As a general rule, Ministers should put before their colleagues the sorts of issues on which they themselves would wish to be consulted. Ministers should keep their colleagues informed about matters of public interest, importance, or controversy. Where there is uncertainty about the level and type of consideration needed (i.e., whether a paper is required), Ministers should seek advice from the Prime Minister or the Secretary of the Cabinet.
The following matters must be submitted to Cabinet (through the appropriate Cabinet committee):
- significant policy issues
- controversial matters
- proposals that will affect the government’s financial position, or important financial commitments, including proposals seeking additional financial resources
- proposals that affect New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements (see paragraph 5.77 of the Cabinet Manual)
- matters concerning the machinery of government
- draft policy or discussion and public consultation documents (before their release), other than those relating to minor or technical matters that fall within existing policy and that have been authorised for release by the Minister
- reports of a substantive nature relating to government policy or government agencies
- proposals involving new legislation (bills) or regulations
- government responses to select committee recommendations and Law Commission reports
- matters concerning the portfolio interests of a number of Ministers (particularly where agreement cannot be reached)
- significant statutory decisions (see paragraphs 5.34 to 5.38 of the Cabinet Manual)
- all but the most minor public appointments made by Ministers or by the Governor-General on the advice of a Minister
- international treaties and agreements, and significant matters concerning New Zealand's international relationships, security, foreign policy, and deployments offshore (see paragraphs 5.78 to 5.82 of the Cabinet Manual)
- any proposals to amend the provisions of the Cabinet Manual.
Matters that should not, as a general rule, be brought to Cabinet include:
- matters concerning the day to day management of a portfolio that have been delegated to an agency
- operational (non-policy) statutory functions
- the exercise of statutory decision-making powers (within existing policy) concerning individuals.
It may, however, be appropriate to bring an item in the above list to Cabinet’s attention if it is significant or likely to be controversial.