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Working with the minister's office
Ministers are responsible for the effectiveness and efficiency of the agencies within their portfolio. Working with the Secretary and Agency Head they will implement government policy and ensure Departments and agencies meet their goals and purposes within their allocated budgets. They will also seek the advice of the agency in the development of budgets, policy and new legislation.
Public Servants serve the government by supporting ministers in developing and advising on policy options and drafting legislation; implementing the government’s decisions, policies and programs; delivering services to the community; and managing the state’s resources, assets and finances.
Each minister will have an individual operating style and support requirements. This may include agreed protocols for briefing the minister and their staff and a preferred style for briefings and correspondence. Employees have a duty to respond promptly and professionally to ministers’ requests for advice or information in ways that are consistent with the relevant policies or procedures of the agency.
As a senior executive you may be required to brief or advise a minister or the minister’s staff as part of your responsibilities. Ministerial staff members are employed under the Members of Parliament Staff Act 2013, to support the minister undertake portfolio responsibilities, Cabinet and parliamentary duties, and develop policy and legislative options. They also facilitate communication between the minister and Departments and agencies, assisting those bodies to understand the minister’s requirements, priorities and availability, and enabling workflow and administration. Each minister’s office is managed by a chief of staff.
Another key contact in the minister’s office is the Departmental Liaison Officer (DLO). DLOs are assigned by their relevant Secretary or agency head to work in the minister’s office. The DLO is a public servant, not a member of the minister’s staff. DLOs perform an important function, which includes coordinating communication between the minister’s office and the Department/agency and enabling the timely processing of documents.
Ministers' parliamentary duties
Ministers’ parliamentary duties include:
- answering questions from other members of parliament during question time in the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council
- responding to questions on notice from other members of parliament
- the passage of bills for which they are responsible through their house of the parliament
- appearing at budget estimates inquiries.
- providing government responses to recommendations of committee inquiries.
As a senior executive, you and your team will be required to support ministers in the exercise of those parliamentary duties, including:
- preparing parliamentary briefing notes, or house folder notes, for the minister concerning the functions of your minister and agency in relation to matters which may be the subject of a question to your minister during question time
- briefing your minister in relation to responses to questions on notice
- supporting your minister in relation to the passage of bills through the parliament
- preparing budget estimates notes for use by your minister during budget estimates inquiries.
It is critical that accurate information is provided to the minister, noting that ministers must not mislead parliament.
Senior executive relationships
Supporting ministers in the exercise of their duties
Customer service in the NSW government sector
Collaborating - across government, not-for-profit and the private sectors
Dealing effectively with the media
Senior executive insights
Speaking 'truth to power' is not always easy but is a critical senior executive capability in the NSW public sector. As a senior executive, you should:
- ensure you follow the Ethical Framework when making decisions and providing recommendations
- work on building a relationship of trust with the Minister and other key stakeholders
- remember when advice or information has been considered and a lawful decision made by the Minister or Cabinet, it is the responsibility of your agency to implement that decision diligently and professionally.
Frank and fearless in the Westminster tradition
See the panel discussion from the Ethics and Leadership Conference hosted by the Public Service Commission on how to give frank and fearless advice to your minister with views from senior public servants, an ex-minister with experience in NSW and Commonwealth governments, and a policy expert.