Caretaker rules updated ahead of election

Paul Osborne
(Australian Associated Press)


Ministers, public servants and ministerial officers have been issued new guidelines on how to be impartial during the “caretaker” period ahead of the next federal election.

The caretaker period starts at the time the House of Representatives is dissolved and continues until the election result is clear or a new government is appointed.

During the period the government is supposed to avoid making any major policy decisions that are likely to commit an incoming government, making any significant appointments or entering major contracts or undertakings.

The rules, issued by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet this week, also cover the use of commonwealth resources to favour a particular party.

The caretaker guidance note is largely the same as that issued before the 2016 federal election but has a few changes in it.

One is the expansion of a section on reviewing arrangements for printed material to cover all “publicly communicated material”.

And it notes recent law changes which require the authorisation of not only printed material but social media posts, robocalls and text messaging if they are considered to be “electoral matter”.

As well, the guidance recognises the new Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, which oversees what used to be called MP “entitlements” for such things as travel and office expenses.

An election is expected by mid-May 2019.


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