now, we know why this current government has very good reason to fear criticism of their actions. This blip in Australia’s political history will serve as a warning for a very long time; to voters, politicians and “journalists” alike.

  2. drmarfi

    Outrageous.

    Surely there is a talented lawyer who would happily provide pro-bono representation? If this were crowd-funded, I’d be happy to donate to a case, should someone want to challenge.

  3. Sir ScotchMistery

    I would reach out to them to drop their opinions in here anonymously, with the appropriately attached title (Sir, Dame, Baron, Duke, Lord) and we will give them love.

    Abbott is a cockwit.

    (Freedom of Speech)

  4. Michael Taylor

    drmarfi,

    I’m not a lawyer (yet) but I came across these from my law studies – which I thought rather interesting.

    Brennan J in Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd V Commonwealth (1992) 177 CLR 106 at 159:

    “Freedom of political discussion is essential to the democratic process… but the salutary effect of freedom of political discussion… can be neutralised by covert influences, particularly by the influences that flow from financial dependence. The financial dependence of a political party on those whose interests can be served by the favours of government could cynically turn public debate into a cloak for bartering away the public interest.”

    Justice White FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF BOSTON v. BELLOTTI, (1978) 435 U.S. 765:

    “It has long been recognized … that the special status of corporations has placed them in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may, if not regulated, dominate not only the economy but also the very heart of our democracy, the electoral process. The State need not permit its own creation to consume it.”

  5. Kaye Lee

    A survivor of Nazi Germany draws parallels between Nazi Germany and the Bush administration. It is chillingly close to our own situation.

    “They had spies everywhere – people spying on each other, just to have an ‘ace in the hole’ in case they were accused – and anyone who had a grudge against you could accuse you of something – just an accusation meant you’d disappear.

    The government was above the law – even in Germany, it became “every man for himself.” Advancement was possible by exposing “traitors” – anyone who questioned the government. It didn’t matter if the people you accused were guilty or not – just the accusation was enough.

    Life was better, at first, under the Nazis – men had jobs again, and enough money to take care of their family. New building projects were everywhere. The shops were full again – and people could afford good food, culture, and luxuries. Women could stay home in comfort. Crime was reduced. Health care improved. It was a rosy scenario – Hitler brought order and prosperity. His policies won widespread approval because life was better for most Germans, after the misery of reparations and inflation. The people liked the idea of removing the worst elements of society – the gypsies, the homosexuals, the petty criminals – it was easy to elicit support for prosecuting the corrupt, “evil” people poisoning society

    The propaganda. The lies. The rhetoric. The nationalism. The flag waving. The pretext of “preventive war.” The flaunting of international law and international standards of justice. The disappearances of “undesirable” aliens. The threats against protesters. The invasion of a non-threatening sovereign nation. The occupation of a hostile country. The promises of prosperity and security. The spying on ordinary citizens. The incitement to spy on one’s neighbors – and report them to the government. The arrogant triumphant pride in military conquest. The honoring of soldiers. The tributes to “fallen warriors.” The diversion of money to the military. The demonization of government appointed “enemies.” The establishment of “Homeland Security.” The dehumanization of “foreigners.” The total lack of interest in the victims of government policy. The incarceration of the poor and mentally ill. The growing prosperity from military ventures. The illusion of “goodness” and primacy. The new einsatzgrupen forces. Assassination teams. Closed extralegal internment camps. The militarization of domestic police. Media blackout of non-approved issues. Blacklisting of protesters – including the no-fly lists and photographing dissenters at rallies.

    Americans support Bush – by a generous majority – and mass media sings his praises while indicting his detractors – or silencing their opinions completely. The American people seem to care only about the domestic economic situation – and even in that, they are in complete denial.”

    https://www.freedomforceinternational.org/freedomcontent.cfm?fuseaction=voicenazi&refpage=issues

  6. geoffreyengland

    My suspicions are that this is all the idea of PM Credlin.
    Abbott is way too fatuous and enjoying thumping his chest at the world at present.
    Now Credlin, she’s the dark horse we have to worry about. Machiavellian and secretive, she is the Regent to Abbott’s immature prime Ministership. She is the Abbott brains trust.

  7. CMMC

    It is getting like Chile after Allende was deposed and the Pinochet junta took over.

    They keep saying they have to “save the nation” from some imagined ruin that Allende was causing.

  8. Stephen Tardrew

    Settled out of court. Easy out.

    Matters Not this is getting completely out of hand. What bloody democracy. They are demonstrating fear of social medial because it is the one are of the media they cannot influence so best shut it down wherever possible. This is a government of cowards too afraid to face the truth of their dystopian policies.

    Still I think their fear is their Achilles heal. I wonder if someone would be willing to take it all the way to the high court. Is that possible to do.

    “Ms Banerji wrote to Attorney-General George Brandis on Tuesday, saying the bureaucracy’s policies on using Facebook and Twitter were “a ‘trip-wire’ for public servants in that, while on the one hand the guidelines state that public servants are encouraged to enter into robust discussion, they are in fact, not permitted to criticise government as private citizens”.

    She asked him to declare “that all public servants, as a class of persons, enjoy the constitutionally implied freedom of political communication in their capacity as private citizens, whatever their platform of expression”.

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/public-services-leaked-guide-to-dobbing-on-colleagues-is-now-secret-20140408-36aii.html

  9. Anomander

    So we all we have the right to be bigots but no government employee is allowed to utter one word of criticism against the government, even in their own personal time.

    I always knew democracy was an illusion – I just didn’t realise until now that we were living under a fascist regime.

    Welcome to the Abbott Tyranny – the beatings will continue until morale improves.

  10. Dawn Whitehand

    Next we’ll have kids dobbing in their parents – 1984 here we come!!

  11. Kaye Lee

    I’m confused…is ‘offend’ in or out?

  12. Vicki

    I remember Jeff Kennett in the early nineties silencing teachers in this way whilst he ripped into their work conditions, sacked some 9000 staff (memory might be poor about that one) and closed hundreds of schools selling the freed up land to developers. I also remember him having huge billboards displaying his smirking face all along the Tullamarine freeway- they didn’t stay there for long but it was like driving through some tinpot dictatorship country. Our overseas visitors were totally discombobulated (love that word) on our drive back from the airport. What is it with these right wing nuts and how long before we see Abbots wingnuts on display on all roads to Canberra?

  13. Michael Taylor

    Geoffreyengland, I think you’re right.

    Abbott looks to incompetent to know what he’s doing; he needs someone pulling his strings. He needs a minder.

  14. Michael Taylor

    Kaye Lee, it depends on who you are. 😉

  15. mars08

    Wasn’t it about a decade ago that Howard legislated that charities, which receive his government’s funding, were banned from criticising it’s policies? Thin edge of the wedge…

  16. john921fraser

    <

    Howards police could only find one person to prosecute after 4 years of policing the construction industry.

    Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard called the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Abuse where the catholic church and Pell have been savaged almost on a daily basis for the last 6 months.

    Abbott, not to be outdone and in tune with his usual bully boy tactics calls a Royal Commission into the pink batts scheme.

    And then the moron goes a step further and calls a Royal Commission in the building industry just to show everyone who the boss is.

    The moron Abbott and his gang are such a vindictive & petty gang.

  17. Conrad

    Astounding draconian decision when one thinks about it. When I started work in 1962 my grandfather advised me: ‘Look after your job, and your job will look after you.’ That sentiment is now gone. No matter how well one does one job one can be dismissed for engaging in expressing privately held opinions. Next step will be an edict ordering public servants to go to ‘Office Confession’ to at tone for errant thoughts!

  18. Dagney J Taggart

    Wow, this is a bit of a tricky one. I don’t really have a problem with the thrust of the policy, except for that one example in the case study where it says “critical or highly critical”. Combining “critical” in the example with the use of inside knowledge muddies the water a bit – can I be critical of my minister as long as I don’t use/refer to information that is not for public consumption or am I not allowed to be critical at all? And what is critical? Saying the government went too far on a particular issue, or saying they didn’t go far enough?

  19. Matters Not

    Yes Dagney J Taggart, there’s plenty of black and white here but there’s also many shades of grey.

  20. Wayne Turner

    Soon: a non-public servant can tell Abbott to piss off back to the UK,but a public servant can’t.

    Next thing,Abott will be calling the ABC “UnAustralian” and “NOT on Australia’s side” for reporting something he doesn’t like,oh wait…

  21. Pingback: Department of Immigration meet the Striesand Effect

  22. sir plus fetish

    and where the bloody hell is the media.surely they can see the sinister implications of this,but as usual silence.no wonder nobody with a brain reads the useless bastards anymore.

  23. jasonblog

    @Kaye Lee, @Michael Taylor

    What is taking place in Australia presently is part of a much bigger plot. Yes, Abbott is a puppet and yes the Murdoch media is in it up to its eyeballs. No big surprises there. What we’re seeing is the big push for Neoliberalism in Australia that is fundamentally ahistorical to Australia’s development and contrary to what has previously allowed for prosperity in this country.

    Abbott’s overreach of authoritarianism fits comfortably with precedents established elsewhere by reactionary conservatism. This article http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/19990401.htm is about 15 years old, but has some useful insights into the ‘bigger picture’ of Neoliberalism and what is at stake.

    Another handy article available on J-store is ‘American Nightmare: Neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, and De-Democratization’ by Wendy Brown. George W. Bush may have been a dill and Tony Abbott may be a goose but they are working to a game plan. The IPA agenda is evidence of it. News Corporation is simply the cultural apparatus via which it is achieved.

    As I’ve previously commented ‘A Brief History of Neoliberalism’ by David Harvey argues that Neoliberalism is simply the means by which an anti-democratic class hierarchy is re/established. The book also looks at the inherent paradoxes of both Neoliberalism and Neo-conservatism. In Australia we are seeing some of that paradox in the truly bizarre situation where the Attorney General is advocating the “rights” for bigotry and hate speech but threatening with extreme intimidation public servants who express a private opinion in a public setting. Obviously certain confidentiality clauses need to be upheld as part of being a public servant but this latest strategy from the Abbott government seems to be more about quashing people.

    The Abbott government is deliberately seeking to establish fear. So they can manipulate it.

    As Henry Giroux points out in ‘The Terror of Neoliberalism: Rethinking the Significance of Cultural Politics’: “Neoliberalism has become the current conservative revolution because it harkens back to a period in American history that supported the sovereignty of the market over the sovereignty of the democratic state and the common good.”

    It is to be hoped that Scott Ludlam’s excellent re-appointment to the Australian senate becomes a driving force for an alternative for the Australian people that is based on fairness & justice & decency. It will only be achieved by people actively standing up and looking to make a difference and battling the Goliath of Australian / global politics.

    Australia needs an independent ABC that is not nobbled by continual threats of funding cuts for ‘stepping out of line’. Australia needs a competent public service that is not living in continual paranoid insecurity!

    I suspect I’m going to have to read up on my Kafka before Australia is finished with Abbott & co…

  24. Matters Not

    As I hinted at above, this is a somewhat complicated issue. Are those who are in receipt of government funds entitled to ‘bite the hand that feeds’? If government funding requires ‘silence’, then what are the limits of same?

    Clearly, the Labor government’s ongoing subsidies for the mining industry didn’t prevent that industry biting that feeding hand, and doing so with some vigour. While the mining industry is a few degrees removed from those employed directly in the ‘public service’, we might consider some ‘principles’. (Not that I think ‘black letter’ law is the way to go).

    Are CSIRO scientists allowed to write ‘papers’ that argue ‘climate change’ is real (probably yes) while at the same time arguing that Abbott’s policy response is just a nonsense? While the ‘science’ is clear the policy response, is much more problematic. (Not suggesting for a moment that ‘Direct Action’ is an adequate response.)

    Are principals of these new independent public schools allowed to criticise funding allocations, giving they are in receipt of government funds?

  25. Dan Rowden

    Seriously, if I see Tim Wilson’s water cannon tweet used in an argument once more I’m going to get really candid with some you dips and it won’t be pretty. If everyone were held to account for everything they’ve tweeted nobody with a Twitter account could ever survive. Literally, nobody. Give it a rest.

  26. Stephen Tardrew

    jasonblog:

    Totally agree. Great post.

  27. Roswell

    Once again Dan you pick one piece you don’t like out of an article and go troppo over it.

    However, I’m sure you liked the rest of the article.

  28. Roswell

    BTW, I’d forgotten about Wilson’s tweet. It was good to be reminded, and I think it was pertinent to the article.

  29. doctorrob54

    This is a piss poor state of affairs we have allowed ourselves to sink into.And just as Tim Wilson shouts for an open unrestricted press and vocal society.
    This nation is turning into shit.If not for A Bolt this would not be an issue,Bolt was belted over the knuckles because he printed blatant lies,knowing they were lies in one of his racist rants.
    He can’t even appreciate he could have been sued for millions,yet all his adversaries wanted was an apology.
    What I want is an open uncensored press,but it must never be permitted to print blatant lies pretending them to be true.
    We must never legally be able to shut down the voices of over a million people at once,as a member of the public I want members of the services to be able to print the truth,suggest changes,all the way to exposing criminality.
    I do realize the Bolt issue and the openness issue are different,but how is it we always go the wrong way.

  30. mars08

    Take it easy Dan. As far as I can see Tim Wilson is NOT being held to account for everything he’s tweeted. In fact it seems that very few people are holding in to account for anything

    I still don’t have a Twitter account, by the day I get appointed “Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom” feel free to check my digital footprint for any disturbing or inappropriate comments. It may give you a little insight into my character.

  31. Dan Rowden

    Ah, Roswell, come the morrow.

    I weary of Leftist intellectual sloth and I’m going to tell you why …

    Right now I have a few cans of Toohey’s New left – and my God I’m a Queenslander – and I’m not going to waist them on you. ..

    See you anon ..

  32. Matters Not

    Seriously, if I see Tim Wilson’s water cannon tweet used in an argument once more I’m going to get really candid with some you dipshits and it won’t be pretty

    Seriously Dan, you ought to grow up. Perhaps become a bit more philosophical?

    And you don’t look pretty. Both in your moniker and your arguments.

    In addition, CMMC’s advice is somewhat redundant. It’s already been followed.

  33. Dan Rowden

    mars08,

    I think it’s meaningful that Tim’s tweet is being trotted out all the time. At the very least it’s very hard on the “t” on people’s keyboard. Some compassion please ….

  34. mars08

    Fine Dan. And you’re the one to decide exactly how meaningful it is??!!?!? Enjoy your beer.

  35. Dan Rowden

    Of course I’m the one to decide how meaningful something is. You don’t? Seriously? You don’t?

  36. Matters Not

    Of course I’m the one to decide how meaningful something is

    ‘Meaning’ isn’t something that’s received, like one gets a present or a new toy, rather it’s something that each and every individual ‘gives’ on an ongoing basis. People are ‘meaning makers’ (inescapably so) as no doubt will demonstrate via you response.

    Put simply, you will give ‘meaning’ to my assertion(s). Or maybe not?

  37. Dan Rowden

    Yes, so what does that:

    And you’re the one to decide exactly how meaningful it is??!!?!?

    mean?

  38. Matters Not

    Yes, so what does that:

    And you’re the one to decide exactly how meaningful it is??!!?!?

    mean

    Dan, believe it or not, ‘meaning’ attribution is all down to you.

  39. Fed up

    I bet Mr. Turnbull wished he did not listen to that whistle blower. The one that bought his role as leader of the Opposition to an end.

  40. Dan Rowden

    No kidding. That’s why your question is weird.

  41. paul walter

    Thanks Jasonblog, glad you got that up before Dan tried to derail.

  42. Fed up

    I believe PS staqnds for “public servants”. No, not the employees of Abbott or his government.

  43. Dan Rowden

    paul,

    The article derails itself for people with half a brain; I’m merely pointing this out. Do the math for yourself.

  44. Matters Not

    That’s why your question is weird.

    Can never be sure as to which ‘question’ is your reference point. But from my epistemologically stance, your failure to respond may or may not be ‘weird.

    I suppose it depends on the meaning you give to ‘weird’? Or when it comes to matters ‘weird’ we all give or receive the same ‘meaning’?

  45. Dan Rowden

    Matters Not,

    You said:

    And you’re the one to decide exactly how meaningful it is??!!?!?

    Are you going to acknowledge that that question was silly or not?

  46. mars08

    Dan, you’re quite welcome to decide how meaningful something is. No problem. But please don’t go telling the rest of us what we can and can’t use in an argument. Candid enough for you?

  47. Dan Rowden

    When you use bullshit as an argument, I’ll call you on it. End of story. We use bullshit; we lose.

  48. Dan Rowden

    We need to know and appreciate that our next political victory, if a victory it be, will be ethically Pyrrhic.

  49. mars08

    And around we go…. You’re quite welcome to decide how bullshit something is… to you. But please don’t go telling the rest of us what we can and can’t use in an argument.

  50. Dan Rowden

    Ok, so if you say black is white I’ll leave it alone. Anyway, the episode of UFO on YouTube I’m watching is making more sense so goodnight …

  51. Word Journeyer

    I agree with the point you’re making, but it’s naive to think that whinging about one’s boss in any workplace, on social media or to a colleague, won’t be consequential. Criticisms within the public service should be leveled at the person being criticised, ir to a journalist – anonymously, if necessary. Idle gossip is rarely productive.

  52. Dan Rowden

    Government is a very particular context. It’s not an ordinary employment scenario. You cannot stop people, even employees, from being critical of a government, where no confidential information pertains, from offering a political opinion. The Constitution, whilst not enshrining the right to free political speech, at least implies political free speech, and does not qualify it on the basis of employment (I don’t think).

  53. Stephen Tardrew

    Dan have a drink on me, lie down, relax, close your eyes and repeat after me: I am a furry bunny 500 times.

  54. Dan Rowden

    I don’t need to relax. People need to grow a brain. It’s as simple as that.

  55. Simmo

    This is hardly comparable to the private sector. The government is employed by the people. They act on OUR behalf. WE pay taxes to pay public servants wages. This is not a dictatorship

  56. CMMC

    Dan, have you thought of contributing to websites that might be more suited to your intransigent temperament?

    White suprematist forums or Holden versus Ford things? Blunt aggression is not helpful in the discursive field of politics.

  57. Fed up

    If anyone is interested in rights and the well being of this fine land of ours, catch up with this weeks NPC address by Gillian Trigg, president of Human Rights. Well worth the effort.

  58. Kaye Lee

    The Registered Organisation Act makes it a criminal offence for a person to victimise a whistleblower.

  59. Glenn Murray (@divinewrite)

    I agree with all your points here, but I’m 99% sure it’s only Australian Public Service (APS) employees who are specifically constrained by the new policy. There are around 167,000 of them. Of course, now that the gov has gagged them, I’d be surprised if they didn’t gag the rest too, but AFAIK, they haven’t yet. Not in policy at least. Michaela Banerji’s case shows that they’re gagging public servants outside of the APS too. But it’s important to note that this legal suit started while Labor was in power. Another important case is that of Vanessa Powell, the NSW TAFE teacher being threatened by the Dept of Immigration over comments on a private Facebook post of hers. She’s not an APS employee either, and they went after her. (http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/04/07/remove-offensive-remark-or-else-immigration-dept)

  60. Kaye Lee

    The thing that troubles me is that they are monitoring people’s facebook pages and twitter accounts. Why were they looking at Vanessa Powell’s page? Who is employed to do this? What mechanism are they using? Who is targeted? How do they know the identity of people who post using a pseudonym?

  61. Brian

    How long before Brandis unleashes his home grown version of the Gestapo. Or perhaps he already has. His defence of the surveillance of private citizens in the Guardian today does nothing to ease my concern that such activities could well become a reality in a government so intent on secrecy. From their performance thus far I’ve little doubt that these people are perfectly capable of using “the national interest” to justify the creation of such a body. Their belief in the sanctity of their cause and right to power makes them as dangerous to this democracy as any other group of fanatics. The defence of the rights of the individual being used to subvert that very ideal appears to me ever more likely. I am deeply suspicious of this government’s motives in everything it does and that is something I’ve never experienced before with any government.

  62. Fed up

    This government has tens of numbers of people in every department, to go through what is on the social media each day. Up to 90, I believe in some departments. They are called media advisers, or something of that nature.

    We know the blogs are being overseen, as sometimes we hear phrases repeated from these sites.

    Department of immigration is one that tops the list.

  63. Fed up

    This is a carry over from the days of Howard. He gagged all NGO, threatening that if they voice opinion against his government, funding would cease. The problem in this incident, is that many NGO have an obligation to lobby on behalf of their clients. Yes, it prevented them from doing their jobs.

    So much for their love of free speech.

    Catch up on this weeks NPC address, b y the president of Human rights. She gave a very good explanation of the history of rights in this country.

  64. Fed up

    What were such people called in Hitler’s government. Maybe Gestapo?.

  65. Fed up

    How much is this trek of Abbott’s through north Asia costing us.

    Yes, Cando had to fly back early.

    Cannot move up to 700 business men, plus state premiers, and I assume their minders for no cost.

    Yes, he is indeed letting the world know that Australia is open for business. Is inviting all for the bargain sales, he is putting on.

    Is it true, that the Chinese can now incest up to a billion dollars without approval needed.

    All I want to know, what are we paying for, and how much it is costing. Not much to ask.

  66. Miriam English

    There is an easy solution to this censorship. Just target the most vocal supporters of the government and dob them in as having said things critical of the government. After the first few thousand (if there are that many supporters of this hopeless govt) are investigated and inconvenienced the usefulness of this rule will wear off, along with the patience of all those discomforted.

  67. VoterBentleigh

    Agree with you “Fed Up” . I taped the admirable and considered address by the President of the Human Rights Commission to the NPC. Well worth watching and she was courageous enough to mention the role of the MSM in lowering attitudes about human rights.

  68. Kaye Lee

    The Community and Public Sector Union is stepping up industrial action against the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet over its new social media policy.

    the Union has advised the department it’s in breach of its enterprise agreement, and if the problem isn’t resolved, the matter will be taken to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

  69. Euan

    I wonder if this applies to politicians (they are public servant too) … Tony Abbott was doing the same thing about six months ago before he became prime minister
    … what a loser… u got nothing Tony

  70. John.R

    Can someone please explain to the public servants how to set up a fake I.D on a social media websites.Then they can write to their hearts content.!

  71. Fed up

    I did not know, that one had to be anonymous, to be able to exercise their right to free speech.

    No one seems concerned that this government has hired hundreds of so called media advisers, to scram through internet sites, to glean out what employees are saying, in their own free time.

    Did not know, that being a PS meant you lost your right to make political comment

  72. Tadium

    These codes are being brought in at State and Federal Agencies alike. Mr Abbott knows what he is doing, he is highly educated – the bumbling is a cynical ploy to win over a curtain section of the community. Silencing opposition voices was a ploy of the Howard years as well from memory.

  73. Buff McMenis

    Impure F.E.A.R. being shown by an inferior mob of misfits … maybe Abbott IS educated but he’s never learned how to be a leader or a humanitarian, obviously! People like the petty Hitlers of Queensland and WA and the incompetence of NSW and Victorian premiers (they don’t deserve a capital letter!) are just further signs of the decomposition of standards, values, ethics, democracy, humanitarianism, thinking, leading rather than imposing … 🙁

  74. Rick 5591

    jasonblog. You are right about Abbott’s government being part of an even bigger plot. But it’s even bigger and more sinister than you have suggested. Globalization (which is the centralization of the worlds economy) ; the Corporatization of nations;the banking cartel,;the Oil cartel ;, the Western media cartel ;etc etc, are all a deliberate and long term plan of a very small number of World controllers to create a New World Order. This Global Elite or Illuminati has unlimited wealth ( 100s of trillions of dollars) at its disposal and so has bought and sold Western governments, especially the US, the UK, the European nations. The mainstream media has also been centralized to a handful of owners and is the mouthpiece of the same Global Elite. You do not see or hear anything in the mainstream media that the controllers don’t want you to know about. The West is now under the control of a fascist dictatorship which the vast majority of the people are not aware of as the trappings of democracy and freedom still exist and stormtroopers and concentration camps are not visible (not yet).
    Here are the stated aims of the Global Elite for their New World Order: One World Currency: no Nation states; reduction of the Worlds population to around 500 million achieved by wars, disease, starvation – all deliberately created by the same Elite; the remaining desperate and destitute masses are than more than willing to give up their remaining freedoms in exchange for order ,stability and peace. Part of the bargain will be for the people to allow themselves to be micro -chipped for absolute control and surveillance . This is the future dystopia that Hollywood has been preparing the masses to expect in the not too distant future. If all these sounds very depressing, it is, but one has to know the truth before one is in a position to combat the enemy. The Elites power is very fragile and is based on two things,One, the ignorance of the masses and Two; the compliance of the masses. Take those two dynamics away and the Elites power and control will collapse like a house of cards. So people wise up and take back your power from controllers and manipulators .
    Rick5591

  75. diannaart

    Oh for the good old days, when we public servants would go to the local on a Friday night and spewed all our criticisms out before spewing all the booze needed for the ritual cleanse.

    We remembered to choose carefully with whom we shared our criticisms – disagreement with government policy has never been acceptable.

    Times change, now we can stagger home and vent from our laptops. Best to do at internet café under pseudonyms.

    Tony you can try to silence people – many have tried before you, massive pain and suffering may ensue, but you won’t remain in power forever.

    Cheers everyone.

  76. Dagney J. TaggartDagney J. Taggart

    I remember those days, solving the worlds problems over a beer or two. However, there is a difference between having a cleansing bleat among colleagues and broadcasting opinions to the world via social media.

    Re-reading the departmental policy, the reference to criticism of the minister is contained in a case study that talks about using inside (privileged) knowledge to publicly criticize departmental decisions that you don’t agree with. Honestly, I don’t have a huge issue with this. Unless you are in full possession of all the facts relevant to the particular decision, you run the risk of screwing things up. I don’t think the policy is intended to limit all reasonable criticism of government policy by public servants.

    During my time in the public service, I came to accept that part of the price is being a little circumspect with any public comments regarding my department that I chose to make.

  77. mars08

    During my time in the public service, I came to accept that part of the price is being a little circumspect with any public comments…

    And what of those people who “are in full possession of all the facts relevant to the particular decision” and can’t find it in their conscience to be “a little circumspect”? Because THAT is what this regulation is all about.

    QUOTE:
    “What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security….”

  78. diannaart

    And what of those people who “are in full possession of all the facts relevant to the particular decision” and can’t find it in their conscience to be “a little circumspect”? Because THAT is what this regulation is all about.

    Indeed, Mars08. I know which people including yours truly, who found their ability to be “a little circumspect” completely eroded by actual knowledge, sound reasoning and understanding of the department for which we worked.

    I am sure that Dagney did very well for himself in the public service – the perfect employee, I would posit.

  79. mars08

    The unquestioning acceptance “that part of the price is being a little circumspect with
    any public comments” sounds disturbingly like …the gradual habituation of the people , little by little, to being governed by surprise…

  80. Dagney J. Taggart

    So, being a little circumspect regarding public comments is tantamount to complete and utter obedience to the evil empire? Are you honestly saying that every time I happened to disagree with something my department did I should have been free to shout my disapproval to the winds, publish whatever documents I happen to have had that supported my point of view, and expect absolutely no consequences? Really?

  81. Miriam English

    Yes, Dagney. I would say that. There is very good evidence nowadays to show that larger groups of people (governments, corporations, clubs, etc) should not be able to keep secrets. Individuals should be allowed privacy, but groups should not have it. Groups secrets are too dangerous; their great threat to society far outweighs their rare utility. A group that requires secrecy to operate should not operate. The problem comes from the way corruption sets in and grows under secrecy. The only real antiseptic against the rot of corruption is openness — lack of secrecy. I’m not talking about any particular group here, but all groups.

    Some argue that there are special situations where secrecy is justified, such as in national security. But this doesn’t really make sense if examined in detail. Secrecy is never justifiable when used by large groups such as governments. If a government “needs” to spy on people and keep the identity of those spies secret then that need is an illusion. There are almost always open ways to achieve the same ends, and if there are not then the secret ways are not worth the risk of corruption.

    Secrecy invites corruption. It waves a great big flag for it. If you have people operating under secrecy then how do you know they are not committing immoral and corrupt acts against all of us? You don’t, because it is a secret. If people are kept quiet because they are forbidden from speaking about the parts of a secret that they are privy to then that seals the secret and keeps it from the people who know the other parts and might put it all together.

    NSA, GCHQ, ASIO. These are networks of spooks that rely on secrecy. They are conditioned to accept it as a necessity. Because of that secrecy they have come to threaten the viability of democracy itself. These organisations have no genuine oversight — no real control. Information is great power. Edgar Hoover used his position as head of the FBI to blackmail the most powerful people in the USA, wrecking careers and befriending the Mafia. Charles Spry did the same thing in Australia with ASIO, and helped to usher in a new period of rampant paranoia.

    But, you think, the people at the top of these organisations are not corrupt. They have our best interests at heart. Just how do you know. Because of secrecy you can’t know. They could be operating hand in glove with criminal agencies (as Hoover did) and we would never know… except perhaps that we would be subject to unshakeable propaganda, vicious, anti-humanitarian rules, casual disregard for people’s rights… ummm… wait. Isn’t that what’s beginning to happen in today’s Australia?

    It is the duty of all humans to speak out against injustice wherever they see it. That includes opening secrecy to the light of day to prevent the rot of corruption growing. Humanity in the wider sense, and Australia in the local sense, is too important.

  82. Dagney J. Taggart

    Hi Miriam, I see your point, but can’t fully agree with it. You cannot have a functioning society without some degree of secrecy. For example, should the police be allowed a degree of secrecy, or must they blog all of their investigations in real time, with all their leads and evidence? How would that help society as a whole?

    Are not organizations made up of individuals? Why should they have secrets? If Hoover’s personal secrets had been know (you know the ones I mean), would he have been able to do what he did?

    The government should not be above criticism, by anyone. However those who work for the Government need to accept that they may not have the same freedom to criticize as much as those who do not work for the government. Especially where using information that is not in the public arena is concerned.

    I am interested – do you agree with Wikileaks redacting elements of the information they released? Or should have they have published everything and be damned (to paraphrase the 1st Duke of Wellington)?

    On another note, I had a look at your drawings on your site – you are very talented.

  83. mars08

    If Hoover’s personal secrets had been know (you know the ones I mean), would he have been able to do what he did?

    So, exactly what DID he do?

  84. Dagney J. Taggart

    The fact that, on the balance of probability, he was gay. Had that been public knowledge back then, it is unlikely that he would have made it to where he did.

  85. mars08

    I was not referring to the probability that he was gay. I was asking exactly what he did when HE was at the height of his power…

  86. Dagney J. Taggart

    You know what he did – it is well documented.

  87. abbienoiraude

    Ahem…could part of the ‘elephant’ in the room for Ms Banerji was her complaint about bullying in the work place?
    Shhhhh…..
    My daughter worked for the PS for a while and finally after 8 months made a ‘complaint’ about being sexually harrassed by two of her immediate (male) superiors.
    Long story short…she was moved to a place still within their office, to a suck-arse of a female supervisor who made her life hell. The two men would grin and leer at her as they walked by. They never ever got a reprimand as she thought it expedient NOT to make it ‘official’ ( not in writing) but went to ‘mediation’. The two men never turned up.
    She finally left on maternity leave and the two men are still there and she has since learned they did this to the woman before her and she left on permanent ‘stress leave’.

    There is a line of recommendations for bullying in the Public Service, but when it comes down to it, nothing happens except the (usually) woman leaves.

    Union? She joined and THEN was told they could do nothing as it was a ‘pre-existing condition’…I mean ‘on-going circumstance’.

    Just saying…not just lacking in freedom of speech in PS but also the way complaints on harrassment/bullying is resolved.

  88. Miriam English

    Thanks for the compliment Dagney. 🙂 I appreciate it.

    I understand your point about secrecy and police, but apart from a few extreme outlier cases what would it affect to remove secrecy? There would be a much greater payoff in trustworthiness of police and removal of this terribly destructive siege mentality police often get into, where they think it is them against all of us. The police would benefit greatly by making most of society their allies. We all know police are supposed to be there to help. Unfortunately when they become locked down and embedded in secrecy they become impossible to trust.

    Yes, a very few, rare cases might be made more difficult to pursue without secrecy, but at much greater benefit to the majority of cases. And with secrecy removed, who knows, we might find better ways to deal with those rare cases where secrecy seems essential. It seems there is a kneejerk reaction by many arms of government and industry to use secrecy as the first choice, instead of the last.

    The awful corruption of the Police force in NSW and QLD in decades past is infamous. Secrecy made that possible. A friend of mine escaped from a bad cop who murdered a friend of hers who was a prostitute and dumped her body in a well. My friend dared not come forward with the information fearing for her own life. I feel my own pulse quicken just mentioning this. Such things are covered up using secrecy. Removing secrecy would be of great benefit to honest cops, but terrible for the bad ones.

    It is the same for politicians. Open government is great for good government and only bad for corrupt government.

    Can you honestly think of an example where good government decisions need the cover of secrecy? I certainly can’t. I can’t even imagine a hypothetical one.

    I’m greatly in support of Wikileaks. Your question about redacting items took me by surprise. I hadn’t considered that. Thank you for forcing me to scrutinise my own thoughts. While I don’t like the idea of the redactions, I do think that in the current lunatic environment it was an unfortunate practical necessity. I hope for the day when we won’t need Wikileaks to redact anything. I hope for the day when we don’t need Wikileaks. Sadly we are so deep in poisonous secrets that we have a long way to go to find our way out of this suffocating mess.

  89. Dagney J. Taggart

    Hi Miriam. I am sorry about your friend. A few years ago we had a guest speaker at work – a retired Federal police officer. He spoke about his time in the force in Canberra in the 70s and early 80s and the shenanigans they used to get up to. What struck me the most was when he started on about the new wave of recruits that started coming through around the time he was leaving – how they had no loyalty to their fellow coppers and how they “wouldn’t stick up for each other”. It was amazing how blatant he was about corruption – they were coppers so the normal rule didn’t apply to them. I have had another police officer tell me about how he had set up a small time drug dealer (well, suspected dealer but the cop KNEW his was guilty) by planting evidence. But on the other hand I have know police who were straight down the line, moral and completely decent.

    I still think a level of secrecy is necessary to ensure a society functions for the good of all. And that includes intelligence organizations. The challenge is ensuring that there are sufficient checks and balances within the system to stop them going feral but still allowing them to do their job. I do think the good outweighs the bad still.

    Unfortunately I don’t think there exists anywhere a truly open government and society, with no secrets. It is a human trait for strong to take from the weak (or at least perceived weak). So we need to appear strong, and that requires keeping secrets.

  90. Miriam English

    I’m always surprised when people say that secrecy is necessary to maintaining a safe society, but are never able to actually think of some examples (other than extremely unlikely ones).

    It’s like people say they think torture is wrong but that we should be able to use it if we need to. They always assume that torture actually works. I like to point out the example of an al Qaeda member apprehended a while back by the German police. They were asking him questions in a reasonable manner and were able to get quite a lot of information from him. The CIA swooped in, started torturing him and they never got another word from him. Also I like to remind people of the Christian Inquisition and how they would torture people into “confessing” that they were in league with satan. Torture doesn’t work.

    Neither does secrecy.

    People assume that secrecy is necessary and that it actually works. Unfortunately the only genuine product of secrecy in government is corruption. That definitely doesn’t keep society safe. Even in national security, the only examples I’ve heard people give of where secrecy could be important are where our spooks are actually doing suspect things. The easy way to see whether “our” spooks burrowing into other governments and snooping on people is good or bad is to reverse it and imagine them being from a foreign power, burrowing into our government, and snooping on people. Most people who think national secrets are important have double standards for those two identical situations. That rings alarm bells.

    Privacy is important for individuals (even lowly lizards curl up and die if denied privacy), but the larger the group the less right they have to secrets. Governments and large corporations should have absolutely no right to secrets at all, corruption there is far too dangerous, and the sooner we all realise this the safer we will all be.

  91. mars08

    I would have thought that large corporations had to have secrets in order to outmanoeuvre their competition and gain commercial advantage.

  92. Peter Lee

    As a middle to senior ranking public servant for many years and a person openly involved in politics, it was my understanding that I had absolute right to comment on politics of the day. My understanding, whilst upsetting to some of the more conservative of my colleagues, no individual or Government or political authority ever openly challenged my position.

    The only self imposed qualification was that I did not practice my politics during work hours, nor did I ever act or comment upon the more confidential nature of my work or situations involving individuals and their personal affairs.

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