By Anne Tiernan, Jennifer Menzies
During this monograph, Anne Tiernan and Jennifer Menzies capably chart the customarily unsafe terrain of the ‘caretaker interval’ that ensues from the time an election is termed until eventually a brand new executive is shaped. it is a panorama fraught with political and administrative hazards - relatively for public servants who're required to ‘mind the store’ and continue the fundamental equipment of presidency going. The conventions characterize an ancient accretion of customized, perform and ideas, frequently leavened with uncertainty. In tackling their topic, Tiernan and Menzies draw upon their shared previous stories as public servants and ministerial ‘staffers’ in addition to the top criteria of educational scholarship - this can be a ‘must learn’ for politicians, public servants and scholars of presidency.
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5) notes ‘the proper operation [of caretaker conventions] is dependent on the public servants who will make judgements on precisely what they mean and how they apply’. That is true, but they also depend to a significant extent on the attitude of the first minister and their receptiveness to advice. In broad terms, caretaker conventions aim to ensure incoming governments are not bound by last minute decisions or actions of their predecessors, that the neutrality of the public service is preserved, and that the substantial—and arguably increasing—advantages of incumbency are moderated.
The ball was firmly in the ministers' court, it being their responsibility to behave accordingly. The need for more detailed guidance, particularly on consultations with the Opposition, became relevant when, after two decades of Coalition government, the 1969 election raised the prospect of a change of government. In the event, three more years would elapse before it became a reality. The 1972 election saw the public service confront a transition for the first time in 23 years. Former Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, added to the sparse material on caretaker conventions by identifying what he thought was the key intent of the convention in his Queale Memorial Lecture in 1972: … no new decisions on matters of major policy should be taken and no appointments to high office should be made.
Our more adversarial politics and the emergence of the ‘permanent campaign’ mode of contemporary politics may account for persistent uncertainty over what governments might do and when. Four year fixed terms have addressed some of the ‘gamesmanship’ in which governments might engage immediately prior to the calling of an election. For jurisdictions like New Zealand, where election results can take some time to resolve, the issue of caretaker conventions in the post-election period has been more of an issue.
Caretaker Conventions in Australasia: Minding the Shop for Government by Anne Tiernan, Jennifer Menzies