The following information provides an overview of the NSW Parliament, the NSW Government and how the Government develops policy, makes decisions, manages Departments and agencies. This topic also provides information on how the Premier and ministers are appointed to create the ministry and conventions relating to Cabinet meetings.
Parliament of NSW
The Parliament of NSW is the law-making body for the state, directly elected by the people to make State laws, control State finances, and discuss matters of importance to the people of NSW. The Parliament of NSW consists of two democratically elected houses: the Legislative Assembly (Lower House) and the Legislative Council (Upper House). There are 135 members of Parliament: 93 in the Lower House and 42 in the Upper House.
Government of NSW
Parliamentary elections determine the Government of NSW, which is formed by the party with majority support in the Lower House of Parliament. The Governor commissions the Premier and ministers, referred to as the Ministry, to be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the state. The members of the ministry are collectively and individually responsible for government policy and actions. They govern, so they are "the Government’.
Appointment of a ministry
The NSW Constitution Act 1902 (the Constitution Act) provides that the Premier and other ministers of the Crown shall be appointed by the Governor, after first being appointed by the Governor as members of the Executive Council. In practice the Governor asks the leader of the majority party or coalition of parties in the Lower House if a government can be formed and, being assured that it can, appoints that person as Premier.
The Premier identifies the people who will be appointed as ministers, allocates the proposed ministerial portfolios, and recommends to the Governor that the selected people be appointed as allocated. In order of seniority determined by the Premier, the Governor appoints the people the Premier has recommended, first as members of the Executive Council and then as ministers in their respective portfolios.
All appointments to or changes to the ministry are published in the Government Gazette on the day of the Governor’s approval.
On appointment to the Executive Council, ministers are required to take the Pledge of Loyalty and the Executive Councillor’s Oath of Office (or an equivalent affirmation) as prescribed in the Constitution Act.
For more information on current ministers, see the website: Parliament of NSW Ministers.
The Constitution Act does not prescribe a minimum or maximum number of ministers; the number of ministers is determined by the Premier. If the number of portfolios the Government wishes to recognise is greater than the number of ministers, some ministers may be given more than one portfolio.
The Premier may change the titles and groupings of portfolios from time to time to emphasise policy initiatives or in response to community expectations or needs. When a portfolio title changes or an administrative responsibility is transferred from one portfolio to another, the Executive Council vests the administration of all relevant NSW legislation in the new portfolio.
For more information on the minister responsible for each piece of legislation, see the Regulation: Allocation of the Administration of Acts.
The Premier may appoint a minister to help them or other ministers carry out their responsibilities. This assistance may include receiving deputations; attending meetings and functions; handling correspondence; and assisting in any other matters determined by the Premier. The Governor commissions these appointments.
The term Cabinet refers to the regular meetings of the Premier and other ministers, where they discuss and agree on major issues facing the Government. Cabinet operates under complex and long-established conventions that give substance to its actions. The three main conventions are collective responsibility, confidentiality, and ministerial accountability. Ministers are expected to attend every Cabinet meeting unless, for reasons previously conveyed to the Premier in writing, they have been formally excused from attending a particular meeting.
Only the Premier, ministers and Cabinet Secretary or Deputy Secretary are permitted to attend Cabinet meetings. If the Premier invites any other person to address Cabinet on a particular issue, that person will attend only for the duration of their address on that issue.
The Cabinet Secretary is the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC). The Cabinet Secretariat, within DPC is responsible for processing all Cabinet-related documentation from ministers, including Cabinet Minutes; preparing and circulating meeting agendas; and distributing Cabinet and Cabinet committee decisions.
For more information on how the Cabinet works, see the topic: The NSW Cabinet System.