Cabinet considers a range of intergovernmental matters, which can generally be brought to Cabinet for noting. This includes where ministers are attending intergovernmental meetings (such as Ministerial Councils and National Federation Reform Council Taskforces) that deal with significant policy or program issues, or issues that have a cross portfolio impact.
A Cabinet note (or submission) should be prepared ahead of these meetings to advise Cabinet of the minister’s intended position on significant items. However, where ministers are attending intergovernmental meetings that are more routine in nature, it is not necessary to advise Cabinet ahead of the meeting.
In some instances - if for example the minister intends to signal South Australia’s participation in a National Partnership Agreement or other intergovernmental agreement, particularly if there are unbudgeted state costs involved - the minister should prepare a Cabinet submission seeking Cabinet approval.
It is not necessary to advise of the outcomes of intergovernmental meetings unless issues of significance arise at the meeting, or outcomes are significantly different from those Cabinet was advised of before the meeting. Cabinet Office can provide advice on which intergovernmental matters need to be brought to Cabinet on a case-by-case basis.
Responses to Commonwealth inquiries and reviews
Responses to Commonwealth inquiries and reviews must only be made where there is a clear strategic value or benefit to the state and the submission/response either relates to a contentious or public interest issue, includes changes or proposed changes to a policy position or a new policy position, or involves unbudgeted costs or other resource implications. Determining whether a formal response is required and the associated approval process should also consider:
- the nature of any information/data that will be provided as part of the response; including any security classifications or caveats in line with the South Australian Information Classification System
- whether the response is to a draft, interim or final report.
On receipt of an invitation, agencies should first consult with their Minister. Agencies must then contact the Department of the Premier and Cabinet and provide the name of the inquiry or review and the entity that invited the submission/response and an assessment of whether a response is required. If it is considered a submission/response is warranted, the agency must also provide:
- the lead agency that will be responsible for developing the submission/response
- an outline of the proposed consultation process or list of agencies that will be consulted
- an outline of key aspects of the submission/response (e.g. the government’s position, contentious or public-interest issues, budget impact)
- the proposed timeline for responding including whether an extension will be required/requested
- proposed Cabinet consideration (submission or note) and date (if applicable).
The department will confirm that a response is appropriate, and will lead a whole-of-government approach to identify any other agencies that are making a submission or should be consulted, provide guidance or feedback on the scope of the proposed submission/response and confirm the proposed Cabinet consideration, in consultation with the Cabinet Secretary.
National Cabinet, the National Federation Reform Council and intergovernmental agreements
On 29 May 2020, the Prime Minister, with the agreement of First Ministers, announced some significant changes to key intergovernmental relations structures. In particular, First Ministers agreed to continue National Cabinet beyond its focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, to form the National Federation Reform Council (NFRC), and to cease the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and its supporting architecture.
Matters considered by National Cabinet are not routinely the subject of SA Cabinet consideration. The same rules on “what goes to Cabinet” should apply i.e. major policy initiatives and matters of strategic importance, significant financial expenditure or legislation.
The NFRC is comprised of First Ministers, Treasurers and the Australian Local Government Association and will meet once a year face-to-face to discuss national priority issues. A Cabinet note (or submission) outlining the government’s negotiating position on matters for discussion at the NFRC should be prepared for SA Cabinet. Submissions should consider:
- the context of the government’s overall approach to relations with local, Commonwealth and other state and territory governments
- the relationship between proposed intergovernmental matters and Government of South Australia policy.
As a general rule, all intergovernmental agreements require the approval of Cabinet prior to being signed by the Premier or the responsible minister. However, there are some exceptions to this, including:
- National partnerships that anticipate the need for implementation plans, and where the financial impact of these is already known and clearly stated, Cabinet can be asked to approve the responsible minister agreeing to the implementation plans without the need for further Cabinet approval.
- Project agreements and implementation plans requiring additional expenditure authority, that authority can be granted by the Executive Director, Budget and Performance branch in the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF), as long as DTF and the responsible chief executive are satisfied that:
- Agencies with more than $100 million in total income per annum (as per the agency’s income statement), the value of the new agreement is less than $1 million annually and $10 million of the life of the agreement
- Agencies with less than $100 million in total income per annum (as per the agency’s income statement), the value of the agreement is less than 1% of the agency’s total income annually and less than 10% of the agency’s total income over the life of the agreement.
- And in other cases where:
- the revenue provided in the agreement equals the expense within the forward estimates period
- the agreement relates to the core business of the agency
- the agreement does not require the agency to take on additional permanent staff
- the agreement does not establish an ongoing program or service to third parties with time-limited funding
- the agreement does not extend or change the state’s policy settings and
- the total national funding pool is known and the South Australian share of revenue is equal to or less than our population share (noting that Cabinet needs to be aware of any possible impact on GST revenue; agencies should seek the advice of DTF on this issue).