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Home | Divisions | Executive Division | Caretaker conventions | Major legal or intergovernmental commitments

Major legal or intergovernmental commitments

Contracts or undertakings

Governments avoid entering into major contracts or undertakings during the caretaker period. When considering whether a contract or undertaking qualifies as ‘major’, agencies should consider the monetary value of the commitment and also whether the commitment involves a routine matter of administration or rather implements or entrenches a policy, program or administrative structure which is politically contentious. A further consideration is whether the commitment requires ministerial approval.

If it is not possible to defer the commitment until after the caretaker period, for legal, commercial or other reasons, there are a number of options. The Minister, after agreement with the Premier, could consult the relevant Opposition spokesperson regarding the commitment. Agencies could also ensure that new contracts entered into during the caretaker period include clauses providing for termination in the event of an incoming government not wishing to proceed.

Similarly, in the case of outstanding tender processes, agencies should warn potential tenderers about the implications of the election and the possibility that the tender might not be completed.If possible, new tender processes should not commence during the caretaker period.

Intergovernmental negotiations

The convention that the Government avoids entering into major commitments during the caretaker period gives rise to particular issues in the context of intergovernmental negotiations and agreements. The Government ordinarily seeks to defer such negotiations or adopts observer status until the end of the caretaker period.

If deferring involvement or adopting observer status is not feasible, the Government should if possible limit its role to providing information on its past position, without committing the incoming government to that position.

If it is necessary for the Government to participate fully in the negotiations, it should advise the other parties to the negotiations that any outcomes will need to be authorised by the incoming government, or it could seek Opposition parties’ agreement to negotiating positions.

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