Function VF 64
Head of government
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  • Use this Function for
    Leadership of the Ministry/Cabinet and chief spokesperson for the Government
    Liaison with the Governor, other Governments and the Commonwealth
    Provision of advice to the monarch on behalf of the Victorian Government.
    Administrative support for the head of government, including
    - correspondence with other colonies, governments and the Agent-General
    - correspondence with the Governor, including despatches from the Secretary of State in Britain referred by the Governor to Ministers
    - matters referred to the Premier and Cabinet by other Ministers or departments for their consideration
    - other matters concerning the Premier
    - issuing Cabinet circulars and attending upon Cabinet (VA 2989)
    - matters relating to the Public Service as a whole.
    - provision of policy advice to the Premier across all facets of Government
    Federal affairs

  • Do not use this Function for
    ;Executive (including Cabinet)
    Cabinet Office
    Provision of support services to statutory bodies historically associated with the head of government role
    Provision of support services to the Executive Council and the Governor

 
Description of this FunctionDescription of this Function
Background

As head of government, the Premier leads the Ministry and is responsible for relations with the Governor (VA 466) on behalf of the Ministry and for relations with the Commonwealth and other governments. The Premier represents Victoria at the Premiers' Conference and at meetings of the Loan Council (from 1928), and advises the Queen on the appointment and dismissal of Governors and on the exercise of her powers and functions within Victoria.

As chief spokesperson for both the Government and his/her party, the Premier is expected to have a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the Government's policies and activities and, through the Cabinet (VA 2989) and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039), to exercise responsibility for the co-ordination and implementation of government policies and programmes.

In Victoria formal executive power, that is, the power to execute or apply the laws made by Parliament, is vested in the Crown and is exercised by the Governor as the Crown's representative, generally with the advice of the Executive Council (VA 2903). The Constitution provides for the appointment by the Governor of a specified number of officers from the Legislative Assembly (VA 2585) and Legislative Council (VA 471) as Ministers of the Crown. These Ministers are also appointed as members of the Executive Council. In practice executive power is exercised by the Ministers of the Crown. Thus the Governor generally exercises his/her legislative and executive powers on the advice of and through the Ministers of the Crown who form the Cabinet in their capacity as members of the Executive Council. In reality the exercise of formal powers by the Governor with the advice of the Executive Council gives effect to Cabinet and Ministerial decisions.

Following an election the Governor invites the Parliamentary leader of the political party or coalition of political parties commanding a majority in the lower House, in Victoria the Legislative Assembly, to form the Government. By convention a Government holds office only while it retains the majority support of the legislature. On losing that support the Chief Minister or Premier is expected either to hand in the resignations of his/her Ministry or to recommend a dissolution and general election, a request which the Governor may refuse, particularly if an alternative leader can demonstrate that she/he can command a legislative majority. The Premier may recommend a general election at any time within the maximum term of the legislature and if she/he commands a majority in the Legislative Assembly, it is likely that this advice will be accepted by the Governor.

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, it is now caucus which elects the members of the Ministry, though the Liberal Party reserves two positions for the nominees of the Premier. The allocation of portfolios however is the prerogative of the Premier.

Summary of Head of Government Role

The main functions associated with this role are:

leadership of the Ministry/Cabinet and chief spokesperson for the Government
liaison with the Governor, other Governments and the Commonwealth
provision of advice to the monarch on behalf of the Victorian Government.

Historically, the department of the head of government also provided corporate services to the:

Governor
Executive Council
Cabinet
Auditor-General
Public Service Board/Commissioner
Ombudsman.

History of the Head of Government Role

Until 1855 the Governor was the head of the executive arm of Government both formally and in practice.

The 1855 Victorian Constitution Act contained a number of provisions which established the preconditions for far-reaching changes in the balance of power between the Governor , the principal officers in the administration, the Ministers of the Crown under the leadership of the Chief Minister, and the legislature. Although the Governor continued to exercise legislative, financial and executive powers in a formal sense, he/she did so generally on the advice of the Ministers of the Crown in their capacity as members of the Executive Council. Real executive power under the new formal arrangements from 1855 - and in accordance with conventions associated with the notion of responsible government - has rested with the group of Ministers who form the Cabinet, hold office with the support of Parliament and are summoned to the Executive Council.

Until 1874 the Chief Secretary was regarded as the Prime, or first, Minister and exercised the responsibilities of his portfolio as well as those of the Head of the Administration. In 1874 the title of Premier was first applied to the Head of the Administration when G.B. Kerferd, commissioned as Attorney-General, was asked by the Governor to reconstruct the Administration upon the resignation of J.G. Francis, then Chief Secretary, who became ill. The Attorney-General assumed the title Premier, in addition to his Ministerial office, and the portfolio of Chief Secretary was left vacant.

This separation of the position of Premier from the portfolio of Chief Secretary set a trend which continued from 1874 until 1936. During this period the role of head of government was held by Ministers variously commissioned as:

1874-1875: Attorney-General (VRG 19)
1875-1877: Treasurer (VRG 23)
1877-1880: Chief Secretary
1880-1880: Treasurer
1880-1881: Chief Secretary and Treasurer
1881-1883: Attorney-General and Treasurer
1883-1892: Treasurer
1892-1893: Attorney-General
1893-1894: Chief Secretary
1894-1899: Treasurer
1899-1900: Chief Secretary
1900-1902: Treasurer
1902-1903: Attorney-General
1903-1909: Treasurer
1909-1912: Chief Secretary
1912-1917: Treasurer
1917-1918: Chief Secretary
1918-1919: Attorney-General
1920-1920: Solicitor-General (VRG 19)
1921-1924: Minister of Water Supply (VRG 36)
1924-1924: Treasurer
1924-1927: Minister of Water Supply
1927-1936: Treasurer

On 23 December 1936 the Premier, as head of government in Victoria, became a commissioned Ministerial office with salary and separate portfolio responsibilities.

Between 1936 and 1982 the Premier also held the portfolio of Treasurer.

Administrative Support for Head of Government Role

Administrative support for the head of government function was initially provided by the Chief Secretary's Office within the Chief Secretary's Department (VA 475). In 1883, in view of the fact that from 1874 the head of government was no longer invariably the Chief Secretary, separate administrative arrangements were made and a Premier's Department or Office (VA 672) was established.

From 1884 to 1890 this Office functioned as a sub-department within the Department of the Treasurer (VA 865); from 1890 to 1894 as a separate Department of State; from 1894 to 1928 as a sub-department within the Chief Secretary's Department; and from 1928 to 1936 again as a sub-department within the Department of the Treasurer.

The functions of the Premier's Department on its establishment were set down in an Order-in-Council of 29 May 1883:

correspondence with other colonies, governments and the Agent-General
correspondence with the Governor, including despatches from the Secretary of State in Britain referred by the Governor to Ministers
matters referred to the Premier and Cabinet by other Ministers or departments for their consideration
other matters concerning the Premier
issuing Cabinet circulars and attending upon Cabinet
matters relating to the Public Service as a whole.

The Office's role in the central co-ordination of Government policy gradually expanded. Following Federation in 1901 it also became responsible for relations with the Commonwealth and other States.

From December 1936, the Department of the Premier (VA 2717) and from 1982 the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (VA 1039) assisted the Premier in his/her head of government functions and the co-ordination of government policies and programs. The primary activities of the Department of the Premier included:
co-ordination of Government and Cabinet business, policy and programs (see also VA 2989 Cabinet)
liaison with the Governor
provision of advice to the monarch
relations with other Governments, including other State Governments and the Commonwealth
protocol and public relations.

The functions of the Department of Premier and Cabinet were defined by an Order-in-Council of 12 October 1982 and in summary are:
developing a co-ordinated administrative response to Government policies and priorities
monitoring the implementation of Government policy and co-ordinating the activities of departments and agencies within the public sector
providing assistance with the development of policy proposals for Cabinet
providing the Premier and Cabinet with advice on agency initiated policy proposals and priorities for the legislative programme
providing support services for the Cabinet (VA 2989) and its committees.

The Department is also responsible for the administration of inter-governmental relations, particularly with the Commonwealth and other states, and protocol matters related to the Premier's role as head of government.

NOTE: From 1936 to 1982, as the Premier was also the Treasurer, the Department of the Treasurer or Treasury (VA 865) may also have performed support functions for the head of government role, including co-ordination of Cabinet business.

Federal Affairs

A Minister for Federal Affairs was appointed in 1975 and assumed responsibility from the Premier for:

assisting the Premier with Federal/State matters
liaison with the Council of States which was established to foster closer co-operation between the governments of Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia in the light of the impact on State functions of the first Labour Commonwealth Government for two decades
liaison between Commonwealth and State departments
monitoring the impact of Commonwealth legislation on State functions
co-ordination of State government submissions to the Commonwealth.

Although the Premier was not necessarily the Minister for Federal Affairs, the portfolio of Federal Affairs has been included in the Premier's portfolio as no separate administrative unit with its own record keeping system was established. A Ministry of Federal Affairs was established but as a division of the Department of the Premier (VA 2717) and has therefore not been registered as a separate agency. Researchers seeking access to federal affairs material should see VA 2717.

In 1982 the Minister for Federal Affairs resigned and no re-appointment was made, the Premier resuming full responsibility for Federal/State relations.

Administrative Structure from October 1992

Since October 1992 the Department of Premier and Cabinet has comprised:
Cabinet Office (see Executive)
Office of Public Sector Management and Co-ordinator General (see Public Service)
Office of State Administration

The functions of the Office of State Administration are:
to advise and assist the Premier in the overall administration of the State's operations and to co-ordinate the responsibilities of the portfolio;
to manage the efficient and effective provision of advice, services and support within the Department, Ministries and across Government agencies;
to initiate, plan and implement special projects and events and to manage and co-ordinate the State's protocol functions and its international relationships.


 
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Agencies with prime responsibility for this FunctionAgencies with prime responsibility for this Function
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Date of Responsibility Agency Title Agency Number
- 1883 Chief Secretary's Department VA 475
1883 - 1936 Premier's Office (also known as Premier's Department) VA 672
1936 - 1982 Department of the Premier (also known as Premier's Department 1960-1982) VA 2717
1982 - cont Department of the Premier and Cabinet VA 1039
 
Other Agencies responsible for this FunctionOther Agencies responsible for this Function
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Groups related to this FunctionGroups related to this Function
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Date of Responsibility Group Title Group Number
- 1874 Chief Secretary VRG 26
1874 - cont Premier VRG 50