The Role of the Cabinet Secretary
It is a privilege to have been selected to serve as Cabinet Secretary in the Turnbull Government.
Since my swearing-in, there is one important question which I have been asked repeatedly: what does a Cabinet Secretary do?
I’d like to take this opportunity to explain briefly the key aspects of my role.
The Cabinet Secretary makes sure that the processes of Cabinet are being followed. Much of this is about communication: I will ensure that documents which come before Cabinet ministers are appropriately researched and consulted among departments; I will encourage consultation with stakeholder groups to be as broad and representative as possible; I will also ensure that Cabinet confidentiality is followed, which is vital for encouraging robust discussion around the Cabinet table.
The Prime Minister expects that we conduct Cabinet business in an orderly and effective manner; and it is important that we observe the principle of Cabinet solidarity so that the Government projects a clear and consistent message about its strategies and priorities.
Furthermore, I want to see Cabinet government which also involves appropriate consultation with the party room and the community.
It is important that the Cabinet receive regular feedback from the backbench to ensure that it is well informed on community expectations and issues. I will make sure the backbench is reporting regularly to Cabinet so that we know we are in touch with people’s real priorities, and so that these priorities are being reflected in the work of the Government.
Major reforms require appropriate consultation with stakeholders. Their views will need to be factored in to the framework for the Government’s policy development, and consulting with them will be a priority of this Government.
Without these mechanics in place, a government cannot present the right policies in the right way to the public. But where they are working smoothly, everyone in government – and in the community at large – can feel they have ownership of the decisions the Cabinet makes.
So, much of the work of the Cabinet Secretary is with colleagues, hence good process leads to good outcomes that we can all own. Sturdy Cabinet government will set a strong strategic agenda and maintain a clear view of our priorities and their implementation.