Court backs freedom of tweets
The sacking of a public servant for her views on asylum seeker policy has been ruled unlawful.
Michaela Banerji was fired from the Federal Department of Immigration in 2013 for using the Twitter account @LaLegale to criticise the government, minister and department policies at the time.
She was particularly concerned about the handling of refugees.
Her tweets included; “Think of the deaths we are responsible for in Iraq! Think of the refugees we have created by our invasion of Iraq!”
“When a nation state permits eighty-six percent of detainees to suffer mental health problems, it #fails. Understanding #itsnotwelfare”
Ms Banerji said her termination breached a constitutional right to freedom of political communication.
She made a workers compensation claim for post-traumatic stress disorder arising from her termination.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia (AATA) has this week overturned a decision by Commonwealth insurer Comcare to deny her workers compensation.
The tribunal's deliberations referred to the Australian Public Service (APS) guidelines, which state:
“APS employees have the same right to freedom of expression as other members of the community, subject to legitimate public interests, such as the maintenance of an impartial and effective public service in which the community can have confidence.”
The Tribunal found “the termination trespassed on the implied freedom of political communication, was thus unlawful, and so cannot constitute reasonable administrative action”.
The AATA said the Commonwealth’s efforts to restrict anonymous comments resemble George Orwell's “thoughtcrime”.
The AATA did warn Ms Banerji to avoid tweeting in work hours.