The executive branch
The executive branch of government:
- administers the law
- delivers public services.
It’s made up of:
- the Governor
- the Premier and ministers
- public sector agencies such as departments and public entities.
What the Governor of Victoria does
The King is formally Australia’s Head of State and is represented by:
- the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia
- the Governors of each of the 6 states.
The Governor of Victoria exercises the powers of the Head of State. The Governor is appointed by the King, on the advice of the Premier.
The Governor’s responsibilities
The Governor performs their duties according to the constitution and with advice from the Premier.
- give royal assent to laws passed in parliament
- recall, prorogue (suspend) and dissolve parliament
- appoint the new government and opens parliament after an election.
By convention, the Governor acts with and takes advice from ministers, but has the right to:
- be consulted
- encourage action
- warn against action.
They have reserve powers to:
- appoint the Premier
- terminate the appointment of the Premier
- reject advice for the dissolution of parliament.
In Victoria, we also have:
- a Lieutenant Governor: exercises the Governor’s powers if there isn’t one or if they’re unavailable to act for a substantial period
- an Administrator: the Chief Justice or most senior judge of the Supreme Court.
The Administrator steps in if the Governor or Lieutenant Governor can’t or won’t act.
Executive Council and Governor in Council
The Executive Council is made up of:
- the Governor
- the Premier
- all ministers.
The Executive Council is a formal weekly meeting that is chaired by the Governor. Generally, 4 ministers attend each meeting.
The Governor and at least 2 ministers must attend to establish a quorum for the meeting. In other words, it’s the minimum number of members needed for the meeting to decisions to be valid.
Purpose of the meeting
The Executive Council advises the Governor on the exercise of their powers. Some laws give these powers to the Governor ‘in Council’.
This means the Governor exercises their power:
- on the recommendation of a minister
- with advice from the Executive Council.
For example, the Governor in Council has powers relating to:
- the making of regulations
- appointing, renewing and removing statutory officers
- appointing judges
- determining the appropriate use of Crown land
- issuing proclamations for new laws.
What the Premier and ministers do
The Premier is the head of the Victorian Government. Premiers are chosen by the party that holds the majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly (Lower House).
The Premier determines:
- the number of departments
- the assignment of Acts to individual ministers
- the make-up of each minister’s portfolio.
The term ‘machinery of government’ refers to the allocation of responsibilities between departments and ministers.
The Governor assigns each minister a portfolio on the advice of the Premier. A portfolio is a minister’s area of responsibility.
Ministers are accountable to parliament for:
- managing the Acts of Parliament assigned to them
- the actions of the organisations and departments they manage.
View the General orders list to see which ministers are responsible for the different pieces of Victorian legislation.
See a list of the current ministers and their portfolios.
Ministers are supported by:
- ministerial advisers
- their Chief of Staff
- other policy or media advisers.
Ministerial advisers help ministers manage their portfolios. Ministerial advisers are not public sector employees so they can also provide political advice.
For more information read our guidance for ministerial advisers.
The role of Cabinet
By convention, the Cabinet is the government’s principal decision-making body. It has no legal status of powers.
The Premier and all ministers are members of the Cabinet. They meet to consider questions of policy, administration and legislation. Ministers have collective decision-making responsibility for Cabinet decisions.
The Cabinet Handbook outlines:
- the underlying principles of Cabinet
- meeting expectations and rules
- document management and security.
All Cabinet discussions and documents are strictly confidential. This allows ministers to discuss options and views with complete freedom while working towards a collective position.
Cabinet can delegate tasks to a Cabinet committee.
- develops and considers proposals for Cabinet endorsement
- doesn’t have decision-making power unless it’s been given by Cabinet.
Each committee has a specific focus area.
For example, they may focus on:
- budget initiatives
- economic development
- social development
- the environment.
For more information: