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Home | Divisions | Executive Division | Caretaker conventions | Ongoing work of the state service

Ongoing work of the state service

Requests from Ministerial Offices for information

During the caretaker period, executive government continues to operate and Ministers remain in authority. The Minister’s statutory responsibilities, especially those with time limits, are not affected except to the extent that any decision that is within the discretion of the Minister must be considered in the context of the caretaker conventions.

Material relating to the day to day business of government is supplied to Ministers in the usual way. Ministers are entitled to request, and should continue to be provided with factual or other material, including information to be incorporated in speeches, and to be briefed on issues. The purpose to which such material is put is for Ministers to determine. However, to avoid controversy in the election period about claimed breaches of the apolitical and impartial values of the State Service, it may be appropriate for an agency to decline a request for unusual information if it requires the use of significant resources and is clearly for use as part of the election campaign. If in doubt, the head of agency should discuss with the Minister or his/her senior staff the purpose for which the material is to be used.

In most instances, agencies should decline requests for policy advice during the caretaker period. There might, however, be urgent issues on which policy advice should clearly be provided to Ministers to allow responsible ongoing administration or to protect the State’s interests. Requests for legal advice on issues affecting the Minister in his or her capacity as a candidate should be declined.

Agencies can proceed with policy development work during the caretaker period so that they are in a position to provide advice to the incoming government, provided that contact with Ministers’ offices is not required.

Otherwise the normal work of the State Service including operational and other activities, continues without interruption. The caretaker conventions apply in respect of any decisions and special care should be taken with public consultation.

Legislation

Bills that have passed both Houses of Parliament should, if practicable, be assented to by the Governor before the dissolution of the House of Assembly, but may lawfully be assented to subsequently.

Legislation can be proclaimed during the caretaker period but, other than in exceptional circumstances, proclamations that have a commencement date after the date of the election are not made.

Where there is a need and where there is no breach of the caretaker conventions, the Executive Council may approve regulations and other statutory rules during the caretaker period. However, Executive Council meetings are infrequent during the caretaker period and are only held, with the Premier’s approval, when required by the amount of business.

Correspondence

Judgment is necessary in determining whether significant correspondence should be signed by the Minister or head of agency. Whatever the decision, the caretaker conventions apply.

Operational notes

Although Ministers continue to sign correspondence, the time they have available for this during the election campaign will be limited. In any event, Ministers would usually sign only essential correspondence.

The general principle is that correspondence should be answered rather than left to accumulate. In cases where no issue of policy arises, for example in relation to the preparation of replies to routine incoming correspondence, departmental replies for signature by the head of agency should be prepared.

Replies should not assume that the Government will or will not be returned to office. Any reference to post election action should be in terms of the ‘incoming government’. It may be appropriate in some cases to include a sentence along the lines -

“The matter you raised is one which will be taken up with the incoming government.”

Letters requiring explanation of current policy should, if possible, be answered without committing a government to post election action or implying that the policy will continue if the Government is re-elected.

To avoid confusion, and as a matter of courtesy, members of the House of Assembly who are standing for re-election should continue to be addressed as ‘MP’ until it is known whether they have been re-elected. Newly elected members should be addressed as ‘MP’ as soon as it is known that they are elected.  Members who are not standing for re-election should not be addressed as ‘MP’ following the dissolution of the House of Assembly.

Grants

The payment of grants which were approved prior to the caretaker period can proceed but should be forwarded by the Department rather than by a Minister or another member of the Government.

During the caretaker period, commitments should not be made in respect of grant applications received during the period or which were lodged before commencement of the period but are awaiting decision.

Tabling of and responses to reports

Responses to outstanding Parliamentary committee reports should be taken up with the incoming government. Agencies may, however, undertake appropriate preparatory work and consultation at the agency level so that they are in a position to provide early advice to the incoming government.

Reports of an administrative nature, such as annual reports, can be delivered during the caretaker period. However, where a report contains information that is likely to be controversial, consideration should be given to whether delivery should be deferred until after the caretaker period.


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