The Cabinet Manual has for many years been the authoritative guide to New Zealand's system of central government decision making.
It is also a primary source of information on constitutional matters. Successive governments have recognised the need for guidance to provide the basis on which they will conduct themselves while in office. The Cabinet Manual fulfils this need. The endorsement of the Cabinet Manual is an item on the agenda of the first Cabinet meeting of a new government, to provide for the orderly recommencement of the business of government.
As has been acknowledged in earlier editions, while the Cabinet Manual has a venerable lineage it is not set in stone. One of its key strengths is that it is updated from time to time, and responds to and reflects changes and developments in political, administrative, and constitutional arrangements and language. Thus the content of this edition of the Cabinet Manual represents an orderly and continuous development of the conventions and procedures of Cabinet government.
The content of the 2008 Cabinet Manual has been thoroughly reviewed and updated in this edition. Some guidance, such as that concerning the relationship between Ministers and public servants, and the characteristics of coalition and support party government arrangements, has been clarified and expanded. Other guidance has been updated to reflect important contextual changes such as changes to the Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, the enactment of the Inquiries Act 2013, and the introduction of the CabNet system. The Cabinet Manual also encompasses guidance on matters not previously included, but on which the Cabinet Office regularly provides advice. For example, there are new sections on ministerial interactions with representatives from non-government or commercial organisations, the role of officials in the pre-election period, and Ministers and public records.
The Cabinet Manual focuses on principles. It provides guidance, rather than prescribing rules. Detailed guidance and information on Executive Council, Cabinet, and Cabinet committee processes is contained in the CabGuide, an online resource at www.dpmc.govt.nz/cabguide.
The review of the Cabinet Manual has been a significant task for the Cabinet Office over the past year. I would like to acknowledge and thank all those working in government, and in other agencies, who have contributed to the review, whether by revising existing text, or drafting new material. Particular thanks are due to the Cabinet Office team who coordinated the review project.
The Cabinet Manual is a valuable guide, not just for those working in or with executive government, but for anyone who has an interest in New Zealand's constitutional arrangements, and the systems and processes of executive government. I know that this latest edition will continue to be a key work of reference for all those with an interest in the good government of New Zealand.
Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council