Caretaker conventions

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In the period preceding an election, the Australian Government assumes a caretaker role. The caretaker period begins at the time the House of Representatives is dissolved and continues until the election result is clear or, if there is a change of government, until the new government is appointed.

Why must I?

In accordance with the Values in the Australian Public Service (APS) as set out in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999, public servants are required to be impartial and apolitical.

1.4 There are also established practices associated with the caretaker conventions that are directed at protecting the apolitical nature of the public service and avoiding the use of Commonwealth resources in a manner to advantage a particular party. The conventions and practices also aim to prevent controversies about the role of the public service distracting attention from the substantive issues in the election campaign.- Guidance on Caretaker Conventions – (187kb PDF)

What must I do?

During the caretaker period, agencies are required to undertake additional steps when managing their websites – Guidance on Caretaker Conventions – (187kb PDF) (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet).

1.3 During the caretaker period, the business of government continues and ordinary matters of administration still need to be addressed. However, successive governments have followed a series of practices, known as the ‘caretaker conventions’, which aim to ensure that their actions do not bind an incoming government and limit its freedom of action. In summary, the conventions are that the government avoids:

How do I?

There are a number of conventions and practices covered by caretaker conventions. Section 6.2 of the guidance covers the area on internet and electronic communications. In essence, agencies must:

  • not make major policy decisions
  • defer significant appointments
  • avoid entering major contracts
  • defer international negotiations or visits
  • avoid APS involvement in election activities.

The online engagement caretaker advice extends the Guidance on Caretaker Conventions to provide advice for agencies using Web 2.0 online engagement tools.

Last Reviewed: 2013-08-05