When a general election is announced, the Premier will have asked the Governor to dissolve the House of Assembly and issue writs for the election pursuant to section 47 of the Electoral Act 1985. The writs for the elections must be issued 28 days before Election Day.
An Executive Council meeting is summoned by the Governor at the Premier’s request, for the issuing of necessary proclamations and writs to set an election in train.
Prior to an election, Cabinet office leads the preparation of incoming government briefs across government. These provide an overview of the key issues facing a new incoming government or a returning government and outline significant administrative arrangements which can be an important resource for a new government.
Cabinet Office also keeps a record of each party’s election commitments to assist with the implementation of the incoming government's promises.
By convention, when the writs for an election are issued, the government assumes a 'caretaker' role and should avoid making decisions that would limit the freedom of action of an incoming government. The public sector must also adopt a number of administrative practices to safeguard its neutrality during this time.
The caretaker period
The caretaker period begins when the writs for the election are issued and ends when it becomes clear that the current government has been re-elected or when a new government is sworn in.
Ministers continue in office during the caretaker period and the day-to-day business of government continues. However, the government is expected to adhere to the caretaker conventions.
The caretaker conventions
During the caretaker period, it is expected that the government will generally avoid:
- making major policy decisions that would bind an incoming government
- making significant appointments
- entering into major contracts or undertakings.
The conventions apply to decisions, not to announcements. The party in government is free to make election announcements during the caretaker period.
During the caretaker period, it is important that the public sector remain impartial and that public resources not be used to advantage any political party. Public sector employees therefore need to be cautious in any dealings with ministers and Members of Parliament and ensure that resources are not used in a biased way.
Agencies should also review their advertising and communications material to ensure it does not promote the party in government.
In the lead-up to each election, Cabinet Office releases advice to ministers and agencies and coordinates a reference group to deal with queries.
The next general election is due on 19 March 2022.