Abetz warns public service to watch their tweets

Australian Employment Minister Eric Abetz has welcomed the resignation of an ATO employee who was under fire for a tweet he made in January 2012.

Following the resignation of a former Australian Taxation Officer (ATO) employee over a Twitter account parodying former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Employment Minister Eric Abetz has told public servants to watch their social media usage.

The Canberra Times reported on Monday that taxation officer Darryl Adams resigned after a lengthy dispute with his employer over a tweet he posted in January 2012 from his Fake Paul Keating account parodying Australia's 24th prime minister, stating that anti-porn activist Melinda Tankard-Reist was "rootable in that religious feminist way".

The report said that Adams was originally sanctioned for the tweet in September that year, but Tankard-Reist took it further, complaining about the ATO's handling of the matter in February 2013. The issue was brought up while Abetz was in opposition during a Senate Estimates hearing, where he took the public service to task over its handling of the complaint.

"So this woman's privacy is absolutely trashed to thousands of Australians, and then we have the ATO folding its arms, saying, 'Sorry, the privacy of the employee demands that we don't tell you anything about how we handled this issue,' not even that he was counselled or disciplined or told it was in breach with the Australian Public Service code of ethics, et cetera," he said.

The ATO said at the time that complainants would from then on be advised of the outcome of their complaints, but Abetz sought to take Adams to task over another Twitter account he had set up under his own name joking about the discipline, stating that he did not want to get "another STFU letter from personnel" over his tweets.

Abetz has often devoted time in estimates hearings to taking officials to task over the tweets of public servants or employees of the ABC. Now, as employment minister, he has warned the public service to be careful what they tweet.

He said the guidelines state that it is not appropriate for public servants to make comments unofficially that could compromise their ability to fulfil their duties in an unbiased manner, or make a comment that is extreme in its criticism of the government or a member of parliament.

Abetz welcomes Adams' decision to resign.

"The reputation of the Australian Public Service will be enhanced by Mr Adams' recognition of his need to resign, given his history of ill-advised tweeting," Abetz said.

Adams this morning tweeted that Abetz is "gloating" over the resignation.

I love that Senator Abeitz is gloating about my resignation. What does he say about the exasperated mental illness I am suffering from?

— Darryl Adams (@FlyOpineMonkey) January 21, 2014

Late last year, a communications officer from the Department of Immigration, Michaela Banerji, lost her appeal against her dismissal after the department discovered a Twitter account where she tweeted under a pseudonym her criticism of the former government's asylum seeker policies, as well as criticism of the Immigration Department spokesperson Sandi Logan.