What can business expect with the Government in caretaker mode?

01 February, 2017

With the official election campaign now underway, businesses can expect their day-to-day dealings with Government to continue as normal – that’s the advice from the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

However, any decisions that may be deemed political will be put on hold until the Government resumes, says Department of Premier and Cabinet Executive Director Robert Kennedy.

“It means that the business of Government goes on in a reduced form but the public sector tries to stay out of the election process and uphold its normal apolitical position,” he says.

“What we particularly don’t do is make any kind of significant decisions or major commitments that would bind an incoming government.”

Don’t request special treatment

Kennedy says businesses shouldn’t be concerned that Government will grind to a halt for six weeks.

“They may find that if their project or something is getting to a critical decision point for Government it may be deferred until after the caretaker period is finished.”

Some businesses may think they can seek “special treatment” from ministers so they won’t be impacted by the caretaker period.

“The short answer from the minister via us is no, we can’t give that guarantee, but normal processes will continue up to the point where Government needs to make a decision, then things get put on hold.”

Defining a major decision can be tricky, says Kennedy.

“What I’ve said to a lot of public sector agencies is that a lot of it is to do with context. It may not necessarily look major to everyone else but in the context of an election, in the context even of an electoral campaign in a particular seat an issue suddenly becomes relevant.

“We will be saying to that agency well, probably best you don’t be making that decision because you’ll end up in the middle of a rather uncomfortable storm that you don’t want to be part of.”

Don’t get frustrated

Kennedy says businesses should be patient and keep communicating with the agency.

“But don’t be frustrated if they say we’ve got to the point where we can’t do anything more with this until we’re out of the caretaker period.”

He says it’s business as usual for anything that doesn’t drag the public sector into the political debate such as liquor licensing applications, driver’s licences and speeding fines.

“What I often say to public servants is it is not an excuse to put up their feet for six weeks and wait for an outcome. The normal business goes on and government continues to go ahead.”

He says the public sector will remain in caretaker mode until an election result is clear, which is up to the returning or incoming premier.  The Department of the Premier and Cabinet then advises the public sector it can return to normal operations.

“In the past we have stayed in caretaker until the next government is sworn in, even if it’s a returning government and the result is clear. If it’s a change of government same thing, but it is up to the incoming premier.”