Opinion Number. 183

Subject

PUBLIC SERVANT WHETHER REGULATION PROHIBITING POLITICAL ACTIVITY APPLIES TO STATE POLITICS

Key Legislation

ACTS INTERPRETATION ACT 1901, ss. 21,32 : COMMONWEALTH PUBLIC SERVICE ACT 1902

Date
Client
The Prime Minister

The Prime Minister:

Regulation 41 of the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations provides as follows:

Officers not to take part in Politics.

41. Officers are expressly forbidden to publicly discuss or in any way promote political movements. They are further forbidden to use for political purposes information gained by them in the course of duty.

The Prime Minister asks to be advised whether the word 'politics' in the heading of the above regulation refers to Commonwealth politics only or includes also State politics. For an answer to this question we must find the meaning of 'political movements' and 'political purposes', in the regulation itself.

Prima facie 'political movements' would mean political movements of any kind, imperial, nationalist, federal or State. It is true that section 21 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 provides that:

In any Act, unless the contrary intention appears- (b) references to localities jurisdictions and other matters and things shall be construed as references to such localities jurisdictions and other matters and things in and of the Commonwealth.

but these regulations are not an Act. Regulations may have their special meaning for special words.

Section 32 of the same Act, indeed, provides:

Where an Act confers power to make, grant, or issue any instrument (including rules, regulations, or by-laws) expressions used in any such instrument shall, unless the contrary intention appears, have the same meanings as in the Act conferring the power.

But the phrases 'political movements' and 'political purposes' are not used in the Act, and so have no meaning in the Act. Considering the obvious object of such a regulation, and the generality of the language employed, I am of opinion that the we shuld proprohibition contained in regulation 41 applies to State politics as well as to Federal politics.

[Vol. 4, p. 263]