|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
Establishment of Cabinet Office
The Cabinet Office, located within the Department of Premier and Cabinet [VA 1039], was established in 1982 under the Cain Government to centrally coordinate the lodgement and distribution of submissions for consideration by Cabinet and its committees.
Overview of Cabinet
Cabinet is the principle decision-making body of the government and includes the Cabinet Secretary and all ministers of the Crown. The Premier, as the leader of the government, is the chair of Cabinet.
Cabinet is a formal meeting of ministers; it has no legal powers or status. For example, there is no reference to Cabinet contained within Victoria's constitution and its decisions have no formal force until they are put into effect by its individual members as ministers, until they are endorsed by the Governor in Council or until legislative proposals are enacted by parliament. However, by virtue of the authority that members of parliament accord to Cabinet, it is the vehicle through which the decisions of the Executive are determined.
Cabinet considers important questions of policy, administration and the government's legislative program. Cabinet decisions are collective decisions and are binding on all ministers as government policy.
Collective responsibility is supported by the strict confidentiality attached to Cabinet documents and to discussions in the Cabinet room. Cabinet and its committees provide ministers with the freedom to discuss proposals and a variety of options and views, while working towards a collective position. The openness and frankness of discussions in the Cabinet Room are protected by the strict observance of confidentiality.
In Victoria, officials do not attend Cabinet meetings and the Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet acts as minute taker and prepares a draft record of Cabinet decisions which is approved and signed by the Premier. However officials from the Cabinet Office established in 1982 do attend meetings of Cabinet Committees and record the decisions of those Committees.
Constitution of Cabinet
The Ministers of the Crown form the Government and receive their commission from the Governor. They are appointed from the Members of Parliament belonging to the political party or coalition of parties commanding a majority in the Legislative Assembly. They are considered to be collectively and individually responsible to Parliament and through Parliament to the electorate, for the conduct of their Departments and the agencies within their portfolios.
Under the provisions of the Constitution Act 1975 (No.8750) Section 50, the Governor may appoint up to 22 Ministers of the Crown and members of the Executive Council, not more than six of whom at any one time may be members of the Legislative Council and not more than seventeen of whom may be members of the Legislative Assembly.
By convention a Government holds office only while it retains the majority support of the legislature and on losing that support the Premier is expected to either to hand in the resignations of his/her Ministry or to recommend a dissolution and general election.
The Premier is elected by a ballot of the Parliamentary members of his/her party. Although by convention it is the Chief Minister who nominates for appointment all other Ministers and who can recommend their dismissal, in practice in Victoria, the members of the Ministry are elected by the parliamentary members of the political party in government. The Liberal Party however reserves two positions for nominees of the Premier. The allocation of portfolios is the prerogative of the Premier.
Cabinet records prior to 1982 & the establishment of Cabinet Office
There is some uncertainty as to the form of Cabinet records prior to the establishment of the Cabinet Office in 1982. Although a Cabinet is thought to have operated in Victoria since the commencement of responsible government, relatively few records relating to Cabinet meetings prior to the 1980's are known to be extant and little is known about the recordkeeping processes associated with Cabinet throughout this period. . For the period prior to 1982 records relating to matters considered by Cabinet may also be found among the records of Ministers and of the departments of state and statutory authorities for which they were responsible. The records of the Governor (VA 466) and the Executive Council (VA 2903) may also include records relating to Cabinet matters.
Since the Premier, as head of government, is responsible for the leadership of the Ministry and the co-ordination of Cabinet business and government policies and programs, the records of Cabinet may also be found in the records of the departments that have provided administrative support for the head of government function. The departments responsible for this function have been the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475) until 1883; the Premier's Department or Office (VA 672) from 1884 to 1936; the Department of the Premier (VA 2717) from 1936 to 1982 and from 1982, the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039). As the Premier was also Treasurer for the period 1936 to 1982, the Department of the Treasurer (VA 865) may also have provided administrative support for the head of government function, including co-ordination of Cabinet business.
Cabinet Office functions and administrative history
The functions of the Cabinet Office at the time of its establishment in 1982 were to:
- provide administrative support and research for Cabinet, Cabinet Committees, the Premier and the Parliamentary Secretary of Cabinet;
- centrally coordinate the lodgement and distribution of Cabinet submissions;
- maintain, record and distribute Cabinet decisions;
- monitor and assist with co-ordination of the Government's legislative program;
- maintain a register of Cabinet decisions approved by the Premier for release under the Freedom of Information legislation; and
- assist with Cabinet programming and agenda setting including the forward planning of major initiatives to ensure effective use of Cabinet time.
The Cabinet Office maintained contact with and provided advice to departments and agencies on the preparation of submissions for Cabinet. The Cabinet Office liaised on a day to day basis with the Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet. This process is particularly important in relation to the lodgement of Cabinet papers, the setting of the Cabinet agenda and the distribution of the Cabinet record. The Cabinet Office also liaised with the Parliamentary Secretary in relation to the legislative program.
Since 1991 the Cabinet Office has undergone multiple name changes and moved across groups/divisions of DPC (VA 1039).
In 1991 during the Kirner Government, the Cabinet Office became the Cabinet and Executive Branch which was part of the Government Group of DPC.
The functions of the Cabinet and Executive Branch were to:
- provide administrative and policy support for the Premier, the Parliamentary Secretary of the Cabinet, Cabinet and Cabinet Committees
- receive, process and distribute submissions to be considered by Cabinet and its committees
- distribute Cabinet and Cabinet Committee decisions and monitor their implementation
- assist the Premier and the Parliamentary Secretary with the programming of Cabinet business and setting of agendas
- monitor and coordinate the Government's legislative program
- liaise with and advise administrative units and agencies on Cabinet processes and requirements
- maintain a register of Cabinet decisions as required by the Freedom of Information Act
- provide legal and policy advice and administrative support for the Premier and Secretary on parliamentary law and practice, and for the Executive Council
Following the election of the Kennett Government in October 1992, the cabinet services and policy advising areas of DPC were merged and restructured into a new entity, the Cabinet Office. This office had the following branch structure:
- Resources and Development
- Micro-Economic Reform
- Strategic Planning and Review
- Financial and Budget Policy
- Justice and Social Policy
- Commonwealth-State Relations
- Cabinet Secretariat
The Cabinet Secretariat was responsible for providing secretariat services and managing information flows for the Cabinet and Executive Council. Its responsibilities included the coordination of the Government's legislative program and response to a range of Parliamentary matters, and the provision of advice on executive government and Parliamentary processes.
In 2002 during the Bracks Government, the Cabinet Office was replaced by the Government, Resources & Infrastructure Division. The Cabinet Secretariat continued as a branch under this newly formed division and then went on to move multiple times between divisions/groups of DPC. In 2003 it moved into the Strategic, Economic and Social Policy Division. In 2004 it moved into the Governance, Resources and Infrastructure Division and in 2005 it moved into the Policy and Cabinet Group. The functions of the Cabinet Secretariat as at 2005 were to:
- provide secretariat services and manage information flows and official record for Cabinet (including Cabinet Committees) and the Executive Council
- coordinate the operational arrangements for the delivery of the Government's Community Cabinet program - provide specialist advice to the Premier and participate in formal ceremonies as required
- in liaison with the Cabinet Secretary, develop and maintain high quality systems and processes
- coordinate the Government's legislative program and responses to a range of Parliamentary matters
- provide advice on executive government and Parliamentary processes
In January 2015 following the election of the Andrews Government, the Cabinet Secretariat was renamed the Cabinet Office and moved into the newly formed Governance and Policy Group of DPC. The functions of the Cabinet Office were the same as that previously performed by Cabinet Secretariat. The DPC Annual Report of 2013/14 described the functions as:
- deliver specialist support and advice to executive government to facilitate informed decision-making and link government with the Victorian community
- provide a leadership role within DPC and across government in promoting compliance with Cabinet processes, including the exercise of parliamentary responsibilities by Cabinet members and Executive Council
- ensure the security and preservation of Cabinet records
- coordinate the Premier's correspondence