Skip to Content
Department of Premier and Cabinet

Major legal or intergovernmental commitments

Governments should avoid entering into major contracts or undertakings during the caretaker period. This includes commitments and undertakings which could bind an incoming government.

When considering whether a contract or undertaking qualifies as 'major', agencies should consider:

  • the monetary value of the commitment;
  • whether the commitment involves a routine matter of administration or if it implements or entrenches a policy, program or administrative structure which is politically contentious; and
  • 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.

The convention that the Government avoids entering into major commitments during the caretaker period extends to 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 representatives should if possible limit their role to providing information on the Government's 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 non-government parties' agreement to negotiating positions.


Operational Notes

Where contracts have been entered into prior to the caretaker period, further agreements can be entered into during that period if:

  • these are subsidiary to that "head contract", relating to matters already proceeding; or
  • penalties may be incurred for breach if further agreements are not entered into.

Generally, during the caretaker period, departmental officials should attend meetings of ministerial councils and committees rather than Ministers or other members of Parliament.