[Note: the Department of Finance and Deregulation publication "Guidelines on Campaign Advertising by Australian Government Departments and Government Agencies" was released in March 2010 and sets out broader Government policy on the content of public information and awareness campaigns.]
The guidelines set out an ethical framework, based on the Westminster system and the APS Values, to be applied when public servants, including agency heads, are considering becoming involved in their official capacity in helping to explain and implement Government policies and programmes.
The guidelines make it clear that while public servants have a legitimate role in helping to explain to the public and other stakeholders how new or ongoing Government policies and programmes are meant to work, there is a fundamental difference between this role and advocating or being perceived to advocate a Government position. The guidelines require agencies to have in place arrangements to ensure that public servants at all levels understand this and to have processes for effectively and ethically managing contacts with the media.
The guidelines incorporate and emphasise the Government’s policy not to use public servants in Government advertising unless that role is essential in the communication of an important message on an issue such as public health or similar. The Public Service Commissioner’s approval must be sought prior to public servants being used in this way.
The guidelines provide an additional Chapter to Section 1, Relationship with the Government and Parliament, of the Australian Public Service Commission publication APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice: A Guide to Official Conduct for APS Employees and Agency Heads.
Questions on this circular should be directed, in the first instance, to agencies’ central corporate areas. Agencies’ central corporate areas with questions on this circular should contact the Commission. It may be appropriate for more complex or sensitive queries to be dealt with in writing.
12 December 2007