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Department of Premier and Cabinet

8. Cabinet Committees guidelines

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8.1 Cabinet Committees

8.1.1 Cabinet may establish Committees for a range of purposes, with such membership and terms of reference as are considered necessary. Typically Committees might be set up to:

  • Deal with specific or especially sensitive issues (eg Aboriginal issues);
  • Progress controversial developments where discussion in full Cabinet would be premature (eg projects);
  • Consider matters expected to arise requiring urgent decisions (eg industrial relations matters);
  • Deal with ongoing major issues or processes involving detailed decisions (eg the Budget); and
  • Relatively routine matters still requiring the attention of Ministers (eg legislative program).

8.1.2 There are essentially two forms of Cabinet Committee:

  • Standing Committees which deal with long-term and cross-portfolio issues requiring detailed consideration and development prior to Cabinet approval of particular proposals. Some standing committees might deal with cyclic government decision-making processes (eg Budget Committee) or meet on an ad hoc basis to handle specific emerging issues (eg Public Sector Industrial Relations Committee).
  • Special Purpose Committees established to make recommendations to Cabinet on particular issues or projects, usually within a limited timeframe.

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8.2 Establishment

8.2.1 Committees are established by Cabinet through a Cabinet Decision which defines membership (including the Chair) and terms of reference. In some cases supporting arrangements, such as an Inter-departmental Committee (IDC) or Departmental Working Group, support agency, reporting arrangements and timeframes for the Committee’s work are also set by Cabinet.

8.2.2 Unless otherwise specified, it is the responsibility of the Minister nominated to Chair the Committee to implement the Decision and convene meetings, with support from his or her portfolio agency.

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8.3 Operation

8.3.1 Secretariat support for a Committee is normally provided by the portfolio agency of the Minister chairing the Committee. As part of the usual role of Committee chair, the Minister would convene the meetings and set the agenda for each meeting.

8.3.2 The support agency’s role includes:

  • Making arrangements (time, venue etc) for meetings and notifying Ministers;
  • Liaising with the Minister’s Office and other agencies about the meeting agenda and preparation of supporting material;
  • Collation and distribution of papers for each meeting;
  • Recording actions and decisions (as with Cabinet, the keeping of detailed minutes is not required or recommended); and
  • Coordinating action arising from decisions, as directed by their Minister.

8.3.3 Depending upon the arrangements specified in the establishing Cabinet decision, an IDC chaired by the support agency would normally be set up to assist in coordinating preparation for and follow-up from Committee meetings. Portfolio agencies of all Ministers on the Committee should be represented on the IDC.

8.3.4 Detailed meeting procedures are a matter for each Committee to determine, within the broad parameters of this Handbook.

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8.4 Committee papers

8.4.1 Although there is no one format specified for papers being submitted to a Committee, these should:

  • Clearly identify the issue(s) to be resolved;
  • Provide any background information needed to enable the Committee to make an informed decision;
  • Present and argue the major options available; and
  • Provide clear recommendations that can translate into stand alone decisions.

8.4.2 A suggested pro-forma for Committee submissions is shown at Example 8 in the Cabinet Handbook Examples volume.

8.4.3 Meeting papers should be finalised and distributed to Ministers by the support agency at least three days prior to the meeting date. A complete set of the meeting papers should also be forwarded to the Cabinet Office when committee decisions are subsequently being presented for endorsement by Cabinet.

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8.5 Decisions

8.5.1 The record of each Committee meeting is to clearly identify all decisions taken. Each of these decisions should be clearly articulated, numbered and dated.

8.5.2 As a general principle, all decisions of Committees are referred to Cabinet for endorsement. This would normally be undertaken in the form of a Cabinet Briefing seeking endorsement for the set of decisions from a particular Committee meeting or set of meetings, following approval of those decisions by the Committee itself.

8.5.3 In some cases, Cabinet may provide a limited delegation of authority to a Committee to act in specific circumstances or in cases where a decision is required in a short timeframe. In such cases the Committee should still report back to Cabinet as soon as practicable on the action taken.

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8.6 Storage and disposal of committee papers

8.6.1 Committee papers should be accorded the same security procedures as used for Cabinet documents. (See Section 1.8).

8.6.2 Committee documents should be clearly identified as such.

8.6.3 The supporting agency of a Committee is to forward a copy of all Committee business papers to the Cabinet Office for the purpose of archiving. This would normally occur when decisions are forwarded to Cabinet for endorsement.

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