When I was working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade I found myself as the campaign manager for the local body election campaign of my friend who was the Labour candidate. It was one of those things. You go to a meeting (always a big mistake) and walk out with a job to do. I recognised it was something that might see my name out and about, so I went to see my boss. He was a staunch National supporter, I think a member. He listened to my case, and said that it was fine, and despite our differences he said would always defend my right to participate in the political process.
Public servants are ever conscious of their role to serve the government of the day, and of the restrictions placed on them by the Code of Conduct. That is what makes the Department of Labour decision to effectively tell its staff that they could not participate in the rally at Parliament today on Pay Equity very disturbing. There may well be questions about the involvement of some senior staff or perhaps those directly connected with the work, but the wider staff of the Department of Labour should in my opinion have had the right to go to the rally if they chose to.
In recent election campaigns I have noticed that public servants seemed to be getting inconsistent and inaccurate advice about how involved they can be in campaigns, including whether they could have hoardings on fences, deliver pamphlets or even be seen with a candidate.
I believe that the rights of public servants to participate in the political process as private citizens need to be protected, and if necessary clarified. Of course their should be guidance as to how to ensure they can continue to serve the government of the day and avoid compromising their ability to provide quality advice and support, but the interpretation of that guidance should respect the professionalism of public servants and give them their hard won democratic rights.