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Governments should avoid making and implementing major policy decisions during the caretaker period that are likely to commit an incoming government or limit its freedom to act.
Whether a particular policy decision qualifies as ‘major’ is a matter for judgment. Relevant considerations include:
The conventions apply to the timing of the making of decisions that are likely to commit an incoming government, not to their announcement. Accordingly, the conventions are not necessarily contravened where decisions made before the calling of an election are announced during the caretaker period. Where possible, decisions about policies that have been agreed but not made public should be announced ahead of the caretaker period if their announcement is likely to cause controversy during the election campaign.
The conventions do not apply to promises on future policies that the party in government announces as part of its election campaign.
If circumstances require the Government to make a major policy decision during the caretaker period that would bind an incoming government, the relevant Minister, after agreement with the Premier, would usually consult the relevant Opposition spokesperson(s) beforehand. The requirement to consult does not require the Government to obtain the endorsement of non-Government parties.
Consultation by non-government parties or Members of Parliament with departmental officers must only occur with the express authorisation of the Premier. If a non-government party or Member makes direct contact with an agency they should be referred to the Premier’s Chief of Staff. Appendix 1 provides more information about consultation with non-government parties.