The West

No abuse of caretaker rules: Barnett
City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington, Richard Muirhead, and Premier Colin Barnett in Albany this week. Picture: Laurie Benson

WA Premier Colin Barnett has rejected the opposition’s claim he’s abusing the caretaker period, saying it doesn’t start until the writ of election is issued next week.

Opposition treasury spokesman Ben Wyatt says it started when the legislative assembly was dissolved on December 12 and continues until the result of the March 9 election becomes clear.

If there is a change of government, it continues until the new government is formally sworn in, he said.

He cited a Premier’s Circular entitled “Guidelines applying in Western Australia during the State General Election Period (Caretaker Conventions).

Mr Barnett says Labor’s claim is wrong.

“No, the caretaker period starts when the writs are issued for the campaign and that will happen on the 6th of February,” he told reporters today.

Mr Wyatt cited a second paper backing his claim, a Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet document entitled “Guidance on the Caretaker Conventions“, which said the caretaker period began when the House of Representatives was dissolved.

“It is clear that with the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly, unless Mr Barnett has changed the longstanding Westminster tradition of caretaker government, the Barnett government should already be in a caretaker status,” Mr Wyatt said.

“Has Mr Barnett changed the period from which the caretaker conventions apply to government?

“Has Mr Barnett done this to ensure he can continue to abuse the incumbency of government to conduct his Liberal Party election campaign?“

The premier told reporters yesterday that the caretaker period was just a convention.

“What the caretaker period says and it’s only a convention - no law, it’s just a convention and courtesy in politics - is that during those four weeks, the government of the day will not make contentious or major policy decisions announcements, or sign major contracts,” he said.

The West Australian

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