Union lashes Tas public worker guidelines

Ethan James

Public servants in Tasmania could be fired for liking or sharing political posts on Facebook under proposed social media guidelines labelled by their union as "extreme overreach".

Under rules drafted by the State Service Management Office, Tasmania's 29,000 public workers would be banned from criticising the state government, its policies or ministers.

They'd also be stopped from "associating" with individuals, activities or social media groups that may damage the government's reputation, with breaches of the code potentially leading to dismissal.

"What the government has decided to do in this policy is basically say you can't do anything, you can't say anything," Community and Public Sector Union general secretary Tom Lynch said on Tuesday.

"Prior to this, different agencies had their own social media policies. Some harsher than others.

"This is an overarching policy where things have been significantly tightened up."

The June draft of the guidelines warns staff of the implications of 'liking' social media posts.

"It will generally be taken to be an endorsement of that material as though they created that material themselves," it reads, adding sharing has much the same effect.

If public servants want to disagree with a post, they must say in a way that doesn't breach the code.

"It may not be enough to select the 'angry face' icon, especially if they are one of thousands to do so," the guideline continues.

Comments made anonymously online by public servants or in emails to friends could also constitute a breach of the code.

The state Liberal government has recently been forced to defend its role in Cricket Australia's sacking of Hobart-based staffer Angela Williamson.

Ms Williamson, who is taking CA to the Fair Work Commission for unfair dismissal, was fired after she criticised the state government for a void of abortion services.

She has accused a senior member of the state government of accessing her health information and leaking it to her employer.

"Over recent months, there have been times when we've been told our social media protocols in our offices and public services are too lax," Human Services Minister Roger Jaensch said.

"Some are now saying they're too tight."

Head of the State Service Jenny Gale said in a statement the government hasn't been involved in, or instructed, the drafting of the social media guidelines.

She said the State Service sent the latest version of the guidelines to unions in July and is awaiting feedback.

The state Labor opposition believes Premier Will Hodgman is trying to block free speech.

"This is about stopping people from having their say and expressing their view as citizens," shadow attorney-general Ella Haddad said.