State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has issued a new Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff. The new code recognises the unique role that Ministerial Staff have and will apply to staff working for the next Government.
“Ministerial staff are a small group of public servants with a unique and very important role providing direct support and advice to Ministers,” Mr Hughes said.
“These staff work for the Government in roles that have a clear political dimension, and they are not required to operate in a politically neutral way,” he said.
“Until now that has been managed by not applying the political neutrality requirements of the State Services Code of Conduct to them. That is not ideal – for anyone,” said Mr Hughes.
The new code replaces the principle of being ‘Impartial’ in the State Services Code of Conduct with the principle of being ‘Professional’. This new principle requires Ministerial staff to recognise the authority of the Government of the day and the role of the Parliament. It also sets out the need to respect the duty of independent government agencies to provide free and frank advice and carry out their responsibilities free from inappropriate influence.
“We will also be making sure that Ministerial staff have access to practical and relevant development and training, recognising the role that they have and how important it is,” Mr Hughes said.
“The new code of conduct has been under development since the beginning of this year and we have been working it through directly with the Ministerial staff themselves,” said Mr Hughes said.
The new Code will apply when staff sign their contracts once the next Government is formed after the election. The next stage is to provide more detailed guidance to support the new code, which SSC will be working with Ministerial staff to develop and road test as a priority.
Ministerial staff includes ministerial advisors, press secretaries and senior private secretaries, who are appointed on events based contracts to work in Ministers’ Offices. It does not include staff from government agencies who are seconded to work in the office of their portfolio Minister (usually as a private secretary).
The Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff is available on the Integrity and conduct page of the SSC website.