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Supporting the Prime Minister (Purpose 1)

Supporting the Prime Minister as the head of the Australian Government, the Cabinet and portfolio ministers.


In 2018–19, PM&C supported the Prime Minister, as the head of the Australian Government, the Cabinet and portfolio ministers through the following activities outlined in the Corporate Plan 2018–2022:

  • Providing high-quality expert advice to the Prime Minister on governance and legal policy matters
  • Supporting the integrity and effectiveness of Government decision making by providing high-quality support to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Governor-General
  • Advancing Australia’s interests through effective and well-executed programs for the Prime Minister’s overseas engagements and for incoming visits by Heads of State and Heads of Government
  • Advising the Government and informing the community about Australian honours and symbols, honouring dignitaries for their contribution to Australia with State Funerals and Memorial Services, and maintaining the Official Residences for future generations of Australians
  • Providing communications support for the Prime Minister and for government programs so that Australians understand what is being delivered, how they benefit and how to access services.


For PM&C, 2018–19 has been an opportunity to demonstrate the broad range of support and services that we provide to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, portfolio ministers and the Governor-General. In addition to the usual work of the Department, this year featured a transition to a new Prime Minister and a federal election, as well as the establishment of short-term taskforces to support work on key issues.

The Department undertook the necessary task of supporting the transition through the federal election period. PM&C provided advice on the Caretaker Conventions (See Case study: Advising government on application of Caretaker Conventions during an election period ) and to the incoming Government on the establishment of the ministry and the 46th Parliament. The commitment and drive of staff across PM&C during this critical period ensured that high quality and timely advice was provided and that the institutions of government were well supported.

PM&C continued to support high-level decision-making in Government, by ensuring that Cabinet and Cabinet Committee processes operated to the satisfaction of the Prime Minister, portfolio ministers, the Cabinet and the Cabinet Secretary.

PM&C also supported the Government throughout the year through the provision of high-quality and timely advice on Commonwealth legal policy. PM&C led work on the establishment of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability and the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety—two matters of significant importance to the Australian community.

In response to the ongoing demands of the international environment, the Department continued to build on its ability to successfully deliver complex international and domestic visits. It provided logistic and protocol support for the Prime Minister when he was representing Australia overseas, as well as for both the Prime Minister and the Governor-General in hosting foreign dignitaries as Guests of the Australian Government. This operational work complemented the policy advice and travel briefing provided to the Prime Minister by the Department (see Providing advice (Purpose 2)), with the overall aim that Australia’s international relationships and cooperation continue to be strengthened.

The Department contributed to the recognition of a diverse range of Australians through its support for Australia’s honours system. This system of awards plays a vital role in the fabric of our society, recognising many Australians, both well-known and less so, for their past and ongoing service and for their contribution to the broader community.

PM&C also provided support to the Independent Review of the APS, chaired by Mr David Thodey AO. This provided an opportunity for PM&C to contribute towards the goal of a trusted APS, united in serving all Australians.

Performance measurement shows effective delivery against Purpose 1.

Results: Criterion 1.1

Criterion 1.1

We lead the APS to ensure the public service is best placed to serve the Australian people into the future.


Corporate Plan 2018–2022


  • The Australian Government relies on our expertise and innovative advice.
  • Our advice is timely, of high quality and impactful.
  • The public service and key stakeholders capitalise on our whole-of-government perspective to best deliver priorities.
  • Our people demonstrate the qualities articulated under our four pillars of transformation: Knowledge organisation, Technologically adept, Flexible and collaborative, Inclusive and diverse



Parliamentary Document Management System data confirms that PM&C achieved a result of 94 per cent against a target of 85 per cent in terms of timeliness and advice. Independent surveys of external stakeholders and internal feedback of ministerial stakeholders confirm that PM&C achieved a result of 79 per cent against a target of 71 per cent satisfaction rating. Internal analysis through the following case studies support this achievement. PM&C was also responsible for successfully drafting 147 speeches and 318 messages for delivery by the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers.

Case study: Official visits and events

In 2018–19 the Prime Minister undertook a number of important overseas visits to participate in multilateral forums and to further enhance Australia’s bilateral relationships. PM&C successfully supported a total of 10 prime ministerial overseas visits to 12 nations over 34 days. The Prime Minister visited:

  • Indonesia (30 August–1 September 2018)
  • Singapore (East Asia Summit) (13–15 November 2018)
  • Papua New Guinea (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)) (17–19 November 2018)
  • Argentina (G20) (29 November–3 December 2018)
  • United Arab Emirates and Iraq (18–21 December 2018)
  • Vanuatu and Fiji (16–18 January 2019)
  • New Zealand (22 February 2019)
  • New Zealand (Christchurch Memorial) (28–29 March 2019)
  • Solomon Islands, United Kingdom (including the 75th D-Day commemorations, Portsmouth), and Singapore (2–7 June 2019)
  • Japan (G20) (27–30 June 2019).

PM&C also successfully delivered the incoming Guests of Government program. The Department managed a number of visits to Australia by both Heads of State and Heads of Government, highlighted by a number of visits related to the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea in November 2018.

This year’s visits included:

  • visits by Heads of State from India, Nauru and Poland
  • visits by Heads of Government from Japan, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and by the Vice President of the United States of America
  • the visit by Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex associated with the Invictus Games.

PM&C managed 175 airport facilitations for Heads of State and Heads of Government who were transiting or making private visits to Australia. The Department also managed a large number of private visits facilitated by the APEC Taskforce as part of the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea.

PM&C successfully delivered another nine events in support of the Prime Minister, including:

  • a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting and related hospitality events in Adelaide
  • hospitality for the 2019 test cricket teams from Australia and India, and the Prime Minister’s XI cricket match
  • receptions for Australia Day and for national finalists for the Australian of the Year Awards, and the Prime Minister’s Christmas Reception.

PM&C also coordinated State Memorial Services for the Hon Robert (Bob) James Lee Hawke AC (Sydney, New South Wales) and the Hon Gordon Scholes AO (Highton, Victoria); and a State Funeral for the Hon Dr John Herron AO (Brisbane, Queensland).

Case study: Recognition for the rescuers of the ‘Wild Boars’ soccer team

The Australians honours system celebrates citizens who make a difference, who achieve their best and serve others, and whose actions have set them apart. These Australians enrich our community across a broad range of professional, public and community service fields. PM&C works with Government House and the Governor-General to support the honours system and ensure timely and appropriate recognition of outstanding Australians.

In July 2018, PM&C provided support to enable swift recognition of those involved in the rescue of members of the Wild Boars soccer team from a cave in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The speed and focus of the recognition answered the public’s call for special response to a truly exceptional circumstance.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of the Wild Boars boys’ soccer team, and their coach, became stranded in the Tham Luang cave system in Chiang Rai. The boys had been exploring the caves when sudden flooding blocked their exit. Nine days later, on 2 July, and after the activation of a major international rescue effort, the boys and their coach were located four kilometres from the cave entrance.

Between 8 and 10 July 2018, all 13 members of the team were rescued from the flooded cave system.

The rescue team included divers from the United States, UK, Belgium, Thailand, France, Canada, China, and Australia. Australian divers Dr Craig Challen SC OAM and Dr Richard Harris SC OAM were two of the six primary rescue divers who escorted the boys and their coach out of the cave system, supported by a team of 90 Thai and foreign divers, including seven Australian divers from the Australian Federal Police and Royal Australian Navy. The boys were extracted one at a time, with each operation lasting over three hours in exceptionally dangerous circumstances.

To reflect the overwhelming public mood in support of the actions of the brave Australians, it was determined that the Australian Bravery Council should meet quickly and out-of-session to consider this exceptional event and consider what, if any, awards the individuals should receive. PM&C supported this consideration (as well as being represented on the Council), to ensure that timely advice was provided to the Governor-General, with the Prime Minister’s support. This included liaising with Government House and our officials in Thailand to ensure all relevant records were received and reviewed by the Bravery Council.

Days later, on 24 July 2018 the then Governor-General, General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC, and the then Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull co-hosted an investiture ceremony and reception to honour the nine Australians who entered the cave during the rescue.

Those Australians recognised were:

  • Dr Richard Harris – awarded the Star of Courage and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • Dr Craig Challen – awarded the Star of Courage and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • Acting Station Sergeant Robert James, Australian Federal Police Diver – awarded a Bravery Medal and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • Leading Senior Constable Kelly Boers, Australian Federal Police Diver – awarded a Bravery Medal and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • Leading Senior Constable Benjamin Cox, Australian Federal Police Diver – awarded a Bravery Medal and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • First Constable Matthew Fitzgerald, Australian Federal Police Diver – awarded a Bravery Medal and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • Senior Constable Justin Bateman, Australian Federal Police Diver – awarded a Bravery Medal and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • Leading Senior Constable John Markcrow, Australian Federal Police Diver – awarded a Bravery Medal and a Medal of the Order of Australia
  • Chief Petty Officer Matthew Eather, Clearance Diver, Royal Australian Navy – awarded a Bravery Medal and a Medal of the Order of Australia

Case study: APS Policy Capability Project

The APS Policy Capability Project aims to help develop policy skills and capability in individuals, organisations and systems of government across the APS. This new cross-agency project will develop professional standards, practical frameworks and tools for delivering better policy. The project was established by the APS Reform Committee of the Secretaries Board in June 2018 and will run for 18 months.

The project, hosted within PM&C, is being delivered through a multidisciplinary team comprising of representatives from 15 agencies across the APS, selected for their complementary skills and experience. It is taking an open and collaborative cross-agency approach to problem solving, delivering regular outputs through a series of policy sprints. This enables the project to refine and improve its approach over time and support the implementation of broader reforms in the policy context.

The first phase of the project (September 2018 to February 2019) harnessed extensive analysis, interviews and workshopping across the APS to develop an APS Policy Capability Roadmap. The roadmap concluded that, to lift policy capability, the APS must focus on three key areas:

  • a stronger authorising environment with greater role clarity
  • collective ownership of improvement efforts
  • common tools to support policy advisers’ development.

In June 2019, PM&C launched the Policy Hub, a new online resource to assist in making the policy work of APS agencies and individuals more impactful. The new initiative functions as a one-stop shop for guidance, information and essential tools to promote greater innovation and outcomes-based approaches to contemporary policy challenges in Australia. The Policy Hub complements the objectives of the APS Policy Capability Project by raising awareness of good policy standards; sharing lessons learned and good practices; and fostering closer collaboration across, up and down the policy community within the APS.

Results: Criterion 1.2

Criterion 1.2

The Prime Minister, portfolio ministers, and the Cabinet are satisfied with the quality and timeliness of advice and support provided on major domestic economic, social, and innovation policy, national security and international matters.


Portfolio Budget Statements 2018–19 (page 31)


  • Feedback from the Prime Minister, portfolio ministers, the Cabinet, ministerial officers and the executive shows a high level of satisfaction with the quality and timeliness of advice and support received.
  • 85% of responses to requests for briefs and ministerial correspondence are delivered within agreed timeline



Internally collected feedback from ministerial stakeholders supports a high level of satisfaction with the quality of advice and support that PM&C provides. Internal analysis presented in the following case studies supports that achievement. Internal data indicates that 90 per cent of briefs and 68 per cent of ministerial correspondence were delivered within agreed timeframes.

Case study: Advising government on application of Caretaker Conventions during an election period

PM&C played the lead role in providing advice to the Prime Minister, other ministers, our Executive and the wider APS on ensuring government operations during an election period were conducted in accordance with the Caretaker Conventions.

On 11 April 2019 the former Governor-General, General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (retired), agreed to the Prime Minister’s recommendation that an election for the House of Representatives and a half Senate election be held on Saturday 18 May 2019. The 45th Parliament was prorogued and the House of Representatives dissolved that same day.

From then, the Government assumed a ‘caretaker role’ until the outcome of the election was clear. During the caretaker period, the business of government continues and ordinary matters of administration still need to be addressed. However, the conventions are that the Government avoids making major policy decisions that are likely to commit an incoming government, making significant appointments or entering into major contracts or undertakings.

As head of the APS, the Secretary of PM&C is looked to for direction during this time and delivers official statements on the operation and cessation of the caretaker period.

The Department’s work in this area does not just start at election time. PM&C consulted stakeholders to review the Guidance on Caretaker Conventions document in late 2018. PM&C delivered presentations across the APS and worked with agencies to ensure their internal policies followed the Conventions, particularly when preparing responses to ministerial correspondence or handling Cabinet papers during the caretaker period, or undertaking any pre-election consultation with the Opposition. In total, PM&C answered 459 official inquiries on caretaker matters from a range of stakeholders, including from ministers’ offices and from, or involving, every department in the APS.

Case study: Supporting better decision-making across governments

The Australian Government and COAG are committed to improving the quality of regulation, including by minimising the burden of regulation on businesses, community organisations and individuals.

To achieve this, the Australian Government and COAG require all agencies to perform impact analysis of policy proposals. Regulation Impact Statements must be produced in line with high- level principles, requirements and processes set out by the Government and COAG.

PM&C administers the Regulation Impact Statement requirements. The Department works with agencies to help ensure that quality analysis, supported by evidence, is provided to decision- makers. PM&C also delivers impact analysis training and guidance to government agencies.

During 2018–19, PM&C fielded over 2,000 requests for assistance from agencies, separately assessed the likely impacts of over 1,300 potential policy proposals, and directly provided training to over 200 participants across 16 federal and state agencies to enhance their understanding of:

  • the steps in preparing a Regulation Impact Statement to better inform final decision-makers
  • the importance of proper problem definition and clear policy objectives
  • ways of identifying options to solve the problem and how to analyse their likely impacts.

Training activities included full-day training events held at PM&C as well as numerous bespoke workshops conducted on demand at multiple APS departments and agencies, including the Department of Home Affairs, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Department of Education, and the Australian Building Codes Board. Workshops were tailored to use scenarios and exercises neatly aligned with agency roles and day-to-day work.

PM&C conducts surveys to ensure that its training is of high quality and meets the needs of participants. In 2018–19, participants were highly supportive of the training provided. Ninety-five per cent of surveyed participants agreed that it furthered their understanding of policy- making processes and improved their confidence in undertaking impact analysis to help inform better decision-making.

Results: Criterion 1.3

Criterion 1.3

High level of satisfaction with the secretariat support services provided to the Cabinet Secretary.


Portfolio Budget Statements 2018–19 (page 32)


  • Feedback from the Cabinet Secretary demonstrates a high level of satisfaction with the timeliness and accuracy of the functions delivered.



In 2018–19:

  • ninety-eight per cent of Cabinet and Committee minutes were lodged with the Cabinet Secretary within 24 hours of the Cabinet or Committee meeting, exceeding the target of 90 per cent
  • ninety-eight per cent of items for consideration by the Federal Executive Council (EXCO) were submitted to Cabinet Division and circulated at least two business days prior to each meeting, exceeding the target of 90 per cent
  • informal feedback from the Cabinet Secretary confirmed satisfaction with the timeliness and accuracy of the functions delivered
  • PM&C supported 28 EXCO meetings and 532 EXCO documents were lodged and circulated