Victorian public servants could be forced to work to support the Indigenous Voice in Parliament, despite rules that prohibit staff from participating in workplace campaigns.
- Confusing situation about public service support for Voice
- Staff may have to work on the campaign but not show personal support
Victorian public servants could be forced to work to support Voice despite rules that prohibit them from participating in campaigning activities in the workplace.
New guidance issued by the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner (VPSC) states that staff could be asked to work in support of the Yes campaign.
“In the run-up to the referendum, some Victorian public sector employees may be asked to do work that supports the Victorian government’s alignment with the national cabinet’s Statement of Intent,” it read.
‘The government of the day can legally require public sector employees (other than special agency employees) to do this, as these employees must implement the policies and programs of the elected government.’
In February, the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, signed a Statement of intents committing the Commonwealth and all states and territories to support an Indigenous Voice in the federal parliament.
But under the old rules, public servants in the Victorian government were told “not to engage in any campaigning activity within the workplace.”
Public servants face the confusing situation of possibly being forced to work to support a Yes vote on Voz Indígena, but at the same time not supporting it personally in the workplace.
This includes ‘holding events that seek to encourage your colleagues to vote a particular way in the referendum’.
Public servants have also been warned not to “use or display any campaign materials in the workplace.”
The instruction is followed by the line: “You may, however, continue to use materials that demonstrate support for First Nations personnel without expressing a position on the Voice referendum.”
The state government said it has not asked public servants to do jobs to support a Yes vote in the referendum.
Despite that, some government employees have already expressed their fears about what will come once the referendum date is announced.
“Anyone who disagrees will have their card marked,” a senior public official told the herald sun.
While it is understood that Victorian public servants with ideological objections may request to be delisted for referendum-related work, they may not be granted.
Liberal spokesman David Davis said the VPSC’s guidance “effectively mobilizes on the warpath the tens of thousands of public servants who will either join the campaign or be ostracized.”
Davis said the Andrews government is “weak” and “pathetic” for wanting to use the public service in “partisan campaigns for the Yes case.”
Daniel Andrews (pictured with his wife Catherine) has been accused of running a government that is ‘weak’ and ‘pathetic’ for wanting to use public service in ‘partisan campaign for Yes’
He said those who hold opposing views could find their “careers will atrophy” if they don’t work to support the Yes case and will be “given special duties in the naughty corner.”
The rules for public servants do not prevent them from working on either side of the referendum on their own time.
‘Victorian public sector employees are free to participate in the referendum process in their private capacity, including participation in public debates.
‘At the same time, all public sector employees must also continue to comply with the seven public sector values in the Public Administration Law (2004)’.
Those seven values Public servants must uphold responsiveness, integrity, impartiality, accountability, respect, leadership, and human rights.