The Cabinet is the council of senior ministers who are empowered by the Government to take binding decisions on its behalf.
The Cabinet is a product of convention and practice. There is no reference to the Cabinet in the Commonwealth Constitution and its establishment and procedures are not the subject of any legislation. Provided the guiding principles of a Cabinet system are met—collective responsibility and solidarity—it is for the Prime Minister of the day to determine the shape, structure and operation of the Cabinet.
The Cabinet does not have specific terms of reference or powers laid down in statute. Therefore, the outcomes of its deliberations may require action by:
- (a) the Governor-General
- (b) individual ministers whose executive power is derived from Chapter II of the Constitution
- (c) holders of statutory office, or
- (d) the Parliament to be put into effect.
The Prime Minister is responsible for the membership of the Cabinet and Cabinet committees, determines and regulates all Cabinet arrangements for the Government and is the final arbiter of Cabinet procedures.
The Prime Minister advises the Governor-General on the appointment of ministers (including the title and scope of each minister’s portfolio) and determines which ministers will form the Cabinet.
The Ministry is comprised of the Ministers of State including Cabinet ministers, other ministers and assistant ministers. Together they form the Federal Executive Council – the body which formally advises the Governor-General on the administration of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Cabinet principles and conventions apply to the whole Ministry, not simply those ministers in the Cabinet.