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Department of Premier and Cabinet

3. Writing a Cabinet Minute

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3.1 Presentation

3.1.1 Because of the significant workload and pressures borne by Ministers, Minutes must:

  • Be presented in the approved format to enable Ministers to focus easily on particular aspects of the proposal;
  • Put forward an agreed basis of facts upon which discussion can proceed;
  • Succinctly and clearly identify the essential issues for consideration;
  • Indicate realistic policy options and their implications; and
  • Make clear recommendations which 'stand alone' so that it is not necessary to refer to the body of the Minute, or to attachments, to clarify the intent of the recommendations. In exceptional circumstances where a decision must contain extensive information the detail may be included in an attachment.

3.1.2 Minutes which do not meet standard requirements will be returned by the Cabinet Office to the sponsoring Minister (or agency responsible for drafting the document) for amendment before being placed on a Cabinet agenda.

3.1.3 Minutes should be as short as practicable and ideally should not exceed six pages, including the front cover of the Minute. The six page limit does not include annexes to the Minute. Agencies intending to prepare Minutes longer than six pages should first consult with the Cabinet Office.

3.1.4 The body of the Minute, which immediately follows the cover sheet, should be succinct and cover the essential matters for consideration under the following headings:

  • Purpose
  • Recommendations
  • Background
  • Issues and Supporting Information
  • Options
  • Annexes.

3.1.5 A sample Cabinet Minute is provided as Example 1 in the Cabinet Handbook Examples volume.

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3.2 Quality policy advice

3.2.1 The Policy Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet has defined the major qualities of good policy advice as being analytically rigorous, strategic in context, and practical and relevant. A number of indicators have been developed to assist in the assessment of the quality of policy advice, and the following checklist may be a useful tool when writing a Cabinet Minute.

Analytical Rigour

1.

Clear statement of purpose

- What is the intention of the document?

- What is the document aiming to achieve?

- Who is it for?

2.

Sound reasoning/logic

- What are the assumptions behind the advice?

- Is the logic behind the options presented clear?

- Is there a clear conclusion or recommendations?

3.

Evidence based,
up-to-date

- Is the information current?

- Is it based on sound evidence?

- If there is scant evidence, is that noted?

4.

Balanced, represents viewpoints and presents options that take account of implementation issues

- Does it clearly state the risks and benefits?

- Are the options realistic?

- Have stakeholder and interest group concerns been taken into account (if relevant)?

- Are there multiple points of view that need to be highlighted?

5.

Accurate

- Is the information presented correct, clear and unambiguous?

Strategic Context

1.

Takes account of government priorities and parliamentary/government/
public sector processes

- Does the advice demonstrate an awareness of the wider environment, the political context, and of the views and constraints of the Minister/Government?

- Have the consequences of following the advice been considered?

- Is the advice impartial and politically neutral?

2.

Considers intergovernmental agreements and priorities

- Does it take account of relevant COAG agreements, treaties, ministerial council decisions and local government initiatives?

3.

Takes account of relevant legal, fiscal, social, economic, environmental factors

- Have these factors been taken into account in the recommendations or options presented?

4.

Considers the Minister’s and the Department’s role

- Is the advice aligned with the Minister’s roles and responsibilities?

- Does it accord with the Department’s goals and values?

- Does it take account of the Department’s policies and applicable legislative requirements?

5.

Comprehensive, evidence of appropriate consultation and collaboration

- Does the advice take into consideration other relevant departments’ and stakeholders’ stance on the issue?

- Are the points of difference noted?

Practicality and Relevance

1.

Client focused (Premier, Minister, Secretary)

- Is the advice tailored to the intended audience?

- Why is this issue important – why does it require the client’s attention?

2.

Timeliness – meets deadlines, responsive

- If there is a ‘critical date’ to consider, is it clear why the timing is critical?

- Has it been delivered in time to be useful to the reader?

- If information is scant because of lack of time, is this noted?

3.

Well presented – concise, uses plain English, makes use of attachments, tables and diagrams where appropriate

- Does the information presented conform with the Government Style Manual?

- Is the information presented clearly?

- Have tables, figures and attachments been used (where appropriate) to make the information clearer and easier to digest?

4.

Advice is actionable – can be implemented

- Is the implementation of the advice feasible and achievable, taking into account practical and administrative restrictions?

5.

Considers the benefits, costs and consequences

- Is the advice balanced?

- Does it take into account the potential costs, benefits and consequences of the recommended options?

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3.3 Minute cover sheet

3.3.1 The cover sheet constitutes the first page of each Minute. The information for the cover sheet must be prepared on the template available from the Cabinet Office web site: http://www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/corporate_and_governance_division/government_services/cabinet_office. The completed cover sheet is to be provided to the Cabinet Office on plain white paper, to allow it to be photocopied directly on to the coloured cover sheet pro-forma.

3.3.2 If space is inadequate to give a satisfactory summary for any of the cover sheet headings, reference should be made to the relevant paragraph number(s) in the body of the Minute or to an annexe where further details have been provided.

3.3.3 An image of the coloured Minute coversheet is provided as Attachment 1.

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3.4 Purpose (Section 1 of the Cabinet Minute)

3.4.1 The purpose should clearly and concisely state the aim of the proposal being brought forward to Cabinet, and should also identify any timing constraints relating to the recommendations of the Minute.

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3.5 Recommendations (Section 2 of the Cabinet Minute)

3.5.1 A comprehensive statement of the recommendation(s) for  which Cabinet approval is sought must appear immediately following the statement  of purpose in the Minute. The  recommendation(s) should contain no argument or evidence, but should be confined to the action recommended for approval.  The recommendations form the basis of the Cabinet decision which will be recorded if the recommendations are approved.

3.5.2 Recommendations should be self-contained and not state merely that  approval is sought for proposals outlined in the Minute.  Tables, lengthy detail from reports, etc do  not need to be repeated in full, but precise references to them should be used  when appropriate.  For example if a  particular report is referred to in the Recommendations then the full title,  date and relevant page numbers of the report should be cited.

3.5.3 are to cover all matters on which decisions are required, but must also be concise and unequivocal.  Lengthy recommendations raise the question of whether Cabinet is being asked to decide on too much detail.

3.5.4 Wherever practicable, include a recommendation relating to relevant timeframes for implementing Cabinet’s decision, or providing progress reports. An explanation of those timeframes may be provided in Section 4 – Issues.

3.5.5 If appropriate, a recommendation relating to the financial aspects of the Minute must be included. This should acknowledge reduced or increased receipts (or recommend the provision of additional funds) in the current and future financial years, as detailed in the Financial Impact Statement (Annexe 6.1).  Note that Cabinet frequently decides to refer consideration of financial implications to the Budget Committee of Cabinet before a final decision is made, and this should be stated in the Recommendations, if likely.

3.5.6 When the Recommendations span more than one portfolio area, if it is not clear from the context, they must state clearly which Minister has responsibility for implementation for each specific part of the proposed decision.

3.5.7 If an announcement of a decision is proposed, a Recommendation is to be included to authorise a statement and, if appropriate, the timing of the release of any statement, having regard to the Communications Strategy (Annexe 6.6).

3.5.8 Recommendations should commence with the phrase:

"I RECOMMEND that Cabinet approves", or
"We RECOMMEND that Cabinet approves" in the case of joint submissions

3.5.9 Recommendations seeking approval to draft legislation should include either:

[Standard recommendation]

“.....that Cabinet notes that:

1. The timing and priority for drafting of the Bill must be determined by the Legislation Agenda Committee of Cabinet;

2. Final draft Bill(s) must be submitted to Cabinet for endorsement prior to tabling in the Parliament; and

3. If the final draft Bill is not completed by (six months after the matter has been considered by Cabinet) a report on the progress of drafting should be submitted to Cabinet for consideration by no later than that date;

or

[For urgent Bills]“.....that Cabinet agrees:

“That either the final draft Bill or a report on the  progress of drafting will be submitted before the Cabinet meeting scheduled  after <insert date agreed with Chief Parliamentary Counsel>”.

3.5.10 A page break must follow the Recommendations  section so that the Background section always starts on a new page.

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3.6 Background (Section 3 of the Cabinet Minute)

3.6.1 The Background section is used to provide a summary of the events leading up to the proposal to be considered by Cabinet.

3.6.2 Reference may only be made to Cabinet’s previous consideration of a subject if there has not been an election since the relevant decisions were made.  Relevant decision numbers and dates should be cited if the same matter has previously been considered by the current Cabinet.  Specific references to Cabinet deliberations or decisions of a previous Government must not be quoted.  Copies of documents originating under a previous Government are not to be included as attachments.

3.6.3 Reference should be made to relevant policy commitments given by the current Government. These should be specific. General reference to main policy documents (eg. “Consistent with the Economic Strategy document”) is inadequate.

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3.7 Issues and supporting information (Section 4 of the Cabinet Minute)

3.7.1 This part of the Minute should identify, examine and analyse the issues for consideration and determination. Presentation should be logical, concise and contain sufficient information to enable Ministers to focus quickly upon the issues they are to determine.

3.7.2 Graphs, tables and illustrations may be used to clarify issues. They may be in an attachment to the Minute, or if space permits, be included in the body of the Minute. While graphs, pie charts etc are often useful, care should be taken to ensure that they are clear and unambiguous.

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3.8 Options (Section 5 of the Cabinet Minute)

3.8.1 The principal options for the Government are to be stated and the preferred option is to be clearly identified. There is usually insufficient room to develop at length the arguments for and against every option (this information is usually canvassed in the Issues and Supporting Information Section). However, Ministers need to have an understanding of the alternatives available, why a particular course of action is preferred, and the outcomes of not proceeding with this course of action.

3.8.2 Except in a limited number of cases, an Options section which provides a choice of only “accept” or “reject” one option is generally considered to be inadequate.

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3.9 Minister's signature and date

3.9.1 All Minutes must be signed by the sponsoring Minister prior to forwarding to Cabinet Office.

3.9.2 The Minister's name and portfolio should be typed in capital letters about 7 or 8 lines below the last line of the text, on the left hand side of the final page using the form preferred by the Minister.

3.9.3 The date on which the Minute is signed by the Minister should be below the Minister's name and signature.  This date should be the same as that shown on the cover sheet, and may be handwritten once the Minister has signed the document.

3.9.4 Joint Minutes must be signed by all sponsoring Ministers, and dated when the last Minister signs.

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3.10 Annexe statements (Section 6 of the Cabinet Minute)

3.10.1  Annexe Statements are attached after the body of the Minute, following the Minister’s signature block. A heading for each of the Statements (6.1 - 6.9) must be included in the annexe list. The headings for the Statements to be included as annexes to all Minutes are:

  • 6.1 Financial Impact Statement
  • 6.2 Economic and Employment Impact Statement
  • 6.3 Social/Community Impact Statement
  • 6.4 Legislative and Regulatory Impact Statement
  • 6.5 Intergovernmental Impact Statement
  • 6.6 Community Consultation and Communications Strategy
  • 6.7 Prior Consultation Statement
  • 6.8 Other Attachments.

3.10.2  Information must be provided for each Annexe Statement, or a clear statement made that this particular aspect of policy is not impacted.

3.10.3  It is not necessary for each Annexe Statement to begin on a new page.

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3.11 Financial impact statement (Annexe 6.1)

3.11.1 The Department of Treasury and Finance should be consulted during preparation of all Minutes.

3.11.2 Minutes requesting additional funding will not be considered until the Department of Treasury and Finance’s evaluation of the submission is available.

3.11.3 Minutes requiring additional funding for an agency are not generally to be submitted to Cabinet if the net cost is less than 0.5% of the agency's total discretionary expenditure. Clarification should be sought from Department of Treasury and Finance if there are any queries about meeting this criterion.

3.11.4 Typically Cabinet may decide to refer consideration of financial implications to the Budget Committee of Cabinet before a final decision is made.

3.11.5 If the submission has no financial implications for any government agency, a clear statement to this effect should be included at Annexe Statement 6.1 (see page 5 of Example 1 in the Cabinet Handbook Examples volume). If such a statement is included it is not necessary to include the Financial Impact Statement proforma.

3.11.6 When there are financial implications, an explanation should be included at Annexe Statement 6.1 (see page 5 of Example 1 in the Cabinet Handbook Examples volume) as well as the completed Financial Impact Statement proforma which details the financial implications of the proposal.

3.11.7 An example of the pro-forma to be used for the Financial Impact Statement is shown at pages 8 and 9 of Example 1 in the Cabinet Handbook Examples volume. A template is available at www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/corporate_and_governance_division/ government_services/cabinet_office. The Statement is to detail:

  • All variations in expenditure/receipts affected by the proposal, even if the net effect of the proposal is nil;
  • The effects on the Consolidated Fund, the Special Deposits and Trust Fund and Statutory Authority funds;
  • The effects in the current financial year and the three succeeding financial years; and
  • The effects on the resource allocations/receipts of any other agency. The agreement or otherwise of these other agencies is to be stated.

3.11.8 The Department of Treasury and Finance cannot approve funding, but can assess the revenue and/or cost estimates and agree whether or not funds additional to the Budget are required.  Funds can only be approved by the Treasurer and/or Cabinet.

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3.12 Economic and employment impact statement (Annexe 6.2)

3.12.1 Any significant direct or indirect impact on the Tasmanian economy should be detailed here.  Reference should be made to the effects on specific industry sectors and, where appropriate, to the impact in particular regions/localities.  The following departments should be consulted in the preparation of this Statement:

  • State Growth;
  • Treasury and Finance; and
  • Other departments or agencies responsible for a particular industry sector which may be affected.

3.12.2  Describe how the proposal will lead to job creation and economic growth in Tasmania, including regional and local impacts. For example, how will the proposal:

  • provide support and greater certainty for business and investment in the State, (eg, by making it cheaper and easier to business, or improve access to economic opportunities);
  • stimulate and support a modern economy and build on our competitive strengths (eg, in the fields of agriculture and aquaculture, tourism, energy, and mining and forestry);  and/or
  • support Tasmanians to equip themselves with the skills they need to fully participate in the Tasmanian economy, and ensure Tasmanian businesses have access to an appropriately skilled workforce.

3.12.3  Any impact on Tasmanian business is to be addressed, including an indication of what action is planned to avoid/minimise any potentially negative impacts.

3.12.4  Where the proposal involves a major procurement activity, details are to be provided on how the competitiveness of Tasmanian businesses will be assessed and, where appropriate, improved (eg joint venturing etc).

3.12.5  Additionally, the potential impacts of a proposal, including efficiency and financial impacts, at an individual enterprise level, as well as the broader economic and employment implications should be considered. In taking into account these issues, consultation with Tasmanian businesses is encouraged.

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3.13 Social/community impact statement (Annexe 6.3)

3.13.1 The aim of the Social/Community Impact Statement is to identify the impact of each proposal on the well-being of families, small communities etc. Issues which could be considered include:

  • The effect on particular groups such as single-parent families, geographically isolated groups, people of diverse language and cultural backgrounds etc;
  • The effect on access to recreational, cultural and leisure activities; and
  • The effect on the environment.

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3.14 Legislative and regulatory impact statement (Annexe 6.4)

3.14.1 This Statement is to be included when a Minute recommends amendments to existing legislation, the enactment of new legislation or promulgation of regulations.  It should address both the regulatory impact as assessed by the Government’s Legislation Review Program (LRP), and the requirements of the drafting task as set out in the “Legislation Drafting Checklist”.

3.14.2 The Legislation Drafting Checklist is designed to assist with the management of the Government’s legislative program.  The Checklist should indicate the proposed date for completion of drafting if such a date has been agreed with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

3.14.3 The Legislation Drafting Checklist must be completed and included in the Cabinet Minute at 6.8 - Other Attachments.

3.14.4 An example of the Checklist is included at page 10 and 11 of Example 1 in the Cabinet Handbook Examples volume. A template is available at www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/corporate_and_governance_division/govern ment_services/cabinet_office.

3.14.5 Regulatory Impact – The Statement must address whether the agency has complied with the Government’s LRP.  The LRP procedures and guidelines outline the process for the review of existing legislation that restricts competition and ‘gatekeeper’ arrangements for new or amending legislation that restrict competition or has a significant impact on business.

3.14.6 The Economic Review Unit in the Department of Treasury and Finance provides advice on the processes required by the LRP.

3.14.7 When a Minister is recommending that restrictions on competition or policies with significant negative impacts on business be introduced or continue, the text of the Minute should clearly demonstrate why the proposal is warranted and how it is in the public benefit.

3.14.8 A copy of the relevant certificates required under the LRP must be attached to the Cabinet Minute at Annexe 6.8 - Other Attachments.

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3.15 Intergovernmental relations impact statement (Annexe 6.5)

3.15.1  Where proposals have implications for Local Government, the Commonwealth, or other state or territory governments, the possible effects are to be stated in the Minute.  Any Local Government, Commonwealth or jurisdictional negotiations that are proposed (or the result of any that have taken place) should be outlined.

3.15.2  The Intergovernmental Relations Impact Statement is to include:

  • Which entities or jurisdictions have been consulted and when;
  • The outcome of the consultation;
  • The impact of the proposal on Local Government, the Commonwealth Government or other jurisdictions;
  • Any impact on the capacity of entities or jurisdictions to effectively implement the proposal;
  • The need for further consultation and an outline of the proposed communication strategy; and
  • The implementation monitoring arrangements.

3.15.3  The Statement should also outline whether the proposal is likely to impose or cause additional financial or operational duty on Local Government.

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3.16 Community consultation and communications strategy (Annexe 6.6)

3.16.1 This Statement should identify any need for community consultation and outline a communications plan.

3.16.2 If the need for community consultation is identified, the Statement should provide an outline of how and when this will be undertaken.

3.16.3 A Communications Strategy should be attached to submissions in order to inform Cabinet about how agencies intend to communicate particular decisions.

3.16.4 Draft text for a media release (if required), should be included with the Communications Strategy Template.  If a draft release is not available, indicate when it will be available and the agency responsible for drafting it.

3.16.5 Some discretion exists in deciding if a strategy is required.  Guidance on this issue should be obtained from the authoring agency’s Communications Manager, or from the Manager, Communications and Protocol Unit, Department of Premier and Cabinet.

3.16.6 Where warranted by the complexity of a project’s communications needs, a more detailed communication strategy, in an alternative format as determined by the agency, is acceptable.

3.16.7 Minutes which require a Communications Strategy will not be included on the Cabinet agenda until a strategy approved by the Agency Communications Manager is provided.

3.16.8 The information contained in the strategy should be referenced on the Minute Cover Sheet.  If a Strategy is required for a Cabinet Minute the template should be included as an attachment at Annexe 6.8 - Other Attachments.

3.16.9 An example of the Communications Strategy Template may be found at pages 13,14 and 15 of Example 1 in the Cabinet Handbook Examples volume.  A guide to using the Communications Strategy Template is included at page 12 of that example.

3.16.10 An electronic version of the template is available at: www.communications.tas.gov.au/templates#!/1/1/_.

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3.17 Prior consultation statement (Annexe 6.7)

3.17.1 The Prior Consultation Statement relates to consultation undertaken prior to the lodgement of the final Minute with the Cabinet Office (see Section 2.3).  Prior consultation is an essential part of the preparation of a Cabinet Minute and the process should be adequately documented in the Prior Consultation Statement.  The agencies and other bodies consulted should be listed and the outcome of such consultations summarised, eg whether there is general support or if there are issues still to be resolved.  If there are unresolved issues describe how they might be resolved.

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3.18 Other attachments (Annexe 6.8)

3.18.1 A list of the number and title of other attachments to be presented as supporting documents for the Minute should be included at Annexe 6.8.

3.18.2 Attachments should be clearly labelled and numbered "Attachment 1,” “Attachment 2” etc.

3.18.3 Attachments related to Annexe Statements that are to be provided in Annexe 6.8 include:

  • Certificates required under the LRP;
  • Legislation Drafting Checklist; and
  • Communications Strategy.

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