Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

The Westminster System

In NSW, government has been based on the Westminster System since the mid nineteenth century. The Westminster System is also the basis of government in the Australian Commonwealth, the Territories and the other States.  It is founded on the British Palace of Westminster model of responsible government which comprises:

  • A head of state, being the Sovereign or his/her representative (or, in a republic, the president)
  • An elected Parliament, with one or two Houses
  • A Government formed by the political party, or coalition, with majority support in the Lower House
  • A Prime Minister or Premier, who heads the Government
  • A Ministry, drawn from members of Parliament – usually Government members – exercising executive authority and accountable to the Parliament
  • An independent Judiciary.

At the heart of the system is the concept of the separation of powers between the three branches of government:

  • The Legislature: the Parliament, which makes the law
  • The Executive: the Governor, Prime Minister/Premier, Ministers, departments and agencies, which implement the law
  • The Judiciary: the courts, which interpret and apply the law.

Another key feature of the Westminster System is an apolitical, professional public service providing impartial advice to the Government of the day and implementing the Government’s policies and programs. ln addition, as was first proposed in the Northcote-Trevelyan report to the UK House of Commons in 1854, a core requirement of the Westminster System is that the recruitment and promotion of employees in the public service is on the basis of merit.

Further advice on the NSW system of government and its history is available at