14 October 2015
NSWALC to observe caretaker conventions in lead up to the 2015 Election
New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Chief Executive Officer Lesley Turner has reminded Councillors, candidates, NSWALC staff and Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) that caretaker conventions are in place in the lead-up to elections for our Council on Saturday 31 October.
Caretaker conventions are essential to maintaining a strong and democratic Land Council.
They ensure that no candidate has an unfair advantage over others and that our staff work for the good of the Land Council network as a whole rather than any individual.
During the caretaker period no significant new decisions or initiatives, appointments or contractual undertakings should be made. Routine Council business, however, should proceed as usual.
The broad caretaker principles are as follows:
- No NSWALC funds are to be used for individual campaigning purposes.
- No NSWALC staff member can provide any services that relate to individual campaign purposes.
- NSWALC's Governing Council will not make any financial/political commitments or decisions which may bind the incoming Council beyond those flowing from the Ministerially-approved budget estimates for the 2015/2016 financial year.
Responsibilities of Councillors and Candidates
For Councillors, this means that NSWALC funds or resources must not in any way be used to assist in their own personal campaigns, or those of any other candidate.
In addition, Councillors, or any other candidate, must not request NSWALC staff to undertake any activities during this period that could assist a candidate in his/her personal political campaigning.
Responsibilities of Staff
All staff must continue to perform their normal duties and activities during the caretaker period, without providing assistance that might in any way support the political campaign of any candidate standing for election to the NSWALC Governing Council.
NSWALC staff are entitled to stand as candidates for a position on NSWALC's Governing Council but were required to notify their supervisor and take leave in such circumstances.
The employee must be absent on leave throughout the election period and take great care not to use any NSWALC resources for individual campaign purposes, rely on any advice or administrative support from any other NSWALC employee and not use or benefit from specific knowledge or information gained during their NSWALC employment to seek an unfair advantage over other candidates.
Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCS)
Although Local Aboriginal Land Councils are autonomous bodies and not bound by NSWALC's caretaker conventions, NSWALC recommends that LALC Board members and staff observe the principles during the NSWALC election process.
The Caretaker conventions must be read and adhered to by all staff, councilors and candidates. These are explained in more detail on the following pages.
Chief Executive Officer
Convention for the Caretaker Period during the NSWALC Election 2015
A number of conventions have evolved in the conduct of elected representative bodies to govern the conduct of their electoral processes.
These "caretaker" conventions cover the conduct of elected representatives and staff in the period immediately leading up to elections and continue through to the commission of a new elected body.
This caretaker convention sets out a series of principles to provide guidance to Councillors and NSWALC staff about activities they may, and may not undertake, during the campaign period preceding the election of members to the Governing Council of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council on Saturday, 31 October 2015.
As a general rule, no significant new decisions or initiatives, appointments or contractual undertakings should be made by an elected Council during the caretaker period.
Routine Council business, however, should proceed as usual.
This convention also sets out a range of principles which are designed to ensure that NSWALC resources are not misused for individual political purposes and to ensure the political neutrality of NSWALC staff during the lead up to the election.
They should be observed by all Councillors, candidates and NSWALC staff during the forthcoming caretaker period which is defined within the body of this convention.
The broad principles which will govern the activities of Councillors and all NSWALC staff during the caretaker period are as follows:
- No NSWALC funds are to be used for individual campaigning purposes.
- No NSWALC staff member can provide any services which relate to individual campaign purposes.
- NSWALC's Governing Council will not make any financial/political commitments or decisions which may bind the incoming Council beyond those flowing from the Ministerially approved budget estimates for the 2015/2016 financial year.
Definition of Caretaker Period
- For the purpose of this convention, the caretaker period for NSWALC Councillors starts from the day nominations for the 2015 election open (8 September 2015).
Specific Requirements for Elected Representatives and Staff
- Members of NSWALC's Governing Council continue to remain in office until new Councillors have been declared elected by the Electoral Commission.
- As democratically elected representatives, it is proper that Councillors campaign for re-election should they decide to do so. However, Councillors must ensure they do not use any NSWALC funds or resources in any way to assist in their own personal campaigns, or those of any other candidate.
- Councillors, or any other candidate, must not request NSWALC staff to undertake any activities during this period which could assist a candidate in his/her personal political campaigning.
Specific Requirements for NSWALC Staff
- All NSWALC staff must ensure that the administrative arm of the organisation remains impartial at all times, but particularly during the caretaker/election period.
- Except as provided below, all NSWALC staff, including Councillor Support Officers, must continue to perform their normal duties and activities during the caretaker period, without providing assistance that might in any way support the political campaign of any candidate standing for election to the NSWALC Governing Council.
Staff as Candidates
- NSWALC staff are entitled to stand as candidates for a position on NSWALC's Governing Council once nominations are called for the election but strict rules apply and must be observed.
- A NSWALC employee who is considering nominating for election to NSWALC's Governing Council is expected to continue to perform normal duties up to the lodgment of their nomination form.
- Where a NSWALC employee decides to nominate as a candidate for election to the Governing Council they must notify their immediate supervisor in writing of their intention as soon as practicable.
- A NSWALC employee who nominates as a candidate for election to the Governing Council is required to take Leave in such circumstances. The employee must be absent on leave throughout the election period and take great care not to use any NSWALC resources (computers, cars etc) for individual campaign purposes, rely on any advice or administrative support from any other NSWALC employee and not use or benefit from specific knowledge or information gained during their NSWALC employment to seek an unfair advantage over other candidates.
- Any NSWALC employee who is campaigning, or intends to campaign, for a particular candidate, is required to inform their immediate supervisor of that fact immediately that decision is taken.
- The NSWALC employee must provide a written declaration to the Chief Executive Officer outlining their involvement in campaigning for a candidate, the period of involvement in the campaign, and the times during which those campaign activities are to be performed.
- The Chief Executive Officer has the authority to approve the activities declared by the NSWALC employee so long as he is satisfied that the employee can exercise their duties fairly and will not utilise any NSWALC resources to benefit the candidate or their campaign.
- In both cases above, advice must be sought from the Human Resources Unit concerning the appropriate documentation required to be provided by the employee.
- Any staff member found to be electioneering on behalf of themselves, or for any other candidate, or against any candidate, during business hours, may be suspended subject to a disciplinary process.
NSWALC Resources Must Not Be Used for Individual Campaign Purposes
- As noted above it is proper, as democratically elected representatives, for current Councillors to campaign for re-election should they seek to do so. However, in doing so, they must take great care to ensure they should not claim to speak for or act on behalf of NSWALC during the caretaker period.
- They must not use NSWALC funds or resources in any way to assist their own personal or political purposes, or those of any other candidate, or against any other candidate.
- Material promoting the individual political aspirations of Councillor or candidates must not be displayed in any NSWALC office or on NSWALC-owned vehicles. This includes any offices or vehicles provided by NSWALC for Councillors or staff.
- Councillors/candidates may not use NSWALC telephones, fax machines, computers, photocopiers, paper supplies or any other equipment or sources for personal or campaign purposes.
- No NSWALC funds should be used to produce or distribute any material which seeks to promote or assist a Councillor/candidate in his/her campaign for election or re-election.
Where it is necessary or desirable for general information on the activities of NSWALC elected representatives to be promoted during the caretaker period great care should be taken to ensure this material:
- Be seen to promote the role and policies of NSWALC as a whole, rather than the activities of a particular person (candidate).
NSWALC Meetings During the Caretaker Period
- During the election period, meetings of NSWALC's Governing Council may be held to discuss normal Council business, including ongoing funding issues and the preparation of status reports and incoming briefs for a new Council.
- Councillors should also continue to do whatever is necessary during the Caretaker period to maintain NSWALC's agreed commitment to engage with external Council and commitments and to meet its obligations under any pre-existing agreements.
- However, commitments to any new agreements or policy initiatives should be deferred during this period pending the decision of a new Council.
NSWALC Staff To Promote Election
- NSWALC's Media and Communications Unit will be responsible for the management, co-ordination and implementation of an Information and Awareness Campaign for the NSWALC Election.
- To avoid duplication and confusion, all general advertising and media components of the election must be cleared through this Unit.
- However, all NSWALC staff have a clear obligation, if requested, to provide general information promoting the participation of LALC voting members in the NSWALC election process.
- The Electoral Commission NSW and NSWALC have an agreement on the conduct of such elections with a clear demarcation between their respective roles.
- NSWALC's Media and Communications Unit will be responsible for the WHY component of the campaign (ie maximizing the turnout of LALC voting members).
- The Electoral Commission NSW is responsible for organizing and promoting the HOW aspect of the vote.
- While NSWALC staff cannot assist any candidate's individual campaign they should provide general information to LALC members (voting members and potential voting members) about the election process in a general sense - that is, informing LALC members about all relevant dates (close of rolls, opening and close of nominations, election date, locations of polling booths etc) and encouraging participation in the election, if requested.
- All contact in this regard should be reported as soon as is practicable to Media and Communications to ensure proper co-ordination of promotional effort.
- All questions on the general mechanics of the election should be referred to the Electoral Commission NSW with any queries on membership rolls referred to the Office of the Registrar of the ALRA.
- It is imperative, however, that staff do not advise or encourage any persons as to who to vote for or discuss any political issues around the election campaign.
Process for Reporting Breaches
- In circumstances where it is considered a Councillor or staff member has breached any of the principles outlined in this convention, the matter should be immediately reported to NSWALC's Chief Executive Officer, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, or the NSWALC Manager of Governance so that the matter can be promptly investigated and, if necessary, appropriate action taken.
- If any Councillor/candidate or staff member is in any doubt as to any of the activities they should or should not perform during the caretaker period contact should be made with their immediate supervisor or the NSWALC Chief Executive Officer or Deputy Chief Executive Officer.
- It should be noted that Local Aboriginal Land Councils are autonomous bodies and, therefore, cannot be bound by the principles set out in this document. NSWALC will circulate this document to them at the start of the NSWALC election process and recommend LALC Board members and staff observe the principles during the NSWALC election process.
- Staff messages will be sent out during the election period to reinforce the principles outlined in this document and to further explain the processes staff members must follow in the event they decide to contest the NSWALC election.