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The Queensland election: impact of the caretaker conventions

07 January, 2015

By convention, the government now enters ‘caretaker mode’ until the election result is clear or, if there is a change of government, until the new government is appointed.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has announced that a State election will be held on 31 January 2015.

On the 6 January 2015 the Premier advised the Acting Governor Tim Carmody to dissolve Parliament. The Governor accepted the Premier’s advice, and issued a Proclamation to that effect. A special sitting of the Executive Council was convened immediately afterwards, where the Acting Governor was advised to issue the Writ for a general election of the Legislative Assembly.

By convention, the government now enters ‘caretaker mode’ until the election result is clear or, if there is a change of government, until the new government is appointed.

This practice recognises that, with the dissolution of the House, the Executive cannot be held accountable for its decisions in the normal manner, and that every general election carries the possibility of a change of government.

What are the caretaker conventions?

The caretaker conventions are set out in the Queensland Cabinet Handbook.

In its caretaker role, the State government will ensure that decisions are not taken which would bind an incoming government and limit its freedom of action.

In doing so, the government will, during the caretaker period, avoid:

  • implementing major policy initiatives;
  • making appointments of significance; or
  • entering into major contracts or undertakings.

What do the caretaker conventions mean for major policy decisions?

Governments avoid making major policy decisions during the caretaker period that are likely to commit an incoming government. Relevant considerations include not only the significance of the decision in terms of policy and resources, but also whether the decision is a matter of contention between the Government and Opposition in the election campaign.

What do the caretaker conventions mean for large projects?

The normal business of government continues during the caretaker period. Project approvals required from a department may be issued during the caretaker period. However, major project approvals required to be granted by a Minister will normally be deferred.

What do the caretaker conventions mean for major contracts with the Queensland government?

During the caretaker period, the government will avoid entering into major contracts and undertakings. Whether a contract is a major contract is considered not only in terms of monetary value, but also take into account relevant factors such as the nature of the undertaking and the degree of bipartisan support.

What do the caretaker conventions mean for communications with State government departments and Ministers?

As the normal business of government continues during the caretaker period, communications with government departments can continue. However, Ministers usually sign only necessary or routine correspondence, and are unlikely to make significant commitments in that correspondence.

What will the dissolution of the Queensland Parliament mean for legislation?

The dissolution of the Queensland Parliament will have the following effect on legislation:

  • all Bills that have been introduced into the Queensland Parliament, but which have not been passed, automatically lapse;
  • all Bills passed by the Queensland parliament, but which have not been proclaimed into force, may lapse; and
  • in particular circumstances it is possible for subordinate legislation to be approved by the Governor in Council during the caretaker period.

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