Between Law and Convention: Ministerial Advisers in the Australian System of Responsible Government

Electoral Regulation Research Network Seminar

Monday 27 March 2017


  • Dr Yee-Fui Ng

About the Seminar:

Ministerial advisers have been increasingly thrust into the limelight through scandals that appear on the front page of the newspapers. Political advisers have also come to prominence through television series such as The Thick of It (UK),The West Wing (US) and The Hollowmen (Australia). The rise in significance of political advisers has occurred in Westminster countries such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada. This has led to increasing scrutiny of their role and influence in traditional Westminster advisory systems.

This seminar will trace the rise in the power and significance of Australian ministerial advisers. It will show the fundamental shift of the locus of power from the neutral public service to highly political and partisan ministerial advisers. The talk will address the issue of whether there are any constitutional conventions that regulate the appearances of ministerial advisers before parliamentary committees. This talk draws on material from interviews with prominent Australian Ministers and Members of Parliament from all political persuasions. Interviewees include former senior Ministers such as Peter Costello, Lindsay Tanner, Kim Carr, Peter Reith, Philip Ruddock, and David Kemp.  Several former State Premiers were also interviewed, including John Brumby, Steve Bracks, John Cain, and Geoff Gallop.

Yee Fui Ng

About the Speaker:

Dr Yee-Fui Ng is a Lecturer in Law at RMIT University. She has written widely on issues in law and politics. Her book, Ministerial Advisers in Australia: The Modern Legal Context, was published by Federation Press as a finalist for the Holt Prize. Dr Ng has practised as a solicitor in top-tier law firms in Melbourne, London, and Canberra. She has worked as a Policy Adviser at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, a Senior Legal Adviser at the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, as well as a Manager at the Victorian Department of Justice.