The State Services Commissioner has released a new code of conduct for ministerial staff, which will apply to staff working for the next government.
The Commissioner, Peter Hughes, says ministerial staff have a “unique and important role” providing direct support and advice to ministers.
“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 says in a statement. “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.”
The new code replaces the principle of being ‘impartial’ in the State Services Code of Conduct, with the principle of being ‘professional’. The new principle requires ministerial staff to recognise the authority of the government of the day and the role of 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,” the statement says.
Mr Hughes says the new code of conduct has been under development since the beginning of this year. It will apply when ministerial staff sign their contracts after the 24 September general election, when the next government is formed.