Arrangements for the caretaker period during the 2016 Local Government Quadrennial Elections
The purpose of this bulletin is to provide advice to local governments on the limitations placed on publishing election material and making major policy decisions during the caretaker period.
What the legislation says
The caretaker provisions of the Local Government Act 2009 and City of Brisbane Act 2010 are outlined in Part 5 of Chapter 3 (in both Acts).
The caretaker period for a local government is the period leading up to the local government elections that starts on the day when public notice of the holding of the election is given. The caretaker period ends at the conclusion of the election. The Electoral Commission of Queensland will advise when the caretaker period commences and when it will conclude for each local government.
A local government must not, during a caretaker period for the local government, publish or distribute election material. Election material is anything able to, or intended to:
- influence an elector about voting at an election or
- affect the result of an election.
Major policy decisions
A local government must not make a major policy decision during a caretaker period for the local government. However, in exceptional circumstances, a local government may make a major policy decision in the public interest during the caretaker period, if approval has been given by the Minister.
Under the legislation, a major policy decision means a decision:
- about the appointment, remuneration or termination of a chief executive officer of the local government
- to enter into a contract greater than $200,000 or one per cent of the local government's net rate and utility charges (as stated in the local government's audited financial statements included in the local government's most recently adopted annual report) - whichever is greater.
A major policy decision made by a local government during a caretaker period will be invalid if the Minister's approval has not been given prior to making the decision. A local government may be liable for damages for contracts entered into for major policy decisions during the caretaker period without the Minister's approval.
Planning for the caretaker period
Local governments should prepare for the caretaker period by planning to make any major policy decision before or after the election period.
However, it is understood that unforeseeable events can result in a local government having to make major policy decisions during the caretaker period. Accordingly, in exceptional circumstances local governments can apply to the Minister for approval if the:
- need for the decision was unforeseeable
- decision is essential to the functioning of the local government
- decision cannot wait until the end of the caretaker period
- decision is in the public interest.
The Minister will decide on a case-by-case basis whether the decision meets the exceptional circumstances requirement of the Local Government Act 2009 and the City of Brisbane Act 2010.
Applying to the Minister
The Minister will deal with applications as a matter of urgency. To enable this to happen, it would be appreciated if all applications could be addressed to your nearest regional office for local government.
You can find your nearest regional office on the Department's website.
Alternatively, applications can be addressed to:
Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning
PO Box 15009
City East Qld 4002
Each application should include:
- details of the proposed major policy decision
- an explanation of how circumstances of the decision are exceptional
- an explanation of how the decision is in the public interest.
The Department has established administrative processes to ensure applications from councils can be dealt with in a timely manner.
For further information in relation to the requirements of the local government caretaker period, please contact the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning on 07 3452 6704.
Enquiries relating to the 2016 local government elections should be directed to the Electoral Commission Queensland.