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Thematic Issue: Revitalising Legal Authorities

Vitalising International Human Rights Law as Legal Authority: Freedom of Expression Enjoyed by Australian Public Servants and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


Azadeh Dastyari

Michaela Banerji was a Commonwealth public servant when she was fired for sending up to 9000 messages on the public platform twitter criticising her employer; Australia’s human rights record; politicians; and public servants. The tweets did not disclose Ms Banerji’s name or occupation and all (except for one) tweet was sent in Ms Banerji’s private time. In 2019, the High Court confirmed that Ms Banerji’s tweets were not protected by the implied freedom of political communication in the Australian Constitution. Ms Banerji is not alone in having her ability to communicate her political views limited by her employment with the Australian public service. All Commonwealth public servants are bound by a legal framework that curtails their ability to criticise government policies. This article argues that the current regime restricting political communication by public servants in Australia is excessive and is not consistent with Australia’s international obligations under article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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(2020) 43(3) UNSWLJ 827: