The role of Cabinet and Cabinet committees

What is Cabinet?

Cabinet is the central decision making body of executive government.  Ministers are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.  All Ministers are members of the Executive Council.  A list of the names and portfolios of current Ministers is on the Cabinet Office section of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) website.

Cabinet usually meets on Mondays in the Cabinet room on the 10th floor of the Beehive.  Cabinet meetings are attended by Ministers inside Cabinet.  Ministers outside Cabinet may attend from time to time, with the Prime Minister’s permission, for discussion on specific items.  The Secretary and the Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet are the only officials present at Cabinet meetings.

Cabinet considers:

For general information about Cabinet’s role, powers, and membership, see paragraphs 5.2 to 5.5 of the Cabinet Manual.  For information about the principles of Cabinet decision making (including consultation, confidentiality, and collective responsibility), see paragraphs 5.11 to 5.37 of the Cabinet Manual.

What are Cabinet committees?

Cabinet committees provide the forum for detailed consideration and discussion of issues before reference to Cabinet, with officials available to assist Ministers if the committee wishes.  Almost all matters are considered first by one or more Cabinet committees. 

The Prime Minister determines the Cabinet committee structure and the membership, chair, and terms of reference of each Cabinet committee.   Cabinet committees are usually established either around a subject area, such as social policy, or around a functional area across government activity, such as expenditure and administration.

The Public Sector Intranet (Cabinet and Cabinet Committees workspace) and the Cabinet Office section of the DPMC website also contain information on the terms of reference and membership of each Cabinet committee.

Cabinet committees derive their powers from Cabinet.  All Cabinet committee decisions are reported to Cabinet for confirmation, and Cabinet retains the ultimate power of decision. Cabinet committee decisions may not be acted on until they have been confirmed (or amended) by Cabinet (except when a committee has been authorised by Cabinet to have Power to Act). 

Cabinet committees meet in the Cabinet committee room (8.5) on the 8th floor of the Beehive.  Most Cabinet committees meet on a weekly or fortnightly basis.  The type of issues that need to be submitted to a Cabinet committee are outlined in paragraphs 5.11 to 5.13 of the Cabinet Manual.

The planning and organisation of Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings are overseen by the Cabinet Office, with relevant details accessible to authorised users through CabNet.