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What makes a good Cabinet paper

Issue date: 
Friday, 2 March 2018
Issue status: 
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This publication is part of the CabGuide.

A good Cabinet paper includes a clear statement of purpose, is based on sound information and analysis, and is well consulted across agencies, Ministers, and government parties.

Good papers reflect robust policy development, and are informed by evidence and insights from diverse perspectives. They are succinct, but comprehensive enough to support Ministers to make informed decisions. Refer to this link for information on how to develop policy advice in the lead up to developing Cabinet policy proposals.

Cabinet papers are the Minister’s papers. They are submitted by a Minister for the consideration of their colleagues for the purposes of seeking agreement to a significant policy proposal, introducing new regulations or a Bill, releasing a discussion or consultation document, or providing an update on an issue. Refer to this page for more information on when a Cabinet paper is required.

The primary audience for a Cabinet paper will usually be a range of Ministers – most of whom will not be familiar with the issue and will be considering the paper with a significant number of other papers. Keep in mind that a Minister may intend to proactively release a paper following Cabinet consideration (see the guidance on the proactive release of Cabinet material for more information).

To ensure that Cabinet papers are accessible by the target audience, they should be clear, logical, and easy to read. It is a good idea to ask someone who is unfamiliar with the paper to read and review it before submitting a final draft to the Minister’s office. The Policy Project’s checklist based on the Policy Quality Framework is a useful tool to use when peer reviewing policy papers, including Cabinet papers.

Good presentation can greatly support consideration of papers too, as a paper that is easily read is easily understood. Papers should:

  • be concise (no longer than 10 pages), coherent, consistent, logical, and use headings and sub-headings where appropriate
  • be written in plain language, with any acronyms spelled out on first use (e.g. Public Service Commission (PSC)), and bullet points used where appropriate
  • have every page and paragraph numbered, as demonstrated in the templates
  • use clearly labelled charts and diagrams to support understanding
  • have recommendations that clearly show the whole story: the history of the issue, why it is being brought for consideration, the matters that need agreement, and next steps
  • strategically use appendices and attachments to provide supporting information. These should not be too numerous, too cluttered, or unnecessarily repeat information already in the paper.

The Policy Project's advice document Writing for Ministers and Cabinet is a useful tool to help with drafting good quality Cabinet papers.


Refer to these pages for more information


Last updated: 
Friday, 13 October 2017

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