The Department of Parliamentary Services has moved into the 21st century, finally tweaking to the need for a social media policy for its staff.

Earlier in August, DPS Secretary Rob Stefanic announced that staff working within Parliament House were no longer allowed to freely spruik their personal opinions on social media. The new policy prohibits staff from posting work-related content without the approval of a senior executive. According to the new rules, all DPS employees must:

…ensure each post upholds the integrity and reputation of the DPS and the Australian Parliament

Regular MWM readers would be familiar with the case that gave rise to this move by the DPS. It all started when this publication, our contributor Marcus Reubenstein, included in a defamation threat on behalf of Parliamentary Librarian, Geoff Wade. Our alleged defamation was pointing out the Twitter activities by Wade targeting members of the Chinese community in Australia.

Wade was known for his hawkish views on China (via his social media activities) and had connections to ASPI – the think tank known for its hawkish views on China. The threat against this publication remains, Reubenstein counter-sued Wade as well as the DPS. A confidential settlement was reached followed by a public statement agreed to by the parties, which announced that the lawsuit against Reubenstein had been dropped.

The threats to MWM have never been withdrawn, but as always, the only winners were lawyers, including the law firm formerly known as Meyer Vandenberg, which represented Wade in the case. The firm has since changed its name to MV Law. What we still don’t know is who financed Wade’s legal activities. Besides the actions against this publication and Marcus Reubenstein, Chinese school principal Suzie Cong, academic James Laurenceson and John Menadue’s Pearls & Irritations were also threatened.

In short, the threats came to nothing and Wade will now have to ask his boss before he can post anti-China rhetoric on Twitter or any other social media platforms. Or anything else related to parliamentary business for that matter. Its librarians do know a lot about parliamentary business.

Defamation disaster: bid to muzzle journalists, teachers, no more than a lawyers’ fee-fest

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