Cabinet Practice Manual
The Cabinet system in NSW
This online resource will help agencies preparing Cabinet Submissions to better understand each stage of the Cabinet system.
You will find a suite of templates, guidelines and other resources. Additional information about the processes that apply to proposals that require legislation, Cabinet consideration of key appointments and special arrangements for Executive Council, is also detailed.
Key aspects of Cabinet
Cabinet is the forum of NSW Government Ministers who deliberate upon and decide major policy for the Government.
Executives and officers of NSW Government agencies play an essential role in supporting the Cabinet system – to deliver quality advice to Cabinet Ministers, operating in a culture of integrity and confidentiality.
These are some key features of the NSW Cabinet system:
- All Ministers are members of Cabinet.
- Cabinet is not established by legislation. It is based on convention. The most significant Cabinet conventions are:
- collective responsibility for decisions of Cabinet
- confidentiality of Cabinet deliberations.
- The Premier:
- sets the Cabinet agenda
- chairs the Cabinet meetings
- establishes Cabinet Committees and appoints Ministers as chairs and members.
- The Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) is the Cabinet Secretary and advises the Premier on the flow of Cabinet business, attends Cabinet meetings and records its decisions.
- The Cabinet Secretary also approves any variation to consultation or distribution requirements for Cabinet submissions.
Matters for Cabinet
Cabinet should determine all significant matters that affect the government as a whole.
- new policy proposals and significant or sensitive variations to existing policies. These may arise in Government issues papers, discussion papers and position papers that propose new policies
- proposals that require legislation
- proposed responses to recommendations in reports of Parliamentary committees, inquiries and other significant reports that establish or vary policy
- intergovernmental agreements, matters likely to significantly impact intergovernmental relations and significant issues for COAG Councils
- significant or high-level appointments needing Ministerial approval or endorsement
- significant portfolio policy announcements
- matters likely to significantly impact parts of the community
- proposals to refer matters to Parliamentary committees
- matters that may be contentious.
Cabinet Committees derive their powers from the Cabinet and also follow Cabinet conventions. Committees support Cabinet in various ways, for example, by considering some matters in detail before they proceed to Cabinet for broader policy consideration.
Otherwise, Cabinet Committee decisions may be submitted to Cabinet for noting or endorsement and become binding to the entire Cabinet.
Meetings are convened and chaired by a nominated Minister
The Committee Secretary, who may be the Cabinet Secretary or a Deputy Secretary of DPC, attends all meetings, supports the Chair in arranging meetings and approves the record of decisions.
The Committee Secretary also provides advice to the Committee Chair on any variation to consultation or distribution requirements for Cabinet Committee submissions.
Cabinet Committee meetings may be attended by Departmental or agency officials who provide additional advice, as determined by the Committee.
The procedures of Cabinet Committees are detailed in individual Terms of Reference, endorsed by the Committee and approved by the Premier.
Ministers' roles in preparing items for Cabinet
Cluster Ministers develop, coordinate and submit proposals with cluster-wide and inter-cluster policy implications and approve any proposals from within their cluster that have financial implications.
Portfolio Ministers develop and submit proposals with portfolio-specific policy impacts.
All Ministers attend each meeting of Cabinet and are responsible for implementing Cabinet decisions affecting their portfolios.
Cabinet documents belong to the State and are strictly confidential. This is essential to the maintenance of collective responsibility for Cabinet decisions. Refer to Premier's Memorandum: M2006-08 Maintaining Confidentiality of Cabinet Documents and Other Cabinet Convention.
Confidentiality is protected in the following ways:
- Only the Premier, Ministers and Cabinet Secretary/Deputy Cabinet Secretary attend Cabinet meetings.
- All Cabinet records are managed by the eCabinet secure document management system. Only authorised users can access eCabinet.
- Ministers' offices and agencies should review Cabinet items directly in eCabinet that is on the screen of a computer or approved device. In limited circumstances Cabinet records are printed directly from eCabinet. They are delivered by hand only and are never photographed, photocopied, scanned, faxed, mailed or emailed.
- There is an eCabinet audit trail for every printed Cabinet record. Each copy identifies who printed it, allowing copies to be accounted for and traced.
- Officers requiring access to printed documents acknowledge in writing (DOCX, 976 KB) that they are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality and security of those records, and ensure that they are easily identifiable.
- All printed documents must be returned to Cabinet Secretariat to securely destroy or to the relevant Cabinet Liaison Officer to return to the Cabinet Secretariat. Cabinet documents that have not reached the eCabinet stage (for example early drafts of submissions) must be marked with the dissemination limiting marker (DLM): Sensitive: NSW Cabinet. Please refer to DFSI Circular: DFSI-2015-01 NSW Government Information Classification, Labelling and Handling Guidelines.
The Cabinet Secretariat, within DPC, provides continuity and impartial support for operations at the centre of government.
The Cabinet Secretariat supports the Premier, Cabinet committee chairs and the Cabinet Secretary/Deputy Secretary in ensuring that government business is conducted in an effective and timely way and that proper collective consideration takes place.
- organises agendas
- provides administrative support during Cabinet meetings
- distributes Cabinet submissions and decisions
- acts as custodian of the Cabinet documents of the Government and previous Governments.
Cabinet Secretariat can help authorised users to navigate all aspects of the Cabinet system and is a principal source of advice for Ministers, Ministerial offices, Departments and agencies on Cabinet matters.
Contact between the Cabinet Secretariat and Departments (and agencies) is usually made through the Cabinet Liaison Officer (CLO) for the relevant cluster.
The Cabinet Secretariat can be contacted via the helpline on 02 9228 5858 or the online form.
Cabinet Liaison Officers
All clusters have a Cabinet liaison officer (CLO) who manages the Cabinet functions of the Department and cluster agencies including:
- providing a central point of contact between departments on Cabinet matters
- review and critical analysis of Cabinet documents to ensure quality, relevance and appropriateness and that documents have been developed in accordance with guidelines
- providing advice on Cabinet operations within their cluster
- coordinating the Department's Cabinet program
- training on departmental Cabinet procedures
- advising Cabinet Secretariat of Department and agency officers requiring access to the eCabinetsystem
- coordinating comments from across their Department and related agencies on Cabinet submissions from other Departments and agencies.
CLO contact details are available from DPC's Cabinet Liaison Unit on 02 9228 5353 or the online form.
Department of Premier and Cabinet
DPC has specialist policy branches that advise whether a matter is suitable for Cabinet or Cabinet Committee consideration.
DPC works with Departments and agencies to develop Cabinet submissions. Before submissions are placed on the Cabinet agenda, DPC consults with agencies and attempts to resolve any outstanding key issues.
DPC provides the Premier (and some Committee Chairs) with independent whole-of-government policy advice on Cabinet submissions.
Help with the Cabinet system
- Departmental and agency staff should contact their CLO for assistance.
- CLOs may escalate an issue to the Cabinet Secretariat for further advice.
- Ministerial staff may contact their CLO or the Cabinet Secretariat for assistance.
- The Cabinet Secretariat may raise issues with the Director, Cabinet or the Cabinet Secretary, as appropriate.