Cabinet is the central and highest decision-making institution in government. Its workings are governed by long established practice and convention.
As you are aware, a convention at the core of the Cabinet system of government is the collective responsibility of Ministers for government decisions. Ministers are collectively responsible for all Cabinet decisions and must publicly support them, even if they do not personally agree with them.
The unauthorised and / or premature disclosure of Cabinet documents, including draft Cabinet documents (such as draft Cabinet minutes), undermines collective ministerial responsibility. It also undermines the convention of Cabinet confidentiality. It is accordingly essential that the confidentiality of Cabinet documents, including draft Cabinet documents, is maintained to enable full and frank discussions to be had prior to Cabinet making its decision.
It is inappropriate to provide copies of, or access to, final or draft Cabinet documents to sources external to Government. It may, however, sometimes be necessary to consult with external sources in relation to matters which are the subject of proposed or current Cabinet consideration to ensure that Cabinet is fully apprised of the relevant information required for it to make an informed decision. A Minister's actual or proposed position should never be disclosed, and high-level judgement needs to be exercised in deciding what information, if any, to disclose. Guidance should be obtained from The Cabinet Office.
As is the case with Cabinet documents, draft Cabinet documents should be marked as confidential, stored securely, and access should be on a need to know basis.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption recently reported that public sector agencies, including contractors and consultants, may not fully appreciate the need to maintain the confidentiality of draft Cabinet documents. It is therefore appropriate for me to draw your attention to the attached paper Cabinet Conventions: NSW Practice which sets out in more detail the importance of maintaining Cabinet confidentiality.
Please ensure that this matter is brought to the attention of all officers within your administration, including contractors and consultants.