The Governor is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Premier to act as her representative as Head of State in Victoria.
Although the Governor is the Queen’s representative, it is the Governor and not the Queen who exercises the powers of Head of State.
The Governor has constitutional and ceremonial responsibilities. When the Governor is absent from the state, or unable to act, the Governor’s duties are fulfilled by the Lieutenant Governor or by an Administrator.
Premier, Special Minister of State and Ministers
The Premier, Special Minister of State and Ministers are accountable to Parliament.
The Premier is the head of the Victorian Government as the elected leader of the party or parties holding a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly. The Special Minister of State oversees public sector administration and reform.
Ministers are accountable to Parliament for the administration of the Acts of Parliament assigned to them. They are also responsible for the operation of any departments, administrative offices and public entities that are part of their portfolios. Ministers are appointed by the Governor to a portfolio on advice of the Premier.
The General Order and its supplements are the guiding documents for determining the Minister for each piece of legislation and the associated ministerial powers and responsibilities. The General Order is published on the Department of Premier and Cabinet website. The Premier determines the makeup of ministerial portfolios and departments.
Examples of portfolios include health, education and justice.
Departments are created, abolished and altered by Order in Council under the Public Administration Act 2004.
The expression ‘machinery of government’ refers to the allocation and reallocation of functions between departments and Ministers. The Premier is responsible for machinery of government matters in Victoria.
Executive Council and Governor in Council
The Executive Council is a formal, weekly meeting of the Governor and Ministers (the standard practice in Victoria is for four Ministers to attend each meeting).
Upon taking office Ministers are sworn in for life as members of the Executive Council, which entitles them to the style ‘the Honourable’.
Wide-ranging powers, including the making of regulations, appointments to government bodies and arrangements in emergency situations are delegated by Parliament to the ‘Governor in Council’ (i.e. the Governor acting on the advice of the Executive Council).
In practice the Executive Council does not operate as a deliberative body.
Cabinet consists of the Premier and all Ministers. The Premier is the chairperson of the Cabinet. By convention, the Cabinet is the mechanism through which the Government makes decisions on policy, the legislative program and administrative issues. It is a formal meeting of Ministers but has no legal status or powers.
Cabinet and cabinet committees are forums in which Ministers, while working towards a collective position, can discuss proposals and a variety of options and views.
The openness and frankness of discussions in the cabinet room are protected by the strict observance of confidentiality. From time to time ministerial officers and public service employees may be invited to attend a meeting of the Cabinet or a cabinet committee.
Ministers are supported by ministerial officers who provide advice on policy and other issues such as stakeholder engagement.
Ordinarily a Minister’s most senior ministerial officer will be his or her chief of staff.
Ministerial officers are employed under section 98 of the Public Administration Act. They are employed by the Premier and assigned to Ministers to assist with performing their duties.
Ministerial officers are not public service employees and do not have authority to direct secretaries or public service employees. Their terms of employment are governed by their employment contracts (which could include enterprise agreements) and any codes of conduct determined by the Premier.
- advise the Minister (this advice supplements departmental advice)
- assist the Minister to administer his or her portfolio responsibilities
- assist the Minister to formulate government policy
- assist the Minister to disseminate information to the department, stakeholders and the public
- assist the Minister as a member of both the Cabinet and Executive Council
- assist the Minister in his or her parliamentary role in so far as that role relates to the discharge of the Minister’s duties as a Minister of the Crown. (As members of Parliament, Ministers also receive support for their parliamentary role from electorate officers, who are employed by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the President of the Legislative Council acting jointly.)
The Minister determines how their office functions. Other functions that ministerial officers may undertake include:
- management of the Minister’s diary
- coordination of media advice
- liaison with other ministerial offices.
Ministerial officers need to understand the protocols of their Minister’s office and the duties they are expected to perform.
Department of Parliamentary Services
The Department of Parliamentary Services is a department of the Parliament of Victoria. It supports Ministers and staff in electorate and parliamentary offices by providing:
- information technology services including hardware and software procurement and installation
- services and advice related to conditions of employment and remuneration including payroll, human resources and occupational health and safety services
- services related to training budgets, mobile phones and car fleet arrangements
- insurance arrangements with the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA)
- payments regarding office budgets and allowances.