We need a State Government, we need a Premier, and we need Ministers – but no-one can be absolutely certain yet about who is to be a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly: there are at five or six seats still in doubt, and while Labor says they are confident of achieving a majority in their own right, they (and everyone else) are waiting for final results.
Of the seats where results are clear, no Party yet has a majority of the Parliament.
Postal votes – and possibly recounts – will determine the final outcome of in-doubt seats, and receipt of outstanding postal vote closes at 6.00 pm on Tuesday 5 December. It’s also possible postal votes may overturn current expectations of seat-by-seat results, and throw more seats into the too-close-to-call pile – postal votes are being counted day-by-day, and new tallies in undecided seats are being announced daily.
Once postal votes are all in and all counted, the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ – see http://www.ecq.qld.gov.au) will determine whether they need further recounting in any seat – they’ve been doing check counting all along, so a full recount will be reserved for the very closest seats. That might take a day or two, or ECQ may determine there is no need.
If there’s no recount needed, it’s only after Tuesday the various Parties with members in the Assembly (Australian Labor Party, Liberal National Party, Katter’s Australian Party, One Nation Party, and perhaps the Greens) will hold meetings to determine who controls the Parliament and the Government, and who takes on which roles.
If Labor has a majority, we can expect a meeting of the Labor caucus in the days immediately after 5 December – and immediately after the caucus meeting we could expect a returned Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to announce her new Cabinet.
If Labor doesn’t have a majority, depending on how far short they fall it may take several days for a majority coalition to be stitched together – or possibly a minority Government – so we may not know who is our Government, and who is Premier, and a Minister, until the week of 11 December.
The Brisbane Times website has a pretty good summary of where things are http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland-election-2017-results and they keep it reasonably up to date.
But, be cautious – there’s only 72.2% of the votes counted so far, and the notional two-candidate count in some seats has counted the wrong two candidates!
Ben Rau from the Tallyroom has an excellent summary of the current status of counting as at Sunday 26 November 2017, including seats likely won and lost for each of One Nation, the LNP, Katter Party and Greens. You can access his summary here http://www.tallyroom.com.au/32465.
Now the State election has been called – see https://ethicalconsultingservices.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/queensland-state-election-basics/ – the Government moves into what is called “Caretaker Mode”.
Caretaker Mode is all about both maintaining public sector impartiality, and ensuring no decisions or commitments are made which will bind a new, possibly unwilling Government, post-election.
Many public servants interpret this incredibly widely – far more so than is intended or appropriate, and this can be a real nuisance for anyone trying to do business with the State Government.
Official guidelines for the conventions which apply during the caretaker period are set out in the Cabinet Handbook, section 9, here https://www.premiers.qld.gov.au/publications/categories/policies-and-codes/handbooks/cabinet-handbook/caretaker-conventions.aspx.
- Caretaker conventions are merely conventions and not binding at law – but are nearly always adhered to;
- Caretaker period starts the moment the election is called and lasts until either te result is clear or a new Government appointed;
- Things to avoid during the caretaker period: appointments of significance, implementing new policies, entering into major contracts or undertakings;
- Normal Departmental operations are to continue, but with care to ensure there’s no presumption about who will win the election;
- Departments should not at Ministerial request develop new policy initiatives;
- Opposition access to public servants is through requests to the Minister and any such discussions are confidential, but public servants may not discuss the merits of policy options with the Opposition and should keep no official notes;
- Departments prepare two sets of briefing documents for the incoming Government: one for a returned Government, and the other for a new Government;
- All Cabinet documents are readied for destruction;
- All Bills in Parliament lapse and must start again from scratch after the election, and any Acts not yet proclaimed by the Governor must await the intentions of the incoming Government. In some circumstances subordinate legislation may be approved;
- The Premier will determine whether Government advertising campaigns continue – anything highlighting the role of Ministers or covering matters of political controversy are usually stopped;
- Ministers generally don’t go to Council of Australian Governments meetings which occur during the caretaker period.
Here’s a downloadable PDF file for your reading pleasure, courtesy of Ethical Consulting Services! http://bit.ly/2hnbr4p
Last week several business organisations, including one of which we’re members, echoed calls from Liberal-National Party Leader Tim Nicholls, and demanded the Palaszczuk Labor State Government call an election immediately.
Apart from this echo chamber, it’s hard to detect any groundswell of demand for an immediate election – it’s due by 5 May, and the (usually but erroneously presumed three-year) Parliamentary term isn’t up until late January 2018 (the anniversary of the last election) or more appropriately 14 February (the anniversary of the Palaszczuk Ministry) – or, legally and correctly, 5 May*.
Premier Palaszczuk has said several times she intends the election will be in 2018.
There are always constraints in choosing an election date, and here are some presently operative in Queensland:
- The Queensland election process must take a minimum of 26 days, from announcement (issuing of the writs) to Election Day – incumbent parties normally give little more than the minimum notice, for tactical advantage;
- Don’t look like you’re calling it early for expediency or advantage – voters aren’t dumb and can usually see through that;
- Don’t cut across
- football finals (in this case, AFL and NRL, which expire on 30 September and 1 October, respectively);
- school holidays (which commence from 17 November for year 12 students, from 24 November for years 10 and 11, and 8 December for the rest) because
- so many people are away and will get cranky at the inconvenience of voting, and
- if voters are away they will mostly miss appreciating the value of all of that money you’re spending on election ads …
… schools mostly resume on 22 January 2018;
- Christmas and New Year;
- The Commonwealth Games run from 4 to 15 April: if the Government changes in the month before the games, or there is campaigning across the games, there will be major distraction from the Games and this may harm the success of the game;
- If you announce an election between Christmas (really, mid-December) and Australia Day, you will either cause chaos because so many Members of Parliament and public servants are away, or you’ll tell them they can’t take leave which gives the game (and tactical advantage) away:
- Members of Parliament, and particular Ministers, take their holidays between the last Cabinet meeting of the year and the first of the next year – the Monday nearest Australia Day: if you call an election before Australia Day, you’re doing it while many sitting Members of Parliament are still away – that’s arguably quite unfair to non-Government MPs;
- The Queensland public service shuts down from Christmas Eve (this really commences in mid-December) until late January, say Australia Day;
- Most polling places are in school halls or similar, and it can be an incredible nuisance to get proper access to school halls during school holidays;
- The Party in power hasn’t finished selecting all of its candidates yet, although the few remaining are not in highly targeted seats;
- And, as Michael Todd reminds us: after this election Queensland moves to four-year fixed terms, with the election on the last Saturday of October (starting in 2021) – choosing a late October/early November date tends to bring this election into alignment with the future.
These things in combination mean the election could be announced
- Anytime up until 2 October, for a 28 October Election Day, if the Premier is prepared to explain why it can’t be next year as she has previously said, or
- Anytime up until 9 October, for a 4 November Election Day, with the same proviso, or
- Not between 10 October and Australia Day for the reasons advanced above, and
- Not for a date after 10 March, to avoid the Commonwealth Games and their build up, and
- Just possibly after an early Cabinet meeting on 22 January, for 17 February, or
- More likely, sometime in the two-and-a-bit weeks after Australia Day, for an Election Day of 24 February, 3 March, or 10 March.
The Queensland Premier (and her staff) has not been consulted in the drafting of this article, and nor has she consulted us!