Cabinet papers and minutes must be proactively released within 30 business days of final decisions being taken by Cabinet, unless there is good reason not to publish all or part of the material, or to delay the release. This policy applies to all papers lodged from 1 January 2019, excluding APH papers.
This page provides an overview of the proactive release requirements. For more detail read the circular CO (18) 4 - Proactive Release of Cabinet Material: Updated Requirements.
The process for publicly releasing the Cabinet material of a previous administration is set out in circular CO (17) 9 - Access to information of a previous administration, and paragraphs 8.133 – 8.134 of the Cabinet Manual.
What is proactive release?
Proactive release is the publication of Cabinet material (papers and accompanying attachments or appendices, and minutes) on a website maintained by, or on behalf of, a government department or agency. For example, the Cabinet decision relating to the policy has been proactively released on the State Services Commission website (CAB-18-MIN-0418).
Proactive release is different from release under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA), in that a Minister decides to release Cabinet material in the interests of transparency, as opposed to responding to a request for it made under the Act. However, a Minister may decide that it’s appropriate to proactively release Cabinet material following a request made under the OIA. Follow this link for information about release under the OIA.
Who authorises proactive release?
Ministers have the authority to approve the proactive release of Cabinet material within their portfolios. For joint papers from two or more Ministers, all Ministers involved should give their approval for release.
Where possible, papers and their relevant minutes should be proactively released together to provide context for readers. Ministers may also choose to release related advice papers with the Cabinet material, and may want to also issue an accompanying press release on the Beehive website, which links to the released material.
Proactive release statement in Cabinet papers
All Cabinet papers, except APH papers, should include a ‘Proactive Release’ section (as per the templates for general, legislation, and travel papers). The information in the section should state whether the Minister submitting the paper proposes to release it in whole, or in part, or to delay the release beyond 30 business days.
Note that there is no need to include a recommendation about proactive release in the recommendations of the paper, as Ministers have the authority to approve the proactive release of Cabinet material in their own portfolios.
Preparing for proactive release
Before any Cabinet material is released, it should be reviewed with the following due diligence matters in mind:
- the application of the principles in the OIA, the Privacy Act 1993, and the Protective Security Requirements to the information
- whether the material contains any information that would have been withheld if the information had been requested under the OIA
- whether the documents contain any information that must be withheld under the terms of any other legislation
- whether there is any potential liability, civil or criminal, that might result from the proactive release of Cabinet material and key advice papers
- whether there are reasons to delay the proactive release of the information, for example where there are sensitivities around timing, and
- whether publication on the web is the best means of release.
What should be released?
All Cabinet papers (except APH papers), minutes, and any attachments or appendices that were considered alongside the paper at Cabinet and or/a Cabinet committee, should be released.
It is the publisher’s responsibility to make sure that only the final versions of Cabinet material are proactively released. The final versions are:
- the paper (and any attachments) approved by the Minister for lodgement in CabNet, in hard-copy with the Cabinet Office (for highly classified papers), or for tabling at the meeting, which has been considered by a Cabinet committee or Cabinet (subject to any final technical corrections or amendments requested by Cabinet)
- the minute published by the Cabinet Office on CabNet and/or distributed in hard-copy following a Cabinet or Cabinet committee meeting.
Electronic copies of papers and minutes can be downloaded from CabNet for the purposes of release. The CabNet watermarks should be left on the documents.
Where should Cabinet material be released?
Cabinet material, and any related key advice, should be published on a website maintained by or on behalf of the releasing department or agency. Where possible, Cabinet papers, relevant minutes, and any key advice papers should be proactively released together so that readers have context for the decisions made by Cabinet.
For joint papers, department websites should provide a link to the information if it is published on another department's or agency's website. Ministers may choose to issue a press release on the Beehive website, which links to the release on the agency site.
A coversheet should go on top of released Cabinet material (an example coversheet is attached to the circular CO (18) 4 - Proactive Release of Cabinet Material: Updated Requirements.
The coversheet should clearly state who the releasing Minister is, the relevant portfolio(s), the date of issue, a list of the documents that are being released, and an explanation of the reasons for any redactions, if applicable.
The coversheet should also include a copyright statement as a protection against the misuse of information. For Cabinet material and any public service departmental advice, the following copyright statement should be used:
© Crown Copyright, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Reviewing the security classification of material
Once the decision is made to proactively release Cabinet material, the security classification should also be reviewed, as it may no longer apply (follow this link for advice on how to apply security classifications).
Redactions to released material
Cabinet material for proactive release can be redacted in line with the guidance in the OIA. As with the OIA, if information is redacted, then the reason for redactions should be clearly stated.
Note that proactive release of Cabinet material is not covered by the OIA, and therefore, section 48 of the Act, which protects agencies from civil or criminal sanctions when releasing official information in good faith, is not applicable.
Refer to the following sections for more information
- CO (18) 4 - Proactive Release of Cabinet Material: Updated Requirements
- Release under the Official Information Act 1982
- Cabinet policy paper template