Public comment on the work of the NESA
Public comment by employees includes:
- public speaking engagements
- comments on radio and television or in letters to newspapers
- expressing views in books, journals or notices
- comments on social media if it is expected that the comments will spread to the community at large.
Employees, as individual members of the community, have the right to make public comment and enter into public debate on political and social issues. However, there are some circumstances in which this is inappropriate.
For example, situations when the public comment, although made in a private capacity, may appear to be an official comment on behalf of NESA. In such circumstances, employees should preface their remarks with a comment that they are made in a private or union capacity and do not represent the official view of NESA.
As a general rule, employees can disclose official information that is normally given to members of the public seeking that information, but should only disclose other official information or documents when:
- in the course of their duties
- proper authority has been given
- required to, or authorised, to do so by law
- called to give evidence in court.
In these cases, comments made by employees should be confined to factual information and should not, as far as possible, express an opinion on official policy or practice unless required to do so by the circumstances of the particular situation (for example, when asked to do so in court).
Comments made on matters pertaining to union business by union members, in their capacity as a local delegate within NESA, or by union office holders employed by NESA, are permissible under this Code.
This policy does not apply to personal use of social media platforms where no reference is made to NESA related issues.
Protecting confidential information
NESA has clearly documented procedures regarding the storage, disclosure and distribution of confidential or sensitive personal, commercial or political information.
Employees who handle such information should follow these procedures and must take special precautions to make sure that it is not disclosed without clear authority. Official information must only be used for the work-related purpose intended and not for personal benefit.
Unless authorised to do so by legislation, employees must make sure that they do not disclose or use any confidential information without official approval. Unauthorised disclosures may cause harm to individuals or give an individual or NESA an improper advantage. The integrity and credibility of NESA may also be damaged if it appears unable to keep its information secure.
All employees must make sure that confidential information, in any form (such as computer files), cannot be accessed by unauthorised people and that sensitive information is only discussed with people, either within or outside NESA, who are authorised to have access to it.
NESA employees, except casual and part-time employees, covered by the GSE Act must have the approval of the Executive Director, Strategy and Capability, or their Director before they engage in any form of paid employment outside their official duties.
While the secondary employment provisions of this Code do not apply to casual and part-time employees, the other provisions of this Code do apply.
Employees must also carefully consider whether the organisation offering them secondary employment may adversely affect the performance of their NESA duties and responsibilities or give rise to a conflict of interest. This applies whether they are working full-time, part-time, or are only temporarily employed.
Approval for secondary employment will generally be granted provided the following conditions are met:
- there is no actual or perceived conflict of interest
- the employment does not affect the officer's efficiency or effectiveness in performing their duties at NESA
- any secondary employment is undertaken in the officer's private time or during unpaid leave
- no physical or intellectual property of NESA is used in connection with the secondary employment.
Directors and managers are required to maintain a record of any approvals for secondary employment given to officers in their directorate or branch.
Employees should consider the following if they who are thinking about or have been granted permission to undertake secondary employment:
- employment at NESA should always be given the highest priority
- situations that give the appearance of a conflict of interest between their public duty and private interest should be avoided (for example, writing for a textbook publisher prior to the finalisation of a syllabus, developing a national curriculum, writing sample answers)
- whether the organisation offering secondary employment may be entering into a contractual relationship with the government or may be in a regulatory relationship with NESA.
Generally, voluntary or unpaid activities are not considered as secondary employment and therefore it is not necessary for the officer to obtain permission to be involved. However, if there is a potential or perceived conflict of interest with the officer’s duties, this should be discussed with the officer’s direct supervisor.
Political and community participation
Employees must make sure that any participation in party political activities does not conflict with their primary duty as a public employee to serve the government of the day in a politically neutral manner.
This is important because of the need to maintain Ministerial and public confidence in the impartiality of the actions taken and advice given by public employees.
What the NESA Chief Executive Officer considers appropriate in any particular case will depend on the:
- nature of the issue
- position held by the employee
- extent of the employee’s participation
- their public prominence.
If you become aware that a potential conflict of interest has arisen or might arise, you should inform the NESA Chief Executive Officer or Executive Directors immediately. You may have to stop the political activity or withdraw from the areas of their work where the conflict is occurring.
Special arrangements apply to employees who are contesting State or Federal elections.
Within the context of the requirements of this Code, employees are free to fully participate in voluntary community organisations and charities and in professional associations.
Employees should not use their position to obtain opportunities for future employment. They should not allow themselves or their work to be influenced by plans for, or offers of, employment outside NESA. If they do, there is a conflict of interest and the integrity of the employee and NESA is at risk.
Former employees should not use, or take advantage of, confidential information that may lead to gain or profit obtained in the course of their official duties until it has become publicly available.
All employees should be careful in their dealings with former employees of NESA and make sure that they do not give them, or appear to give them, favourable treatment or access to privileged information.