'BBQ-gate': public servants warned of 'consequences'

The Canberra public servants who were given "talking points" to use on family and friends at Easter barbeques have now been warned of the "consequences" of leaking any more orders from their bosses.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority's head has defended its guide for "BBQ conversations" about the agency's controversial move to Armidale between employees and their friends and family, which was distributed to staff before the Easter break.

Authority chief executive Kareena Arthy said the talking points were "standard internal communication practice" and were just one of a number of ways staff were being kept "in the loop" about the forced move to northern NSW.

But the "substantive issue" of Ms Arthy's Wednesday morning message to staff, which in turn was promptly leaked, was her concern that "an internal document provided to staff has been disclosed to a media outlet".

"All APVMA officers are required to adhere to the [Australian Public Service] code of conduct and values," Ms Arthy wrote.

"Unlawful release of official information is a breach of the code of conduct and may be investigated, resulting in possible sanctions if a breach is determined.

"To be clear, I am not launching an investigation into this particular incident.

"Nevertheless, I wanted to ensure you are aware of your responsibilities and potential consequences."

In her defence of the talking-point strategy, Ms Arthy said it was "standard" to provide workers with such material.

"The document you have are talking points for APVMA staff to use when talking to people outside the agency about relocation related matters," she wrote.

"This is standard internal communication practice for organisations and with the potential for a lot of misinformation to be circulated, simple fact based comments provide tools to assist people in a variety of situations.

"There is a significant amount of change to process and the pace of this change can be confusing for staff.

"Given the media attention and discussion around the relocation, it has been very valuable for staff to have information they can access to be able to talk about the changes with some degree of confidence."

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who is driving the controversial move to Armidale, which is in the heart of his New England electorate, said he had not heard of the talking points until Wednesday's reporting.

But in a statement, Mr Joyce's office suggested that the authority's staff might not be sticking to the letter of the talking points.

"The minister would imagine, like most notes given out anywhere, that staff filed them under the same category as most memos from management," a spokesman said.

This story 'BBQ-gate': public servants warned of 'consequences' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.