Cabinet decides the government’s policy and strategic direction by considering submissions (for approval) or notes (to inform Cabinet).

Some routine matters don’t require the entire Cabinet to approve them and can be approved by the Cabinet sub-committee.

Cabinet submissions are used where Cabinet is being asked to approve a proposal or where a Cabinet committee or taskforce is being asked to approve a proposal on Cabinet’s behalf.

Cabinet approval is required for the following:

Strategic policy

  • Significant or sensitive policy decisions, whether they are new policy issues or changes to existing policies
  • Significant or sensitive issues requiring extensive consultation within the public sector or with non-government organisations
  • Recommended negotiating positions on significant industrial relations issues
  • Significant policy announcements or politically sensitive Ministerial statements to Parliament

Legislation

  • Drafting legislation or making regulations
  • Approval of the terms of reference and methodology of legislative reviews
  • Release of the outcome of legislative reviews
  • Approval of the government’s response to legislative reviews
  • The proposed government position on Private Members’ Bills put forward by non-government members in either House of Parliament

Financial matters

  • Public sector initiatives with an estimated cost of $15 million or more (incl GST) on completion, with all stages included
    • Government office accommodation projects where the estimated cost exceeds $6 million (incl GST)
    • Purchase of land where the expenditure exceeds $6 million (incl GST)
    • All public works proposals subject to review by the Public Works Committee of Parliament with an estimated cost of $15 million or more (incl GST)
    • Projects (including public works) estimated to cost more than $6 million (incl GST) or more than 1% of an agency’s total annual outlays and which have not been included in a budget previously approved by Cabinet
    • Note that, for proposals of less than $10 million per annum (ex GST), the Budget and Performance Cabinet Committee can exercise Cabinet’s authority

Intergovernmental matters

  • Most forms of intergovernmental agreement; for example national agreements and national partnership agreements
  • Applications for Commonwealth grant funding by State Government agencies that:
      • include a component of State Government funding not being met within existing resources
      • is likely to be greater than per capita share or over $11 million (incl GST)
      • and includes all grants within the scope of the Commonwealth Grants Commission calculation for GST relativities
  • Proposals with a possible effect on relations with other governments (Commonwealth, state or local) or their agencies
  • The government's negotiating position on significant agenda items for ministerial meetings, and its position on the outcomes of these meetings
  • Submissions to state or national inquiries and reviews
  • The government’s position in relation to proposals for Australia to enter into international treaties

Administrative matters

  • Machinery of government changes
  • Offers of rewards
  • Other matters requiring Executive Council approval

Cabinet notes sometimes referred to as pinks, are used to provide information to Cabinet, Cabinet committee or a taskforce (but never to Cabinet Subcommittee). They are for information only and cannot be used where Cabinet approval is required.

Whether a matter requires noting by Cabinet is a matter of judgement, but the following must be noted by Cabinet:

  • public release of significant reports
  • minutes of Cabinet committees and taskforces
  • appointment of chief executives, including the terms of their contracts
  • significant statutory appointments, including members of the judiciary
  • outcome of travel by ministers. Principles and reporting requirements can be found in Premier's Guideline: Air Travel by Ministers and their Staff
  • progress of significant strategies or projects of importance to Cabinet
  • certain board and committee appointments

Cabinet Subcommittee considers matters that require Cabinet's approval but which are not significant enough to warrant discussion at a Cabinet meeting. Matters lodged for full Cabinet will sometimes be moved by Cabinet Office to Cabinet Subcommittee. Matters lodged for Subcommittee may also be elevated to full Cabinet.

More comprehensive information on what needs to go to Cabinet can be found in Cabinet Guide 4: Cabinet Business.