Download PDF version (556 KB)

What is the history of the code of conduct?

From 1951, the Public Service was guided by a Public Service Manual, subsequently recognised in the State Services Act 1962.  That Act made it an offence for public servants to bring the Public Service into disrepute, and authorised Regulations relating to the conduct of employees.  These included integrity and impartiality, activities detrimental to the performance of official duties, and handling of official information.

Law changes to reflect restructuring of the State sector in the mid 1980s included the State Sector Act 1988, which repealed the provisions in the 1962 Act.  The Long Title of the State Sector Act required State servants to be imbued with the spirit of service and to serve with integrity.  The Act enabled the Commissioner to set minimum standards of integrity and conduct for Public Service departments.  This led to the Public Service Code of Conduct (, issued in 1990, identifying core principles of conduct required of public servants.

Amendments in 2004 to the State Sector Act empowered the Commissioner to provide advice and guidance on integrity and conduct to employees across the State Services (apart from Crown research institutes and their subsidiaries), and to set minimum standards of integrity and conduct by way of a code, for the Parliamentary Counsel Office, Parliamentary Service, and most Crown entities, in addition to Public Service departments.

The amendments in 2013 to the State Sector Act set out, for the first time, the principal ways that the Commissioner is to provide leadership and oversight. This role includes the Commissioner promoting the spirit of service to the community, and working with State Services leaders to ensure that the State Services maintain high standards of integrity and conduct, are led well and are trusted. The amendments also applied the code of conduct to all individuals working as contractors and secondees in relation to a function, duty, or power of an agency, extended the mandate of the Commissioner to apply the code of conduct to companies named in Schedule 4A of the Public Finance Act 1989, and empowered the Commissioner to tailor the code of conduct for particular people or groups within an agency.

Last modified: