Thanks for your question, Elly.
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia. Chaired by the Prime Minister, COAG manages matters of national significance or those that need co-ordinated action by all eight Australian governments—federal and state/territory.
Your question relates to the ‘caretaker conventions’ put in place before a state/territory or federal election. Caretaker conventions recognise an election may result in a change of government, and aim to ensure that a new government is not bound or limited by the decisions and actions of the previous one.
During the caretaker period, the current government should avoid making any major appointments, policy decisions, contracts or other undertakings during an election period—for example, a state government accepting or rejecting a federal government funding package.
While South Australia is in ‘election mode’, the caretaker period for the current government does not begin until 17 February, when the writs (or official order) for the state election are issued by the Governor of South Australia.
As the writs for the Tasmanian state election have been issued, the Tasmanian Government is already in caretaker mode, which is why the Premier was represented by a senior government official.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet provides guidance on federal Caretaker Conventions, and states and territories have similar guidelines. You can find information about this year’s first COAG meeting on the COAG website.
Image courtesty Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet