Can public servants volunteer?

Every Federal and territory election, lots of public servants volunteer for the Greens - in their personal capacity of course. Whether you're visiting voters, making community calls, or helping out on election day, there are plenty of chances for you to get involved as a public servant.

Federal public servants

The Australian Public Service Commission states clearly:

It is quite acceptable for APS employees to participate in political activities as part of normal community affairs.

APS employees may become members of or hold office in any political party.

APS employees, whether or not they are members of political parties, are expected to separate their personal views on policy issues from the performance of their official duties. This is an important part of professionalism and impartiality as an APS employee.

You do need to take some care however - Federal public servants should refer to the APSC websites, the Caretaker guidelines and also check your own agency's policies for guidance. Your agency may require, for example, that you declare your intention to engage in volunteer work, including political campaigning, prior to getting involved. Information should be on your workplace's intranet ( especially in caretaker mode), or check with your HR reps.

Being a public servant does not preclude you from being a politically engaged citizen outside 9-5 - so get involved!

ACT Government public servants

Bronwen Overton-Clarke, The Commissioner for Public Administration, has offered the following advice to ACT public servants:

ACT public servants can in their own time:

  • participate in political campaigns including doorknocking, letterboxing, phone polling;and other volunteer campaign activities;
  • engage in political debate including making comment in a private capacity; and
  • participate in rallies and events.

It is important, however, that participation in any of these activities does not give the impression that you are acting in an official capacity. Accordingly you should not wear work uniform that identifies you as an ACT public servant, and should avoid creating the perception that you are acting in your role as an ACT public servant.

ACT public servants can not:

  • disclose any information gained in the course of their employment as a public servant; and
  • purport to speak on behalf of the government, including the Directorate for which they work, or create the impression that they are doing so.