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Whitlam-Fraser Call For Strengthening Of Ministerial Accountability

Two former Australian prime ministers, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, have called for the modernisation of the principle of ministerial accountability.

In a letter published in the Herald-Sun, Fraser and Whitlam say that "no matter how grave their failings may be, ministers no longer resign".

Whitlam was prime minister from 1972-75 and Fraser from 1975-83. Both men experienced a number of spectacular resignations and sackings from their ministries.

They have called for a comprehensive review of ministerial accountability, arguing that "this principle is the bedrock of responsible government". [Read more…]

Cabinet Secrecy – Why?

One of the major principles of Cabinet government is that the deliberations of the ministry are secret. This is related to the idea that the cabinet is collectively responsible for its decisions and actions.

The principle of cabinet solidarity is important for governments wishing to maintain a united front in public. Often this united front extends to the government’s relations with its own party members in Parliament. [Read more…]

Federal Government Caretaker Conventions – 2001

This is the official document containing Federal Government caretaker conventions prior to the 2001 Federal Election.

The document, titled “Guidance On Caretaker Conventions”, was issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. [Read more…]

Caretaker Government Arrangements – ACT 2001

This is the document issued by the government of the Australian Capital Territory, prior to the 2001 general election.

It is titled: “Guidelines on Arrangements to Apply in the Pre- and Post-Election Period.”


Federal Government Caretaker Conventions – 1998

This is the official document containing the Caretaker Conventions for the Federal Government, issued following the calling of the 1998 Federal Election.

The document was issued by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. [Read more…]

What Is the Executive Government?

The Executive Government in Australia is defined by Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

According to the Constitution, the executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General.

The Governor-General is provided with an Executive Council to advise him in the government of the Commonwealth. According to Section 64, the executive councillors hold office at the pleasure of the Governor-General.

In practice, the Governor-General simply acts on the advice of the ministers of the day who comprise the Executive Council, although on one notable occasion in 1975 this did not occur and the Whitlam Government was dismissed.

In practice, the executive power is exercised by the ministers in the government. These ministers are chosen by a Prime Minister who is the leader of the party or parties that command a majority in the House of Representatives, the lower house.

The Constitution makes no mention of a Cabinet as such, although it does refer to the Governor-General’s advisers and ministers of State. Much of the operation of the Cabinet derives from conventions that have developed over time and which arose from the British Westminster system of government.

The most important principles of Cabinet Government require the ministers to speak collectively with one voice and to accept responsibility for the actions of their departments.

The ministers are divided into two groups, with the most senior ministers taking responsibility for the major areas of government policy, such as Treasury, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Health, etc. These ministers comprise the Cabinet and are led by the Prime Minister.

There are 18 members of the Howard Cabinet, with a further 13 ministers making up what is often referred to as the outer ministry. All members of the ministry and cabinet must be members of parliament and may come from either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

Ministers act as the political heads of government departments and are responsible for the administration of those departments, as well as the development and implementation of government policy. The ministers are bound by conventions of collective and individual ministerial responsibility.

Letters Patent 1984: Governor-General

This is the full text of the Letters Patent from Queen Elizabeth II in relation to the Governor-General of Australia.

Letters Patent are effectively a written order issued by the monarch. They are a legal instrument that grants an office, title or status.

Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II in relation to the office of the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.

ELIZABETH THE SECOND, by the Grace of God Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth,


WHEREAS, by the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, certain powers, functions and authorities are vested in a Governor-General appointed by the Queen to be Her Majesty’s representative in the Commonwealth: [Read more…]