Caretaker Period is the name given to the period following the dissolution of the House of Representatives, until the election result is known. The term "caretaker" is used to explain the role of the incumbent government during this period. Here we look at what happens to the business of government during this period, and the implications for contracts and tenders.
While the business of government continues, by convention, the incumbent government aims to avoid any actions or decisions that will bind an incoming government and limit its freedom of action.
In practice, the government avoids making major policy decisions or significant appointments, and avoids entering into major contracts or undertakings. Should such decisions or actions be necessary, such as in the case of natural disasters or threats to national security, the convention is that the government will consult and gain the agreement of the Opposition.
There are also conventions aimed at protecting the independence of the public service, and avoiding the use of Commonwealth resources to benefit any political party. Ministers adopt a "hands off" relationship with their departments during this period. Agencies handle replies to "ministerials", and all political information and identification with ministers (links to ministerial sites etc), are removed from all communications and websites.
It is vital that suppliers scrupulously observe the requirement to be politically neutral, and understand their client's need to sever ties with ministers. For example, a supplier of website management services or agency communications, should avoid even the most subtle political links or messages. All material should be checked thoroughly, particularly any material that was prepared prior to calling of the election, that might contain "political" material.
Click here for detailed information about what is involved with the caretaker period.
What happens to contracts and tenders during the caretaker period?
The convention is that agencies will not make purchases during the caretaker period, unless it is absolutely necessary. Intermedium has used its historical ICT contracts data to investigate what happened during the 2001 and 2004 Federal elections. It makes very interesting reading!