Chapter 3: Values and Codes of Conduct

This chapter sets out the basis for conduct and ethics standards in the department: the Public Service Act 1999 and Public Service Regulations 1999, APS Values, APS Code of Conduct, LES Code of Conduct, DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service, and other Australian Government Codes of Conduct.

Staff should contact the Conduct and Ethics Unit (conduct@dfat.gov.au) if they require clarification on the contents of this Manual or if they are uncertain about the ethical implications of a proposed course of action.

3.1 Public Service Act 1999 and Public Service Regulations 1999

What do I need to do?

APS Employees

3.1.1 The Public Service Act 1999 and Public Service Regulations 1999 provide the legislative basis for employment in the Australian Public Service. All APS employees must abide by the Act throughout their employment in the department.

3.1.2 The Public Service Act 1999 sets out:

3.2 APS Values and Employment Principles

What do I need to do?

APS Employees

LES Employees

Contractors

SES and Other Managers

About the APS Values and Employment Principles

3.2.1 The APS Values and Employment Principles should not be seen simply as aspirational targets – they have a clear practical and legal application. They serve as the basis for the department’s rules and procedures and help to create a strong ethical working environment which encourages equal opportunity, workplace diversity, honesty, disclosure, accountability and professionalism.

3.2.2 APS employees should review the APS Values and Employment Principles regularly and must ensure that their conduct is consistent with the APS Values and Employment Principles. Failure to uphold the APS Values and Employment Principles may be regarded as a breach of the APS Code of Conduct and attract sanctions as set out in section 15(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

3.2.3 Contractors must uphold the APS Values and Employment Principles in accordance with enforceable provisions of their contracts. They should review the APS Values and Employment Principles regularly and ensure that their conduct is consistent with the APS Values and Employment Principles. Failure to uphold the APS Values and Employment Principles may be regarded as a failure to meet their contractual obligations and may result in the termination of their contract.

3.2.4 LES employees should understand the APS Values and Employment Principles as the basis for the conduct and ethics policies which apply to them – including the LES Code of Conduct at their post. They should seek to maintain the spirit of the APS Values and Employment Principles in their conduct.

3.2.5 The Senior Executive Service and other managers in the department have an important responsibility to promote the APS Values and Employment Principles and to set the ethical example by their own conduct. The Australian Public Service Commissioner is empowered to evaluate the extent to which agencies incorporate and uphold the APS Values and Employment Principles.

The APS Values

3.2.6 The APS Values are set out in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999 and are as follows:

Committed to service

1. The APS is professional, objective, innovative and efficient, and works collaboratively to achieve the best results for the Australian community and the Government.

Ethical

2. The APS demonstrates leadership, is trustworthy, and acts with integrity, in all that it does.

Respectful

3. The APS respects all people, including their rights and their heritage.

Accountable

4. The APS is open and accountable to the Australian community under the law and within the framework of Ministerial responsibility.

Impartial

5. The APS is apolitical and provides the Government with advice that is frank, honest, timely and based on the best available evidence.

3.2.7 Chapter 1 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013 sets out what an individual must do to uphold each of the APS Values:

Committed to service

Having regard to an individual’s duties and responsibilities, upholding the APS Value in subsection 10(1) of the Act requires:

  1. engaging effectively with the community and working actively to provide responsive, client-focussed service delivery;
  2. providing appropriate information to clients and the community about rights and entitlements, and the process for gaining access to them;
  3. ensuring that decisions and interactions with clients are objective and impartial, and in accordance with Government policy;
  4. encouraging innovative thought and supporting innovative solutions;
  5. supporting collaboration and teamwork, both internally (within an Agency), and externally (with other agencies and the wider community);
  6. promoting continuous improvement and managing change effectively;
  7. contributing to a culture of achievement;
  8. identifying and managing areas of potential risk;
  9. supporting a unified APS that is determined to serve the Government of the day and the Australian community;
  10. pursuing and supporting training and development to improve capability;
  11. planning time and priorities to deliver intended results;
  12. being responsive to Ministers (taking account of resource and time constraints), including being knowledgeable about the Government’s policies and understanding the relevant issues and options, the Government’s objectives and the environment in which it operates.

Ethical

Having regard to an individual’s duties and responsibilities, upholding the APS Value in subsection 10(2) of the Act requires:

  1. acting in a way that models and promotes the highest standard of ethical behaviour;
  2. following through on commitments made;
  3. having the courage to address difficult issues;
  4. complying with all relevant laws, appropriate professional standards and the APS Code of Conduct;
  5. acting in a way that is right and proper, as well as technically and legally correct or preferable;
  6. reporting and addressing misconduct and other unacceptable behaviour by public servants in a fair, timely and effective way;
  7. supporting the strategic objectives of the Agency;
  8. providing leadership in policy development, implementation, program management and regulation;
  9. taking account of whole of government issues and concerns in developing and implementing policies and programs;
  10. supporting systems that give APS employees appropriate opportunities to develop and demonstrate leadership qualities.

Respectful

Having regard to an individual’s duties and responsibilities, upholding the APS Value in subsection 10(3) of the Act requires:

  1. treating all people with dignity and recognising that all people have value;
  2. dealing with all people honestly and with integrity;
  3. recognising the importance of human rights and understanding Australia’s human rights obligations;
  4. recognising and fostering diversity;
  5. collaborating and being open to ideas in policy development, implementation, program management and regulation;
  6. complying with all relevant anti-discrimination laws.

Accountable

Having regard to an individual’s duties and responsibilities, upholding the APS Value in subsection 10(4) of the Act requires:

  1. being answerable to Ministers for the exercise of delegated authority, and, through them, to Parliament;
  2. being open to scrutiny and being transparent in decision making;
  3. being able to demonstrate that actions and decisions have been made with appropriate consideration;
  4. being able to explain actions and decisions to the people affected by them;
  5. being accountable for actions and decisions through statutory and administrative reporting systems;
  6. being able to demonstrate clearly that resources have been used efficiently, effectively, economically and ethically;
  7. being answerable for individual performance through performance management systems.

Impartial

Having regard to an individual’s duties and responsibilities, upholding the APS Value in subsection 10(5) of the Act requires:

  1. serving the Government of the day, providing the same standard of high quality policy advice and implementation, and the same high quality professional support, irrespective of which political party is in power and of personal political beliefs;
  2. ensuring that the individual’s actions do not provide grounds for a reasonable person to question the ability of the individual to serve the Government of the day;
  3. ensuring that management and staffing decisions are made on a basis that is independent of the political party system, free from political bias and not influenced by the individual’s political beliefs;
  4. understanding the needs of the Government and providing it with the best objective, non-partisan advice based on the best evidence available;
  5. providing advice that is relevant and comprehensive, is not affected by fear of consequences, and does not withhold important facts or bad news;
  6. providing advice that takes account of the context in which policy needs to be implemented, the broader policy directions set by Government and, where appropriate, implications for the longer term;
  7. implementing Government policies in a way that is free from bias, and in accordance with the law.

The APS Employment Principles

3.2.8 The APS Employment Principles are set out in section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999 and are as follows:

(1)  The APS is a career-based public service that:

  1. makes fair employment decisions with a fair system of review; and
  2. recognises that the usual basis for engagement is as an ongoing APS employee; and
  3. makes decisions relating to engagement and promotion that are based on merit; and
  4. requires effective performance from each employee; and
  5. provides flexible, safe and rewarding workplaces where communication, consultation, cooperation and input from employees on matters that affect their workplaces are valued; and
  6. provides workplaces that are free from discrimination, patronage and favouritism; and
  7. recognises the diversity of the Australian community and fosters diversity in the workplace.

Decisions based on merit

(2)  For the purposes of paragraph (1)(c), a decision relating to engagement or promotion is based on merit if:

  1. all eligible members of the community were given a reasonable opportunity to apply to perform the relevant duties; and
  2. an assessment is made of the relative suitability of the candidates to perform the relevant duties, using a competitive selection process; and
  3. the assessment is based on the relationship between the candidates’ work‑related qualities and the work-related qualities genuinely required to perform the relevant duties; and
  4. the assessment focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes related to the relevant duties; and
  5. the assessment is the primary consideration in making the decision.

3.2.9 Chapters 2.1 and 2.2 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013 set out the scope or application of APS Employment Principle 10A(1)(c) (“the merit principle in engagement and promotion”) and the circumstances in which it may be modified.

Back to top

3.3 APS Code of Conduct — What do I need to do?

APS Employees

Contractors

SES and Other Managers

About the APS Code of Conduct

3.3.1 The APS Code of Conduct defines the relationship between the Government, the Parliament, the public and agencies within the APS.As with the APS Values and Employment Principles, the APS Code of Conduct serves as the basis for the department’s rules and procedures and they help to create a strong ethical working environment.

3.3.2 APS employees must maintain conduct consistent with the APS Code of Conduct in accordance with their employment under the Public Service Act 1999. They should review the APS Code of Conduct regularly. Breaches of the APS Code of Conduct may attract sanctions as set out in section 15(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

3.3.3 Note that the department can investigate alleged breaches of the APS Code of Conduct by current and former APS employees (section 15 of the Public Service Act 1999). Note also that a current or former APS employee is taken to have breached the Code of Conduct if he or she is found to have, before being engaged as an APS employee, knowingly provided false or misleading information, wilfully failed to disclose relevant information or otherwise failed to behave honestly and with integrity in connection with his or her engagement as an APS employee (section 15(2A) of the Public Service Act 1999).

3.3.4 Contractors must maintain conduct consistent with the APS Code of Conduct and should review the APS Code of Conduct regularly. Breaches of the APS Code of Conduct may be regarded as failure to meet their contractual obligations and may result in the termination of their contract.

3.3.5 LES employees have their own code of conduct - the LES Code of Conduct, which is based on the APS Code of Conduct.

3.3.6 The Senior Executive Service and other managers in the department have an important responsibility to promote the APS Code of Conduct and to set the ethical example by their own conduct.

Case Study – APS Code of Conduct

I am based at a DFAT State Office and recently attended staff drinks at a local pub. Things got a bit rowdy and I made some inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to a work colleague. I am assuming this is not a breach of the APS Code of Conduct because it happened outside of work hours and the office. Is this correct?

Your behaviour may be a breach of the APS Code of Conduct, even though you were out of the office and outside of work hours. The APS Code of Conduct requires that an APS employee must at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and the integrity and good reputation of the APS (section 13(11) of the Public Service Act 1999).

Courts and tribunals have provided guidance on when misconduct by an employee outside of work is the legitimate concern of the employer. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has upheld termination of employment in circumstances where there was a clear connection between the employee's out of hours conduct and their employment, and where the conduct was incompatible with the employee's duty as an employee or was likely to cause serious damage to the employment relationship.

The APS Code of Conduct

3.3.7 The APS Code of Conduct is set out in section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999 and is as follows:

  1. An APS employee must behave honestly and with integrity in connection with APS employment.
  2. An APS employee must act with care and diligence in connection with APS employment.
  3. An APS employee, when acting in connection with APS employment, must treat everyone with respect and courtesy, and without harassment.
  4. An APS employee, when acting in connection with APS employment, must comply with all applicable Australian laws. For this purpose, Australian law means:
    1. any Act (including the Public Service Act 1999), or any instrument made under an Act; or
    2. any law of a State or Territory, including any instrument made under such a law.
  5. An APS employee must comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by someone in the employee's Agency who has authority to give the direction.
  6. An APS employee must maintain appropriate confidentiality about dealings that the employee has with any Minister or Minister's member of staff.
  7. An APS employee must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with APS employment.
  8. An APS employee must use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner.
  9. An APS employee must not provide false or misleading information in response to a request for information that is made for official purposes in connection with the employee's APS employment.
  10. An APS employee must not make improper use of:
    1. inside information; or
    2. the employee's duties, status, power or authority; in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person.
  11. An APS employee must at all times behave in a way that upholds:
    1. the APS Values and APS Employment Principles; and
    2. the integrity and good reputation of the employee’s agency and the APS.
  12. An APS employee on duty overseas must at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia.
  13. An APS employee must comply with any other conduct requirement that is prescribed by the regulations.

Back to top

3.4 LES Code of Conduct — What do I need to do?

LES Employees

HOMs/HOPs and all A-based Staff

SAOs

About the LES Code of Conduct

3.4.1 An Australian Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office is the official representative office of the Australian Government. Australian principles and standards of conduct apply in that workplace. The department expects LES to observe the same high standard of conduct, honesty and integrity as that required of APS employees. The key underlying principles of such conduct are:

The LES Code of Conduct at each DFAT-managed post is an expression of these principles.

3.4.2 The LES Code of Conduct at each DFAT-managed post applies to all LES employed by DFAT. The department is the employer of all LES at DFAT-managed posts, except for Austrade LES. These agencies have developed their own LES codes of conduct, similar to DFAT's LES Code of Conduct.

3.4.3 The LES Code of Conduct is issued under the authority of HOM / HOP. Each post may vary its LES Code of Conduct according to local laws and customs. This allows posts to take into account variations in the legal and cultural context in which they operate while still maintaining the high standards of conduct and ethics that are expected from all staff in the department. The standard elements of the LES Code of Conduct are set out in section 3.4.10 of this Manual. The standard LES Code of Conduct is based on the principles contained in the APS Code of Conduct and the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. LES may be assured that the same standards apply to both groups of employees. The LES Code of Conduct operates in conjunction with, and does not override or supersede, any agency-specific guidelines.

3.4.4 The LES Code of Conduct forms part of the conditions of employment of LES. LES employed by DFAT must read the LES Code of Conduct in place at their post and sign it on engagement with the post. This is to acknowledge that they have read and understood the LES Code of Conduct, and will abide by its contents. It may therefore be appropriate to have the LES Code of Conduct translated into the LES' native language where English is not the first language. SAOs must ensure that signed copies of the LES Code of Conduct are retained on posts' personnel files.

3.4.5 LES must maintain conduct consistent with the LES Code of Conduct as a condition of employment and should review the LES Code of Conduct regularly.

3.4.6 Adherence to the LES Code of Conduct should be reinforced through the use of the standard management tools of communication, feedback and regular performance appraisal. Information on the core principles that form the basis of LES conditions of employment are found in Locally Engaged Staff Management: A Better Practice Guide.

3.4.7 Interns and volunteers engaged by posts are also required to abide by the LES Code of Conduct in place at post. SAOs should ensure that they are provided a copy of the post's LES Code of Conduct when they begin their internships or volunteer work with post. Further advice on interns is found in Chapter 3.3.13 and Attachment I of Locally Engaged Staff Management: A Better Practice Guide.

3.4.8 Spouses/partners of APS employees on posting who are employed as LES (including those who are themselves APS employees on leave without pay) must comply with the LES Code of Conduct in place at their post. However, this does not absolve such LES employees from the responsibility of complying with the relevant sections of the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service (so far as it applies to them as spouses/partners or as APS employees on leave without pay) or from complying with the APS Values and Employment Principles and the APS Code of Conduct (so far as they apply to them as APS employees).

3.4.9 HOMs/HOPs and SAOs have an important responsibility to promote the LES Code of Conduct and to set the ethical example by their own conduct.

The Standard LES Code of Conduct

3.4.10 The standard LES Code of Conduct is as follows:

  1. An employee must at all times behave in a way that upholds the integrity and good reputation of the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office.
  2. An employee's personal behaviour, including his or her behaviour outside office hours, must not compromise the good reputation of Australia or the post.
  3. An employee's dress and appearance should be in accordance with standards appropriate to his or her duties.
  4. An employee should not be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other prohibited or performance impairing substances in the workplace.
  5. An employee must behave honestly and with integrity in connection with his or her employment with the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office.
  6. An employee must not use his or her official position to influence improperly or try to influence colleagues or members of the public by giving or receiving gifts or by entering into financial or other arrangements with them.
  7. An employee must act with care and diligence in connection with his or her employment with the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office.
  8. In his or her duties an employee must:
    • be fair and impartial;
    • give persons likely to be affected by a decision an opportunity to have their case considered;
    • be prompt;
    • explain the reasons for action/decisions; and
    • at all times act according to local law and applicable Australian law.
  9. An employee, when acting in connection with his or her employment with the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office, must treat members of the public and colleagues with respect and courtesy, and without coercion or harassment of any kind.
  10. An employee must:
    • treat members of the public and colleagues equitably and fairly, regardless of their sex, marital status, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or religious beliefs or any other similar ground;
    • be professional and courteous at all times; and
    • provide assistance to the public and to help them understand their entitlements and obligations.
  11. An employee must comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by a person in Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office who has the authority to give the direction.
  12. Employees are at all times subject to the authority of the HOM/HOP and the staff member in charge of the section in which they are employed.
  13. The relevant A-based or LES supervisor has the primary responsibility for ensuring that the required standards of conduct and work performance are met and maintained by LES.
  14. An employee must maintain appropriate confidentiality including about information obtained during the course of his or her employment.
  15. An employee must not disclose official information to any person unless authorised to do so in connection with his or her duties.
  16. An employee must not misuse information obtained in connection with his or her duties, including taking advantage of another person on the basis of information held about the person in official records.
  17. An employee must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest, either real or apparent, in connection with his or her employment in the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office, including in relation to any outside employment and/or business activities.
  18. An employee must seek and obtain the permission of the HOM/HOP before engaging in outside employment.
  19. The HOM/HOP may not grant permission to engage in outside employment which is incompatible with the employee's duties on behalf of the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office.
  20. An employee who has an interest, financial or otherwise, including in respect of family and friends, that could conflict with the proper performance of his or her duties must disclose this interest to his or her supervisor and take whatever action is necessary to avoid that conflict.
  21. An employee must use the resources of the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office in a proper manner.
  22. An employee must be scrupulous in the use of official money, human and other resources.
  23. An employee is required to avoid waste or extravagance in the use of the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office's resources.
  24. An employee has a responsibility to care for and maintain Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office property.
  25. The property of the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office is to be used for official purposes only, and is to be used efficiently and effectively.
  26. An employee must not, in connection with his or her employment in the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office, provide false or misleading information in response to a request for information that is made for official purposes.
  27. An employee is expected to exercise reasonable care in giving written or oral information or advice and take reasonable steps to ensure that the information provided is accurate.
  28. Where there are doubts about the reliability of information this should be checked with a supervisor.
  29. Where the information being given is of an interim or conditional nature, this should be made clear.
  30. An employee must not make improper use of inside information, or the employee's duties, status, power or authority in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee, or for any other person, including the acceptance of gifts, benefits, sponsored travel, hospitality, accommodation, hire car costs and entertainment.
  31. These restrictions also apply to the families of employees, where the gift or benefit is a direct result of the official duties of the employee.
  32. Gifts or benefits should generally not be accepted. In cases where not accepting the gift or benefit would cause offence to an extent that could adversely affect Australia's interests, a gift or benefit can be accepted only with the written approval of the HOM/HOP. Otherwise, the gift or benefit must be refused or returned.
  33. If in doubt about whether or not to accept a gift or benefit, the matter should be discussed with the employee's A-based supervisor.
  34. A bribe is a gift given or offer made with the intention of influencing an employee to take or not to take a specific action. An employee who is found to have accepted a bribe will be subject to disciplinary action, including possible dismissal.
  35. Money must never be accepted as a gift.
  36. An employee in connection with his or her employment at the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office must not promise, offer or give any bribe to colleagues with the aim of influencing a decision or influencing a colleague to commit misconduct or fraud.
  37. An employee must not promise, offer or give any bribe to colleagues connected with management, disbursement or collection of Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office funds with the intent of influencing a decision or action on any question or matter related to their functions, or influencing them to commit, aid or abet in committing any fraud.
  38. An employee must not engage in deceitful actions aimed at gaining a benefit or avoiding a liability.
  39. An employee must not engage in fraudulent conduct. This includes deceitful or other dishonest conduct, involving acts of omission or the making of false statements, orally or in writing, with the object of obtaining money or other benefit, or of evading liability, from the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate or Business Office.
  40. In particular, employees who are entrusted with the handling of Embassy, High Commission, Consulate, or Business Office funds or property must not:
    • accept any compensation or reward in connection with the performance of their duties other than their prescribed salary and entitlements;
    • conspire or collude with any other person to defraud;
    • permit or condone any violation of the law by any person;
    • wilfully make or sign any false entry on any document or wilfully make or sign any false certificate or return; or
    • demand, accept or attempt to collect directly or indirectly, for themselves or others, as payment or gift any sum of money, any benefit or any other thing of value.
  41. An employee must comply with any other requirement that is prescribed by the Embassy, High Commission, Consulate, or Business Office.
  42. An employee who is found to have breached this Code will be subject to disciplinary action, including possible dismissal.

The rules for conduct which apply to employees are explained in detail in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Conduct and Ethics Manual, as amended from time to time. The Manual is available on SATIN Low or from the SAO.

Back to top

3.5 DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service

APS Employees

Contractors

HOMs/HOPs

About the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service

3.5.1 Promoting and maintaining Australia's good reputation abroad is central to the department's work. Due to the high degree of public scrutiny that DFAT's activity and conduct attracts in Australia and internationally, all departmental staff operating overseas have a duty to act in a manner that upholds the reputation of Australia, the post and the department at all times.

3.5.2 Accordingly, the department has developed the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. The DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service is based on the principles in the APS Code of Conduct and in particular Section 13(12) of the Public Service Act 1999, which states that "an APS employee on duty overseas must at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia".

3.5.3 The duty to uphold the good reputation of Australia is fundamental and underlies the principles for conduct overseas elaborated in the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. These principles include: respect for the law of the host country; cultural awareness and sensitivity; appropriate personal behaviour; employee responsibility for the behaviour of household members; respect for the opinions of others; integrity in the use of diplomatic and consular privileges; and the authority of the Head of Mission.

3.5.4 The DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service applies to all APS employees and contractors of the department serving overseas in an official capacity. It does not apply to LES employees who are bound by the LES Code of Conduct at their post. Nor does it apply to honorary consuls and their staff, who are bound by Guidelines for Australian Honorary Consuls contained in the Consular Handbook.

3.5.5 The DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service does not apply to APS employees of other agencies operating at post. However, under the Prime Minister's Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas, the Head of Mission has overarching authority on all conduct issues at post, including as it affects relations with host governments, post administration and the good reputation of the post or Australia.

APS Employees and the Overseas Code

3.5.6 The DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service applies to all APS employees of the department serving overseas in an official capacity. This includes those on long-term postings and short-term missions and visits, those on leave without pay, and those who are temporarily attached to non-APS bodies such as international organisations, foreign government agencies, non-government organisations and private-sector corporations.

3.5.7 As part of the long-term postings application process in PeopleSoft ESS, APS employees must acknowledge that they have read the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. As part of the pre-departure processes for any official travel overseas, they must sign an undertaking to comply with the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. APS employees must maintain conduct consistent with the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service while on service overseas and should regularly review the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service while on service overseas. In addition to section 3.5.14 of this Manual, the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service is available on the intranet.

3.5.8 Breaches of the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service by APS employees are regarded as breaches of section 13(12) of the Public Service Act 1999 and may attract sanctions as set out in section 15(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

3.5.9 Unless they are staff members of the department themselves, household members of APS employees serving overseas are not covered directly by the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service. Nor are they subject to any obligations under the Public Service Act 1999 or departmental directions in relation to conduct. However, the high visibility of household members as part of an Australian official community means that any inappropriate behaviour or violation of the host country's laws by a household member can damage the reputation of the department, the post and Australia (clause 6.2 DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service). Consequently, incidents of misconduct by household members could result in an APS employee's posting being terminated (clause 6.3 DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service).

3.5.10 Article 37 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR) provides members of the family of a diplomatic agent with privileges and immunities. Because of this provision, household members must respect the laws and regulations of the receiving State in accordance with Article 41 of the VCDR. Articles 53 and 55 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) are relevant in this regard to members of consular posts.

Case Study – Code of Conduct for Overseas Service

I am currently on a posting and my 15 year old son has been repeatedly drinking under age and taking illegal drugs. Can I be investigated because of his behaviour?

The APS Code of Conduct and the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service do not directly extend to cover members of your household. However, under the Overseas Code, members of an employee's household are expected to uphold Australia's reputation overseas.

As a posted employee, you are obliged to take all reasonable steps to ensure that members of your household are aware of local laws, culture and customs. If any member of your household engages in any activity that brings or may bring the mission or Australia into disrepute, you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the behaviour ceases. If such behaviour continues, you must inform your HOM/HOP of the incidents. There is a possibility you might be requested to return home from your posting as part of a management action rather than a conduct and ethics-related decision. If you are recalled from the posting as a result of your son's actions, this would not impact negatively on your career prospects within the department

Contractors and the Overseas Code

3.5.11 The DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service also applies to contractors serving overseas in an official capacity and performing duties overseas for the department. For the purposes of the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service, "employee" also means a contractor in the department serving overseas in an official capacity and performing duties overseas for the department. Contractors must maintain conduct consistent with the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service while on service overseas in accordance with enforceable provisions of their contracts. They should regularly review the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service while on service overseas. In addition to section 3.5.14 of this Manual, the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service is available on the DFAT website.

3.5.12 Breaches of the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service by contractors may be regarded as failure to meet their contractual obligations and may result in the termination of their contract.

HOMs/HOPs

3.5.13 HOMs/HOPs have an important responsibility to promote the DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service and to set the ethical example by their own conduct. The DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service

3.5.14 The DFAT Code of Conduct for Overseas Service is as follows:

Introduction

1.1 Employees of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ("the Department") travelling overseas on official business, including those on long-term postings, are required to provide an undertaking that they will comply with the Code of Conduct for Overseas Service ("the Code"), which is underpinned by the Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct. The Code provides guidance to employees on their obligations under Section 13(12) of the Public Service Act 1999, which states that: "An APS employee on duty overseas must at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia."

1.2 All APS employees, because they serve the Government and the community at large, assume a position of trust together with ethical obligations. Australians have a right to expect from their representatives overseas a wholehearted and scrupulous commitment to the highest standards of behaviour. APS employees overseas are required to comply with the applicable laws of Australia and with all applicable regulations, directions and guidelines relating to their official and personal conduct.

1.3   The Code provides guidelines for employees’ behaviour overseas, both personal and professional. In conducting themselves overseas, employees are expected to use their good judgment and common sense. If any employee is in any doubt about aspects of the Code or unsure about how to proceed, they are encouraged to seek guidance from senior colleagues or from the Conduct and Ethics Unit (CEU). Staff may also wish to consult the Australian Public Service Commission’s website for a range of topical publications.

1.4 In the Code the term "employee" means an APS employee under the Public Service Act 1999. The Code applies to employees on long-term postings, including Heads of Mission, those who are overseas on short-term missions and visits and those on leave without pay. It applies to employees who are temporarily attached to non-APS bodies such as international organisations, foreign government agencies, non-government organisations and private-sector corporations.

1.5   The Code does not apply to honorary consuls and their staff, or to locally-engaged staff (LES) at Australian diplomatic or consular missions. Honorary consuls and their staff are expected to observe the provisions in the Guidelines for Australian Honorary Consuls contained in Chapter 3 of the Consular Handbook. Separate guidelines on conduct for locally-engaged staff are issued under the authority of the Head of Mission in each location.

1.6   Breaches of the Code are regarded as a breach of Section 13(12) of the Public Service Act 1999 and will be handled in accordance with departmental procedures for handling breaches of the APS Code of Conduct. All management actions taken to address conduct issues in accordance with the Code will be subject to the normal requirements of procedural fairness.

Upholding Australia's Reputation

2.1 APS employees working overseas are seen as representatives of Australia, not only in the performance of their official functions but also in the manner in which they conduct themselves as private individuals. Regardless of their formal roles or responsibilities, their visibility and status as foreign officials means that their actions will be subject to a greater degree of scrutiny and public interest than they would be at home, and that an adverse perception of those actions may have an impact on Australia's reputation. Furthermore, Australian officials abroad may face dilemmas in the area of conduct and ethics which do not arise in Australia, in a range of social, cultural, financial or personal settings.

2.2 Employees who are on duty overseas have a duty to act at all times in a manner which upholds the good reputation of Australia, and which contributes to the good reputation of the Department and any Australian mission with which they are associated. The duty to uphold the good reputation of Australia is fundamental, and underlies the approach to particular principles of conduct overseas elaborated under the sub-headings below. Members of an employee's household are also expected to uphold Australia's reputation overseas.

Respect for the Law

3.1 In accordance with the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular relations, an employee overseas must respect the law of the country to which he or she is posted, or in which he or she is travelling. An employee mustcomply with any lawful and reasonable directions, and take into account any guidance issued by the Department and the Head of Mission, concerning the operation of local laws and regulations. Such directions and guidance will be of special relevance where there is a major difference between the requirements of local law and the law applying in Australia. Employees must give particular attention to laws and directions concerning bank accounts, currency dealings, purchase and disposal of motor vehicles and traffic infringements. Employees should also make arrangements to clear all outstanding locally incurred financial debts prior to completing their posting.

3.2 An Employee overseas must inform the Head of Mission as soon as practicable if the employee, or a member of his or her household, comes to the notice of the local law enforcement authorities, except in matters of minor traffic infringements. Where the employee is not attached to an Australian mission, he or she must also inform the Department. Where there appears to be a breach of local law, excluding minor traffic infringements, the Head of Mission should inform the Department immediately. These requirements will apply in all cases, including where the employee may, but for diplomatic or consular status, have been charged with an offence.

3.3 Amendments to the Crimes (Overseas) Act 1964extend the scope of the Act to apply extraterritorially to Australian diplomatic and consular employees (and their family members) serving overseas who have immunity from prosecution under local law. As a result, an employee (or family member) who has committed a crime overseas could, in certain circumstances, be prosecuted in Australia rather than under local law. An Australian prosecution could only be commenced where: a similar crime exists in Australia; the person's immunity from local jurisdiction has not been waived by the Minister for Foreign Affairs; and the Attorney-General (following consultation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs) has provided consent. The legislation also contains safeguards to ensure that individuals do not face prosecution for the same crime both overseas and in Australia. The amendments came into effect on 1 July 2003.

Cultural Sensitivity

4.1 Employees living and working overseas need to be culturally sensitive to the people of the host country and to be understanding of local customs, including those relating to personal behaviour.

4.2 An employee overseas must respect laws and customs which are protective of local cultural property. An employee must not purchase or export, or make arrangements in respect of the purchase or export of, any item of cultural property other than in accordance with local regulations, and with the knowledge and consent of the host authorities where this is required. The term "cultural property" includes any antiquity, artefact, document, work of art or other chattel which is of national, historical, scientific, literary or artistic importance, and also includes any property the sale or export of which is, or may be, subject to local regulation.

4.3 The APS and Australia have a reputation for integrity which must not be undercut by any perception that an employee might be influenced by bribes, gifts or other benefits. Subject to paragraph 4.4, an employee overseas and members of his or her household must not accept gifts, benefits or hospitality or advantages that are offered in connection with the employee's duties, status, power or authority.

4.4 Where refusal of a gift is likely to give offence to an extent that could adversely affect Australia's interests, the employee may accept the gift, but must promptly report it in accordance with Departmental procedures [see Chapter 6 of the Manual] and advise the Head of Mission. The gift is regarded as the property of the Commonwealth until the Secretary's delegate determines its disposal [see Schedule A of this Manual]. Gifts retained for any reason must be recorded in a register maintained for the purpose at the mission. Employees may retain gifts that exceed the value limits set for gifts from government or private sources subject to payment to the Department of the difference between the allowable limit and the wholesale value of the gift plus GST. An item classified as having little or no commercial value may be retained without the approval of the delegate, but the employee must ensure that it falls within that classification as determined by the delegate. Money must never be accepted as a gift.

Appropriate Personal Behaviour

5.1 An employee must not engage in behaviour at any time which is likely to affect adversely an employee's ability to perform his or her duties, or the ability of his or her mission to achieve its objectives, or which is likely to bring the mission or Australia into disrepute. In particular, employees should be aware that sexual behaviour and use of alcohol and other substances are areas of particular sensitivity, where conduct may more easily be seen as offensive or be misinterpreted, and where particular attention to appropriate personal behaviour in the local context is therefore required. Where an employee, including a Head of Mission, is in any doubt as to the applicability of this principle, he or she should seek advice from a supervisor and, if necessary, the CEU.

5.2 Where an employee is engaged in any personal relationship which might have any of the adverse effects set out in Para 5.1, he or she must inform the Head of Mission. Heads of Mission must treat any information they receive in relation to such matters in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988, including, where appropriate, disclosure of information to FAS CMD.

5.3 An employee must comply with the age of consent requirements specified for sexual activity in the law of the host country or the age of consent under the law of the Australian Capital Territory (16 years), whichever sets the greater age.

5.4 An employee must not use, or be required to use, mission office facilities, staff or resources for the purpose of arranging or facilitating access to sex workers by any person, including visitors to the mission.

5.5 An employee's personal conduct towards his or her domestic staff and locally-engaged staff must not be exploitative or be such as to lead reasonably to a perception of exploitation. This provision also applies to members of an employee's household. If a sexual relationship occurs, the employee must inform the Head of Mission or, in the case of a Head of Mission, the FAS CMD.

Household Members

6.1 An employee must notify the Head of Mission or, in the case of a Head of Mission, the FAS CMD, if he or she is planning to change the composition of his or her household. (A household includes the employee's family and other dependants as defined in Volume Two of the Human Resources Manual). This does not replace the employee's obligation, in conformity with the Security Instructions, to inform Diplomatic Security Branch of any change to their circumstances which may affect them or their security clearance.

6.2 Accompanying household members are not covered directly by the Code or subject to any obligations under the Public Service Act 1999 or Departmental directions in relation to conduct. It is nonetheless the case that because of their visibility and identity as part of an Australian official community, the actions of household members can have an impact on the reputation of Australia or of an Australian mission, and on the ability of Employees to perform their duties.

6.3 An employee overseas must take all reasonable steps to ensure that members of his or her household are aware of local laws, culture and customs. In the event of behaviour by a household member which would breach paragraph 5.1 if committed by the employee, the employee must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the behaviour ceases. If the behaviour persists, the employee must consult the Head of Mission. In cases involving members of the Head of Mission's household, Heads of Mission should consult with the FAS CMD. Incidents of such behaviour may, for operational reasons, require recall to Australia and possibly termination of the employee's posting. In such an event, no blame will attach to the employee by reason only of the behaviour of the member of his or her household.

Respect for Others and Tolerance of their Opinions

7.1 As in Australia, employees overseas have a duty to contribute to the effective functioning of the workplace by treating their colleagues and the public with respect. Even more than in Australia, this will require particular attention to the possibly very different cultural backgrounds, beliefs and opinions of the people encountered in the workplace and outside it. This principle is central to good relations with locally-engaged staff and domestic staff, and is important to effective performance in all overseas environments.

7.2 Employees overseas must respect the cultural background of colleagues in the workplace (including locally-engaged staff), clients and domestic staff; not discriminate against, or harass such persons or any other person because of their sex, marital status, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or religious beliefs, or upon any similar ground; and respect the privacy of individuals when dealing with personal information.

Integrity in the Use of Diplomatic and Consular Status and Privileges

8.1 Diplomatic or consular status and privileges are conferred on an employee overseas to facilitate the operation of the diplomaticor consular mission with which he or she is associated, and not for the personal benefit of the employee or members ofthe employee's household. An employee must act with integrity in relation to any privilege he or she may have (such as exemption under international law from the payment of taxes or duties) as a diplomatic or consular representative. Goods obtained without the payment of duty under privilege are for personal use only, and must not be sold or used as payment of any kind to persons who do not have the relevant privilege. An employee must not be required to use diplomatic privileges in a manner that would undermine the integrity of those privileges.

8.2 Employees overseas must not seek either to invoke or to waive diplomatic or consular immunity, which is a matter for decision by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Employees should be aware that consular immunity can exist only in respect of consular acts.

8.3 It is important to note that employees and members of their households have no immunity in relation to any professional or commercial activity in which they may engage outside of their official functions. Where a member of his or her household is planning to engage in any private gainful occupation, an employee must consult the Head of Mission, who may decide that the Department and/or the host government be consulted. Where a member of the Head of Mission's household is planning to engage in any private gainful occupation, the Head of Mission should consult with the FAS CMD.

8.4 An employee must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any activities by a member of his or her household who is carrying on a private gainful occupation do not give rise to a conflict or the perception of a conflict between the official duty of the employee and the private interest of either the person or a member of his or her household. For example, they must not use the mission's address as that of their place of business. In cases where the mission address is the sole address, household members should use a private PO Box for carrying on a private business.

Authority of the Head of Mission

9.1 An employee overseas must comply with any lawful and reasonable directions issued by the Head of Mission and must consult the Head of Mission about any personal or professional issue that gives rise to concerns relating to the operation of the mission in accordance with paragraph 5.1 above. In the event of a difference between an employee and the Head of Mission over the lawfulness or reasonableness of a direction, either may refer the matter to the FAS CMD for decision. Pending the Department's decision, the employee is expected to comply with the written directions of the Head of Mission.

9.2 An employee of an agency different to that employing the Head of Mission is subject to the overall management and control of his or her agency while overseas, but is subject to the direction of the Head of Mission on any matters within that employee's area of responsibility that could affect Australia's bilateral relations with the host government, the administration of the mission or the good reputation of the mission or Australia in the host country.

9.3 In the event of any difference between a Head of Mission and any such employee concerning the extent of the Head of Mission's authority, either may request their employing agency to take up the matter with the employing agency of the other. Pending the resolution of any such differences by those agencies, the employee is expected to comply with the written directions of the Head of Mission.

Implementation

10.1 An undertaking indicating knowledge of and willingness to comply with the Code is a condition of approval for travel overseas, whether on short or long-term assignment, for all employees.

10.2 Employees have an obligation to report apparent or alleged breaches of the Code to the Head of Mission and, where appropriate, to the FAS CMD or, if they prefer, directly to the CEU. Employees who make or investigate reports will be protected from disciplinary action or harassment in accordance with Section 16(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. Employees should also consult relevant departmental instructions on reporting breaches.

10.3 Where an employee becomes aware of serious criminal misconduct, by another Australian who is not an APS employee, the employee should report the matter to the Head of Mission, who will, in turn, consider the most appropriate course of action, including reporting the matter to local law enforcement authorities or the Australian Federal Police. Employees should be aware of potential conflict of interest where the person involved may subsequently become a consular client. Chapter 12 of the Consular Handbook on managing child sex complaints provides useful guidance in this respect.

10.4 Any failure to comply with the Code will be handled in accordance with departmental procedures for handling breaches of the APS Code of Conduct. In serious cases, an employee may, for operational reasons, be recalled to Australia pending the outcome of an investigation. This would not be disciplinary action. Where an allegation relates to a Head of Mission, a report must be made to the FAS CMD.

10.5 The making of an allegation which is found to be without substance and which is knowingly false, vexatious or malicious may be treated as a breach of the APS Code of Conduct.

10.6 In accordance with longstanding practice, the Department will pass to the Australian Federal Police any information which it can reasonably be suspected relates to an offence under applicable Australian law.

Back to top

3.6 Other Australian Government Codes of Conduct

Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff

3.6.1 The Australian Government has a Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff. The Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff applies to individuals employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (MoP(S) Act). Staff of the department who have been granted leave without pay to work in Ministers’ and Parliamentary Secretaries’ offices on MoP(S) contracts must abide by the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff.

3.6.2 The Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff does not apply to Departmental Liaison Officers, who remain subject to the conduct provisions of the Public Service Act 1999. Nor does it apply to APS employees generally, who are also subject to the conduct provisions of the Public Service Act 1999. However, given the important relationship between Ministerial staff and the department, and the movement of staff between the department and Ministers' and Parliamentary Secretaries' offices, all APS employees should familiarise themselves with the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff.

3.6.3 The Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff sets out the standards of personal integrity; professionalism and behaviour that are expected of Ministerial staff and recognises the important role Ministerial staff play in providing advice and assistance to Ministers in the performance of their functions. It covers all Ministerial and Parliamentary Secretary employees, including personal and electorate staff, as well as consultants engaged by Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.

3.6.4 The Prime Minister's Office and the Government Staffing Committee are responsible for implementing the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff. Any sanctions imposed under the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff will be determined, after consultation with the relevant Minister, by the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, acting on advice from the Government Staffing Committee.

3.6.5 Ministerial and Executive Liaison Section (MEL) of Executive, Planning and Evaluation Branch (EXB) can provide advice on the application of the Code of Conduct for Ministerial Staff.

Lobbying Code of Conduct

3.6.6 The Australian Government has a Lobbying Code of Conduct.

3.6.7 The Lobbying Code of Conduct applies restrictions on lobbying activities of SES employees and equivalents (EL2 HOM/HOPs, EL2 employees paid as SES and EL2 employees acting as SES for 12 months or longer) for a 12 month period after separation from the department. It also requires APS employees and contractors in Australia to find out the interests a lobbyist is representing when the lobbyist seeks to influence government policy or decisions.

3.6.8 More detailed information on the Lobbying Code of Conduct and how it is applied in the department is set out at section 5.4 and section 5.5 of this Manual.

Indigenous Art Code

3.6.9 The Australian Government has an Indigenous Art Code. The purpose of the Indigenous Art Code is to regulate the conduct of participants in the Indigenous art industry to ensure:

3.6.10 When purchasing items of art and promoting art dealers and galleries to third parties, posts and other relevant work units in the department should only enter into relations with Australian commercial entities which are signatories to the Indigenous Art Code.

3.6.11 The Cultural Diplomacy Section of the department’s Consular, Public Diplomacy and Parliamentary Affairs Division can provide staff more detailed guidance on the application of the Indigenous Art Code, as it relates to the work of the department.