From their origins in the shadows of Australian public administration, ministerial advisers have been increasingly thrust into the limelight through scandals that appear on the front page of the newspapers. This book traces the rise in the power and significance of Australian ministerial advisers. It shows the fundamental shift of the locus of power from the neutral public service to highly political and partisan ministerial advisers.
The book demonstrates that the introduction of ministerial advisers into the structure of the Executive has led to the erosion of the Australian system of responsible government. This is caused by a failure in the political, legal and managerial accountability frameworks surrounding ministerial advisers.
Ministerial Advisers in Australia is the first comprehensive study of the legal and political regulation of Australian ministerial advisers. This book features material from original interviews with Australian Ministers and Members of Parliament, as well as several former State Premiers.
Foreword by The Honourable John Cain
About the Author
Chapter 1. Introduction
Executive Regulation in Australia: Accountability as a Constitutional Value
Chapter 2. The Expanding Universe and the Primordial Soup: Ministerial Advisers in a Framework of Australian Public Administration
History and Roles
Rise and Influence
Decline of Public Service Influence
Ministerial Advisers in the Australian System of Public Administration
Public Servants and the Australian Constitution
Ministerial Advisers and Patronage
Playing the Game of Politics
The Primordial Soup: The Unconstrained Nature of Ministerial Offices
The Rise of Ministerial Advisers
Chapter 3. Regulation Through Law
Statutory Judicial Review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act
Unauthorised Delegation or Carltona Principle
Acting under Dictation
Benefits of the ADJR Act
Judicial Review under Section 75 of the Constitution
Purposes of Section 75(v)
Are Ministerial Advisers ‘Officers of the Commonwealth’?
Are Ministerial Advisers Covered by Section 75(iii)?
Obtaining Evidence for Legal Actions against Ministerial Advisers
Freedom of Information
Discovery in Litigation
Conclusion: Legal Regulation of Ministerial Advisers
Chapter 4. Regulation Through Parliament
History and Role of Parliamentary Committees
Responsible Government and the Upper House of Parliament
Is the Executive Responsible to the Upper House of Parliament under the Doctrine of Responsible Government?
Responsible Government in Reality
Does Parliament Have the Power to Compel Ministerial Advisers to Appear?
Ministerial Adviser Immunity
Public Interest Immunity
Why Does Parliament Not Use its Powers to Compel Ministerial Advisers to Appear before Parliamentary Committees?
Is there a Constitutional Convention That Ministerial Advisers Do Not Appear Before Parliamentary Committees?
Convention by Agreement
Convention by Precedents
Reason for Convention
Public Servants and Parliamentary Committees
When Should Ministerial Advisers Appear before Parliamentary Committees?
Recommendations and Reform
Incorporation of Ministerial Advisers into Integrity Framework
Judiciary Enforcing Appearances of Witnesses before Parliamentary Committees
Guidelines for Ministerial Advisers Appearing before Parliamentary Committees
Conclusion: Ministerial Advisers and Parliamentary Committees
Chapter 5: Conclusion
Appendix A: Interview Questions
Appendix B: List of Interviewees
Yee-Fui Ng's monograph is the first comprehensive study of the legal and parliamentary accountability of … advisers. The ambiguous status of the adviser in law and practice presents a challenge for anyone setting out to explain how they might be held to account. Indeed, Ng employs the 'primordial soup' as an analogy for their barely regulated status. Yet their ever increasing number, influence over policy and administration, and evolving function as gatekeeper, determining flow of information and access to ministers, warrant a formal scrutiny hitherto lacking.
While the roles and functions of ministerial advisers at the Commonwealth level have been the subject of some fruitful study over the years, this has been largely confined to political science and public administration. Drawing on this research, Ng deftly sketches the origins and evolution of the adviser role since the Whitlam government. ...
Published as a finalist for Federation Press' Holt Prize to commemorate its late co-founder, Chris Holt, 'Ministerial Advisers in Australia' will be a valued addition to the likes of Enid Campbell's Parliamentary Privilege and the various parliamentary manuals on practice and procedure, as guides on the legal extent of and checks on political power. Read full review...
Stephen Murray, Alternative Law Journal, Vol 41:4 2016
This is a most interesting monograph which considers an important area of uncharted public law; being the legal position of ministerial advisers. As at last 16 October 2015, there were 423 ministerial advisers appointed by Commonwealth Ministers. In general terms they inhabit an area between the Minister and the public service, yet they are neither subject to the obligations of public servants nor the responsibilities of Ministers. They are not referred to in the Constitution. Indeed, they were not part of the political landscape at the time when the Constitution was written. However, despite that they wield substantial power in the operation of government and, to a large extent, they remain unaccountable in a legal sense for their conduct. They are employed under Pt III of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 and are paid for out of the public purse.
In her work Dr Ng carefully considers the history of the rise of the position of the ministerial adviser and the expansion of their roles over time. She observes that they are effectively unregulated in a public law sense, being only susceptible to the discipline of their ministers and thereby undermine the role of the public service:
“Ministerial advisers do not fit neatly into the structure of Australian public administration. The system of a neutral, impartial public service recruited and promoted on merit that Australia adopted from the United Kingdom was developed as a reaction against patronage and the inefficiencies that would result from a system of patronage. The emergence of ministerial advisers who are recruited largely on the basis of patronage poses a threat to this system.”
Dr Ng postulates that some regulation of ministerial advisers may occur through the use of judicial review on the basis that their exercise of power can be seen as that of the Minister. That, however, seems to be spectacularly inadequate. They may also be regulated through the Parliament, however, she observes that the main political parties have a substantial degree of self-interest when it comes to controlling such advisers and that attempts to have ministerial advisers appear before Parliamentary Committees has proven to be unsuccessful.
This work, whose author was a winner of the Holt Prize (which is a publishing award named after the late co-founder of The Federation Press) is a fascinating read. It raises legitimate concerns as to the role of ministerial advisers in all areas of government and offers some useful suggestions for reform.
Queensland Law Reporter – 7 October 2016 –  39 QLR