Run a Cabinet meeting

Work together to negotiate the best policy outcome.

Students
Years 9-12
Duration
1 lesson

Before you begin

  1. Use the Cabinet fact sheet to introduce the government’s top-level decision-making group. Discuss Cabinet’s role in the law-making, and policy development and implementation processes by asking:
    • What is a ‘policy’? How does policy become law?
    • Where do policy ideas come from?
    • How does the executive decide which policies/new laws will go forward?
  2. Remind students of the foundations of Executive government:
    • Consensus decision-making: the aim is for all Cabinet ministers to agree on the decisions of Cabinet. This requires negotiation and compromise. In this way, all ministers take collective responsibility for the decisions of Cabinet.
    • Cabinet solidarity: all Cabinet ministers are expected to publicly support the decisions they make as a group.

Getting started

  1. Decide if you will have one class Cabinet (with assistant ministers working with ministers) or multiple Cabinets debating the same or different proposals. Do not have more than 15 members in each Cabinet.
  2. Distribute the Meeting instructions to each student.
  3. Choose a policy proposal to debate and decide upon. Choose a proposal relevant to your unit of study. Here are some domestic and international policy ideas aligned to a range of curricula you could use:

POLICY PROPOSAL TOPICS

Include children’s dentistry in Medicare. This will cost $1 billion over 10 years but save hospitals $500 million.

Ratify—make Australian law—the United Nations Domestic Workers Convention 2011 to protect domestic workers from forced labour, child exploitation and discrimination.

Nominate the Kimberley for World Heritage status within 3 years.

Step-up commitment to eradicating child labour by funding Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) in Asia by $50 million over 5 years.

Lower Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions to pre-2000 levels by 2030.

Send election monitors to oversee democratic elections in the Pacific. This will cost $5 million.

Raise the age of criminal responsibility in Australia to 14 years-old to align with United Nations recommendations.

Send 200 peacekeepers to stop a civil war in the Asia-Pacific region. This is expected to be a 3-year deployment and cost $700 million.

  1. Choose Cabinet positions:
    • Prime Minister (chair of Cabinet).
    • Other ministers including the minister responsible for the policy proposal to be debated. Check the current Ministry list for the full list of ministries.
  2. Ministers decide if they support the policy proposal. They can talk with their assistant ministers and/or other relevant ministers, such as the Treasurer. They could consider:
    • Who will this policy proposal impact? How will they be impacted?
    • How does this proposal relate to your portfolio—area of responsibility? Are there any issues related to this proposal you feel should be raised?
    • Overall, do you support the proposal? Why/why not?

Activity

  1. The Prime Minister starts the discussion by asking ministers to state their position on the policy proposal and the main reason why they support/don’t support it.
  2. Suspend the meeting to give ministers time to reflect on the discussion, reprioritise and negotiate with ministers outside the meeting. The aim is for all ministers to agree on the proposal.
  3. Continue the meeting. The Prime Minister should:
    • lead a discussion about ministry priorities
    • conduct a vote on the proposal.
  4. If the proposal fails, the Prime Minister could ask the ministers to develop amendments – changes – to the proposal so Cabinet can agree to it. Take another vote.

What happened?

  1. If the policy was agreed to, how does the Executive make it a reality?
  2. If the proposal was defeated, it can be put to Cabinet again. What would help it be approved next time?
  3. Based on your experience today, do you think the decision-making process used by Cabinet is democratic?
  4. Cabinet documents and discussions are kept secret for 20 years. How might Cabinet confidentiality influence the debates and decisions of Cabinet?