Successive governments have recognised the need for guidance to provide the basis on which they will conduct themselves while in office. The Cabinet Manual fulfils this need. The endorsement of the Cabinet Manual is an item on the agenda of the first Cabinet meeting of a new government, to provide for the orderly re-commencement of the business of government.
As noted in the Preface to the 2001 edition, the Cabinet Manual has a venerable lineage, but is not set in stone. It is updated from time to time to reflect established changes in Cabinet procedures and constitutional developments. It is like a dictionary: it is authoritative, but essentially recording the current state of the constitutional and administrative language. Thus the content of the Cabinet Manual represents an orderly and continuous development of the conventions and procedures of executive government.
The text of the Cabinet Manual is reviewed regularly. The content of the Cabinet Manual 2001 has been thoroughly reviewed and updated in this edition. Some guidance has been clarified and expanded. Other guidance has been updated to reflect important contextual changes such as the enactment of the Crown Entities Act 2004 and the new state sector code of conduct. In addition, the Cabinet Manual now encompasses guidance on matters not previously included, but on which the Cabinet Office regularly provides advice. For example, a new chapter entitled Ministers and the Law not only brings together current guidance about judicial review and litigation, but also includes new sections on the role of the Attorney-General and on public inquiries.
The book version of the Cabinet Manual is accompanied by an online version, on www.cabinetmanual.cabinetoffice.govt.nz. Any updates to the Cabinet Manual, prior to its next revision, will be incorporated into the version on the website.
The Cabinet Manual focuses on principles. Detailed information about Cabinet and Cabinet committee processes is contained in the CabGuide, an online resource at www.cabguide.cabinetoffice.govt.nz.
Reviewing the Cabinet Manual over the past six months has been a big task for the Cabinet Office. Particular thanks are due to Judith Wigglesworth, who coordinated the review.
I commend the Cabinet Manual not only to those working in government, but also to those with an interest the workings of executive government and in New Zealand's constitutional arrangements.
Secretary of the Cabinet
(2003 - 2008)
*The current Secretary of the Cabinet is Michael Webster.