1.2 The Cabinet and collective responsibility
The Constitution of Queensland 2001 states there must be a Cabinet consisting of the Premier and a number of Ministers. Cabinet is the principal decision-making body of the government and currently comprises all Ministers. Cabinet's decisions are given formal effect through Acts of the Parliament, actions of the Executive Council or the executive powers held by Ministers for the administration of their portfolios.
The Premier or the Deputy Premier (in the Premier's absence) presides at all Cabinet meetings. Ministers are expected to attend every meeting or provide the Premier with reasons for being unable to attend.
Cabinet is responsible for the performance of the government. Each Minister acts jointly with and on behalf of Cabinet colleagues in their capacity as Ministers. Not only does this ensure collective responsibility, but it also enhances collective adherence to all decisions made in Cabinet. Cabinet decisions reflect collective conclusions and are binding on all Ministers as government policy. If a Minister is unable to publicly support a Cabinet decision, the proper course is to resign from Cabinet. All Ministers are required to give their support in public debate to collective decisions of the Cabinet and the government.
Cabinet procedures in this Handbook are designed to support the convention of collective responsibility. Ministers will normally receive copies of all Cabinet documents at least five days in advance of a meeting so they may be aware of the business coming to Cabinet.
Ministers should ensure there is no announcement of policy initiatives or expenditure commitments which have not been given Cabinet authority or, where appropriate, Governor in Council approval. In exceptional cases, announcements should be cleared with the Premier and, if expenditure is involved, with the Treasurer as well.
Ministers should seek the approval of the Premier before making public statements or comment on proposals that they are bringing to Cabinet. Advocacy in public of a particular proposal could otherwise tend to pre-empt Cabinet deliberations. Identification of individual Ministers with particular views tends to call into question the collective basis of agreed outcomes.
It is inappropriate for Ministers to accept invitations to speak or to comment publicly on matters outside their portfolio area without the prior approval of the Premier. Where Ministers are required to speak publicly about an issue, which crosses portfolio boundaries, the Minister should either obtain a collective view from Cabinet or discuss the issue with the Premier and other responsible Ministers.
Departmental officers and Ministerial staff have a responsibility to act in support of Ministers' obligations to abide by Cabinet conventions and a responsibility to advise Ministers of any case where they may perceive a breach, or a likely breach, of these conventions.