Kevin Rudd may have been happy to promote himself on Facebook before the election, but now the PM has turned his back on the social networking service, banning his staff from it.
Following the publication of pictures from the profile of his executive assistant John Fisher during a recent trip to New York in newspapers over the weekend, Rudd has reportedly banned his own office and personal staff from using Facebook. Fisher's role has been controversial following reports that he helps pick the PM's clothing each day and has a salary of $78,000. The PM's office has disputed descriptions of Fisher's role as a "butler".
The Facebook ban represents a fairly dramatic about-face. During the election, Rudd set up a Facebook profile and allowed voters to list him as a friend. Rudd quickly exceeded the 5,000-person limit imposed on Facebook friends at the time and was forced to set up a separate fan page for other enthusiasts. That's now less of a problem; as of this morning, he has around 4,500 friends listed, Rudd's profile notes "no recent activity", but its continued presence suggests that the ban doesn't yet extend to Rudd himself.
Rudd's stance could damage the PM's long-term ability to attract younger staff to his department. Research suggests that many employees regard access to Facebook profiles as so important that they would quit if their bosses tried to block or ban the site. Bans on accessing Facebook at work are common — an IDC survey in January suggests more than half of all businesses block the site — but outright bans on even using the site in private time are somewhat rarer.
A tech-friendly approach was one of the key selling points for Labor in last year's election, centering on the planned creation of the National Broadband Network. Though that was supposed to be partially up and running before the end of the year, delays in allowing bidders access to existing network information from Telstra have made that unlikely.