Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

Roles and Responsibilities

Key relationships in the Westminster System


The Governor

The Governor represents the Crown in NSW and is appointed by the Sovereign on the Premier’s recommendation. The Governor appoints the Premier and Ministry and presides over the Executive Council.

The Parliament

The voters of New South Wales elect their representatives to serve as either Members of the Legislative Assembly (the Lower House), or as Members of the Legislative Council (the Upper House).

The Judiciary

The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the laws made by the Parliament.

Executive Council

The Executive Council is the supreme executive authority. It comprises the Premier and Ministers, presided over by the Governor. On the advice of the Executive Council, the Governor gives legal authority to proclamations, regulations, establishment of Departments and appointments to the judiciary and other public offices.


The Premier leads the party or coalition with majority support in the Legislative Assembly and is the head of the Government.  He or she advises the Governor on the appointment of Ministers, and determines the makeup of Departments and the allocation of Acts to Ministers.


The Premier and Ministers constitute the Cabinet which decides the Government’s priorities, policies and legislative program.

Ministers bring proposals to Cabinet.  The decisions of Cabinet are collective, confidential and binding on Ministers.


Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the advice of the Premier and are allocated various portfolios and Acts.  The allocation of Acts is available at the NSW legislation website

Ministers (and Cabinet) decide policy and are accountable to the Parliament for their decisions.

They participate in the decision-making of Cabinet and administer Departments and agencies within their portfolios.  A convention of the Westminster System is ministerial responsibility, whereby a Minister bears responsibility for the actions of a department or agency within their control.

Ministers are bound by the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct, which is prescribed as an applicable code of conduct for the purposes of section 9 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988. The NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct is available at

Parliamentary Secretaries

Parliamentary Secretaries are Members of Parliament appointed by the Premier to assist the Premier and Ministers with their portfolios. In NSW, Parliamentary Secretaries are not members of the Executive Council and cannot perform functions required under legislation to be performed by a Minister.
Like Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries are bound by the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct, which is prescribed as an applicable code of conduct for the purposes of section 9 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988.

Ministers’ Offices

The primary role of a Minister’s office is to support the Minister in discharging his/her portfolio responsibilities; undertaking his/her Cabinet and Parliamentary duties; and developing policy and legislative options. Ministerial staff also facilitate communication between the Minister and Departments and agencies, assisting those bodies to understand the Minister’s requirements, priorities and availability, and enabling workflow and administration. Each Minister’s office is managed by a Chief of Staff.

Ministerial staff are employed by the Minister on behalf of the State, under the Members of Parliament Staff Act 2013: they are not public servants. Ministerial staff provide their Minister with political advice which complements the apolitical advice provided by public servants. In doing their work, Ministerial staff are bound by the NSW Office Holders Staff Code of Conduct, which is available at

A Departmental Liaison Officer (DLO) may also work in a Minister’s office, having been assigned to this role by the relevant Secretary or agency head. The DLO is a public servant, not a member of the Minister’s staff. DLOs perform an important function, which includes coordinating communication between the Minister’s office and the Department/agency and enabling the timely processing of documents. DLOs are bound by the Code of Ethics and Conduct which operates in their home Department/agency.  The source of authority on the assignment of DLOs is Department of Premier and Cabinet Circular C2013-03, which is available here.

Note: Ministers who are Members of the Legislative Assembly also maintain electorate offices – as do all Members of the Legislative Assembly – to assist them in undertaking the representative duties of a Member of Parliament. These electorate offices are separate from Ministerial offices.

The Public Service

Public servants serve the Government of the day by supporting Ministers in:

  • Developing and advising on policy options and draft legislation
  • Implementing the Government’s decisions, policies and programs
  • Delivering services to the community
  • Managing the State’s resources, assets and finances.

A professional, apolitical public service is a major tenet of both the Westminster System and the Ethical Framework.

The government sector core values in the Ethical Framework clarify the role of public servants in preserving the public interest, and adding professional, apolitical value to the commitments of the Government of the day, through integrity, trust, service and accountability.

While the core values operate in concert and each is of equal importance, their underpinning principles notably require public servants to:

  • Act professionally with honesty, consistency and impartiality
  • Place the public interest over personal interest
  • Provide apolitical and non–partisan advice
  • Provide transparency to enable public scrutiny.

In addition to the Ethical Framework, agency–specific Codes of Conduct also apply to public servants. A Code of Ethics and Conduct for NSW government sector employees is currently in development.

Department Secretaries and heads of agencies are responsible for the general conduct and management of their agencies in accordance with these core values and the principles that guide their implementation. Managers are responsible for ensuring that employees familiarise themselves with any agency-specific Codes of Conduct and associated policies.

Independent statutory offices

Independent statutory office–holders have a unique place in the Westminster System. Their functions and powers are set out in legislation. They cannot be directed in the exercise of their functions and powers, unless there is specific provision for this in the legislation. Notwithstanding their independent status, these office holders are usually required to make reports to a Minister and, in a small number of cases, to the Parliament.