Ministers expect to hear from people in their electorate, from their departmental chief executives, policy advisers, Ministers in Cabinet and its Cabinet committees, backbenchers in their caucus, lobby groups, media, coalition partners, Ministers in other governments and sections of the public of interest to them.
New Zealand Cabinet Ministers are all Members of Parliament. In the US, cabinet members do not have that additional responsibility. Ministers normally have very full workloads. They are under pressure to make many decisions, and to represent interests both as Ministers and as Members of Parliament. Working days from 7am to 10pm are not uncommon. The Ministerial Services agency provides the infrastructure (from finance to staff) to help make these workloads possible.
Ministers are also Cabinet’s eyes and ears about trends in the community. The impressions they get from voters might stimulate questions about advice given by official advisors. Some Ministers place weight on gaining access to independent sources of advice, and may even set up arrangements for contesting traditional channels of advice.
Many Ministers are responsible for more than one portfolio. Some are associate Ministers, working with other Ministers on portfolio responsibilities. Ministers also work together over a range of portfolios to achieve a broad approach on issues. They may be addressing a new issue that requires a different approach by government.
There are portfolios that naturally cut across others. The Prime Minister and the Finance Minister need to take a whole-of-government view. Ministers such as those responsible for foreign affairs and trade, government shareholding, regional development, transport and particular population groups, need to be familiar with the portfolios of other Ministers and address special interests across the whole of government.
Increasingly, Ministers are directly employing policy advisors to give them an independent whole-of-government perspective, rather than relying on departmental advisors, whose perspective may be limited by historical perspectives or departmental brief.
Ruth Dyson, the first New Zealand Minister for Disability Issues – and her Office for Disability Issues established in July 2002 – uses the New Zealand Disability Strategy (NZDS) as a tool for assessing the effectiveness of other agencies. Each department and/or agency is required to prepare an implementation plan and then report on progress. This progress is presented in a formal annual report to Parliament.
As a Minister in Cabinet, she is able to check whether all policies have taken account of disability issues and also to advocate for specific issues with her colleagues.
The planning and implementation process ensures that departments incorporate
the NZDS into their budgets and broader work plans. Government agencies
often start to prepare these budgets and work plans six to eight months
before the financial year, which begins on 1st July.
Prime Minister Helen Clark strongly encourages organisations and individuals outside central government to be involved with the implementation of the NZDS. Disability sector organisations can take the opportunity presented by the NZDS to proactively engage with relevant government agencies to make them aware of important issues.
Of course, participating in formal consultation processes continues to be an important way for organisations and individuals to be involved in the implementation of the NZDS.
Government departments are increasingly drawing on the expertise of people with disabilities and disability organisations in their work.
Find out more!
See the Cabinet Manual for more information on the roles and responsibilities of Ministers of the Crown.
Updated 22 November 2005
In 2002, the Speaker opened a Pacific room in Parliament Buildings. Then Minister of Pacific Affairs, Mark Gosche and the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, centre, with Pacific MPs Winnie Laban (current Associate Minister of Pacific Islands Affairs) and Taito Field (former Associate Minister of Pacific Islands Affairs).
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