Roles and Responsibilities

Key relationships in the Westminster System
westminster system diagram

The Governor

The Governor represents the Crown in NSW andis appointed by the Sovereign on the Premier’srecommendation. The Governor appoints the Premierand Ministry and presides over the Executive Council.

The Parliament

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

The Judiciary

The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets andapplies the laws made by the Parliament

Executive Council

The Executive Council is the supreme executive authority.It comprises the Premier and Ministers, presided overby 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 majoritysupport in the Legislative Assembly and is the head ofthe Government. He or she advises the Governor on theappointment of Ministers, and determines the makeupof Departments and the allocation of Acts to Ministers.


The Premier and Ministers constitute the Cabinetwhich decides the Government’s priorities, policies andlegislative program.

Ministers bring proposals to Cabinet. The decisionsof Cabinet are collective, confidential and bindingon Ministers.


Ministers are appointed by the Governor on the adviceof the Premier and are allocated various portfolios andActs. The allocation of Acts is available at the NSWlegislation website (and Cabinet) decide policy and areaccountable to the Parliament for their decisions.

They participate in the decision-making of Cabinetand administer Departments and agencies within theirportfolios. A convention of the Westminster Systemis ministerial responsibility, whereby a Minister bearsresponsibility for the actions of a department or agencywithin their control.

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

Parliamentary Secretaries

Parliamentary Secretaries are Members of Parliamentappointed by the Premier to assist the Premier andMinisters with their portfolios. In NSW, ParliamentarySecretaries are not members of the Executive Counciland cannot perform functions required underlegislation to be performed by a Minister.

Like Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries are boundby the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct, which isprescribed as an applicable code of conduct for thepurposes of section 9 of the Independent CommissionAgainst Corruption Act 1988.

Ministers’ offices

The primary role of a Minister’s office is to supportthe Minister in discharging his/her portfolioresponsibilities; undertaking his/her Cabinet andParliamentary duties; and developing policy andlegislative options. Ministerial staff also facilitatecommunication between the Minister and Departmentsand agencies, assisting those bodies to understand theMinister’s requirements, priorities and availability, andenabling workflow and administration. Each Minister’soffice is managed by a Chief of Staff.

Ministerial staff are employed by the Minister onbehalf of the State, under the Members of ParliamentStaff Act 2013: they are not public servants. Ministerialstaff provide their Minister with political advicewhich complements the apolitical advice provided bypublic servants. In doing their work, Ministerial staffare bound by the NSW Office Holders Staff Code ofConduct, which is available at

A Departmental Liaison Officer (DLO) may also workin a Minister’s office, having been assigned to this roleby the relevant Secretary or agency head. The DLO isa public servant, not a member of the Minister’s staff.DLOs perform an important function, which includescoordinating communication between the Minister’soffice and the Department/agency and enabling thetimely processing of documents. DLOs are bound bythe Code of Ethics and Conduct which operates in theirhome Department/agency. The source of authority onthe assignment of DLOs is Department of Premier andCabinet Circular C2013-03, which is available at

Note: Ministers who are Members of the LegislativeAssembly also maintain electorate offices – as do allMembers of the Legislative Assembly – to assist themin undertaking the representative duties of a Memberof Parliament. These electorate offices are separate
from Ministerial offices.

The Public Service

Public servants serve the Government of the day bysupporting 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 ofboth the Westminster System and the Ethical Framework.

The government sector core values in the EthicalFramework clarify the role of public servants in preservingthe public interest, and adding professional, apolitical valueto the commitments of the Government of the day, throughintegrity, trust, service and accountability.

While the core values operate in concert and each isof equal importance, their underpinning principlesnotably 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-specificCodes of Conduct also apply to public servants. A Codeof Ethics and Conduct for NSW government sectoremployees is currently in development. Once finalised,government sector employees will also be required to
comply with this Code.

Department Secretaries and heads of agencies areresponsible for the general conduct and management oftheir agencies in accordance with these core values andthe principles that guide their implementation. Managersare responsible for ensuring that employees familiarisethemselves with any agency-specific Codes of Conduct andassociated policies, and, once finalised, the Code of Ethicsand Conduct for NSW government sector employees.

Independent statutory offices

Independent statutory office holders have a unique placein the Westminster System. Their functions and powersare set out in legislation. They cannot be directed in theexercise of their functions and powers, unless there isspecific provision for this in the legislation.