Jenny Menzies and I are pleased to announce the publication of the second and completely revised edition of our ANU Press monograph, Caretaker Conventions in Australasia. The book provides an updated analysis of contemporary applications of the Caretaker Conventions, including a number of case studies from recent election campaigns. The 2010 and 2013 Australian federal elections both feature prominently, illustrating some of the challenges and uncertainty governments and the public service encounter as they seek to manage the caretaker period.
The book was written with politicians, their personal staff, public servants and journalists – all of whom have to deal with the conventions – very much in mind. It provides a useful (and we think, much-needed) comparative assessment of the customs, practices and rules that apply during the caretaker period. We consolidate and make available the current Caretaker guidance documents from Australian and New Zealand jurisdictions and offer reflections on the theory and practice of their observance.
Caretaker conventions are fundamental to our democratic system. They are designed to guard against the improper use of executive powers and to protect the apolitical nature of the public service.
By limiting the decisions and commitments able to be taken immediately before an election, caretaker conventions aim to ensure the appropriate use of public resources and that a professional and impartial public service can serve and support an incoming government to fulfil its mandate. We show that in recent years, an increasingly partisan and adversarial political landscape has led to a number of controversies and trends which continue to impact on caretaker conventions.
The publication of our revised monograph is timely. The impending Victorian, New Sales Wales and Queensland state elections means all three states will have to steer a course through the hazardous terrain of the caretaker period by mid-2015.
Our monograph, produced with funding support from the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) provides practical advice about professional standards and expectations during the caretaker period for all levels of government, both in Australia and New Zealand. It is available for free download or you can purchase a hard-copy from ANU Press.