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Meeting Protocol


General Principles for Council Meetings

Council meetings

  1. Meetings are held at least once each year, and generally no more than twice each year. Video and teleconferencing are used at other times where necessary to consider particular matters.
  2. When possible, meetings are synchronised with those of the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment (MCTEE) to optimise Ministers' attendance.
  3. The locations of Council meetings are generally restricted to the capital cities of Australia and to Alice Springs or, when New Zealand chairs, by negotiation with New Zealand as per COAG protocols.
  4. Council meetings are structured according to the areas of school education, early childhood development and youth policy programs, around a central core of cross-sectoral items to facilitate the most convenient attendance arrangements for Ministers according to their portfolio responsibilities.
    Youth Affairs items may be taken as a group in the meeting to enable those Ministers only responsible for youth issues to rationalise their attendance arrangements. If necessary, this may involve a meeting of Youth Ministers prior to the full MCEECDYA meeting. Any such preliminary meeting would be chaired by the Youth Minister for the chairing jurisdiction and resolutions recorded as part of the minutes of the full meeting of MCEECDYA.
  5. Items for inclusion on a MCEECDYA agenda are those proposed by Ministers, or by officials acting on their Ministers’ behalf, through the MCEECDYA Secretary. Final decision on the items to be included on the agenda is the responsibility of the MCEECDYA Chair (see below – Chairing Arrangements).
  6. Agenda papers for meetings are distributed to Ministers at least 3 weeks prior to meetings. Agenda papers are confined to 5 pages or less. Attachments total no more than 20 pages. Substantial reports (including those from taskforces and working parties) are circulated separately and in advance to Ministers and relevant senior officials. Thus the agenda papers in respect of such reports provide only brief summaries and key recommendations. Where recommendations require follow-up action, full details are provided consistent with Ministers' requirements for transparent accountability.
  7. Agenda papers which are not received for circulation 3 weeks prior to meetings are identified at the outset of the meeting and the agreement of the meeting to consider these items is sought either immediately prior to each item, or as a group at the start of the meeting, at the Chair's discretion.
  8. Ministers who have raised an agenda item or provided papers are asked by the Chair to introduce discussion of the agenda item.
  9. Voting, if necessary, is on the basis of one vote for each government.
  10. No casting vote is held by the Chair.
  11. New Zealand abstains from voting on matters which could intrude on the central functions of the development and coordination of policy, problem solving and joint action by jurisdictions within the Australian Federation.
  12. To assist liaison with the Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment (MCTEE), the Chief Executive Officer of MCTEE is invited to attend Council meetings as an observer.
  13. Ministers may agree on any official communiques of the outcomes of meetings, and these are made by the current Council Chair soon after the meeting.

Chairing arrangements

  1. The position of Chair of Council rotates between the States and Territories, the Australian Government and New Zealand. Rotation occurs on an annual basis for a calendar year.
  2. In any year, the position of Deputy Chair is held by the next year's incoming Chair.
  3. The cycle of rotation is as follows:
    2011 Victoria
    2012 New Zealand
    2013 Western Australia
    2014 New South Wales
    2015 Australian Capital Territory
    2016 Queensland
    2017 Northern Territory
    2018 Tasmania
    2019 South Australia
    2020 Australian Government
  4. Meetings may be held in Australia when it is New Zealand's turn to chair the Council (see pt. 1.3 under 'Council Meetings'). Formal correspondence and negotiations involving Australian Commonwealth/State arrangements and agreements during the year of New Zealand's chairing may need to be dealt with either by the immediate past Chair for the first 6 months and the incoming Chair for the second 6 months of that year, or by some other arrangement negotiated with New Zealand and supported by Council.
  5. The Chair of the Council manages the operation of the Council and its Secretariat. This includes the clearing of agendas and meeting arrangements. If necessary, the Chair may be assisted by a small Ministerial Executive comprising the incoming and immediate past Chairs and the senior Australian Government Minister.
  6. Early in each year, the Chair contacts all Ministers and arranges for a timetable of meetings and agendas for the year. If necessary, a meeting is organised by video or teleconference or facsimile/email to finalise these arrangements.

Meetings of senior officials

Senior officials meet regularly as the Australian Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs Senior Officials Committee (AEEYSOC). The AEEYSOC meeting held prior to the Ministerial Council meeting is held at least 5 weeks prior to Council to allow for proper consideration of the issues.

In addition, meetings may take place by request of Ministers in Council or at the request of the Chair in consultation with Ministerial colleagues.

Council may request such officials to meet in order to:

  1. preview some or all of the agenda items of a Ministerial Council meeting;
  2. carry out follow-up actions on matters arising from a Ministerial meeting;
  3. monitor specified collaborative activities across systems and sectors.

Council will determine the agenda for such meetings. The nature and scope of the agenda will also determine the membership of such a forum from meeting to meeting. The Chief Executive of MCTEE may be invited to attend or be represented at any such meetings of officials requested by Ministers, and will be invited as an observer to attend Ministerial Council meetings.

Standing orders for Council meetings

The following standing orders reflect a combination of procedures formally agreed to over time by the former Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA), historical precedents and normal rules of meetings of organisations.

Chairing arrangements

Meetings of MCEECDYA are chaired by the Minister designated as the annual Chair, according to the roster agreed to in Hobart in December 1993 (see point 3 under Chairing Arrangements). If the Chair is unable to attend or is temporarily absent, the position of Chair is assumed by the Deputy Chair (ie the incoming annual Chair) unless alternative arrangements have been made by the Chair. These arrangements are normally made with the assistance of the Secretary of MCEECDYA.

Briefing by Secretariat

Briefing notes for each agenda item are prepared for the Chair by the Secretariat. These briefing notes attempt to take into account all last-minute additional information and are provided to the Chair shortly before the Council meeting. If the Chair requires, a briefing meeting is arranged by the Secretariat at a convenient time prior to the meeting.

Preliminary procedural matters

The Chair, prior to the conduct of formal business, attends to the following preliminary matters:
  1. opening remarks, including welcoming new members and recording apologies, and any housekeeping announcements;
  2. as appropriate, recognition of the rights of the traditional owners of the land on which the meeting is occurring;
  3. adoption of the agenda and seeking special requests from members regarding placement of items; 
  4. confirmation of the Minutes of the previous meeting and any other unconfirmed minutes or out-of-session authorisations; and
  5. confirmation that all matters arising from Minutes of previous meetings have been dealt with.

Procedure for dealing with individual items

Unless otherwise requested, the order of dealing with items shall be as listed on the agenda. For each item, the Chair will:
  1. briefly introduce the item, indicating if any alternative resolutions (on blue paper) have been tabled, and invite members to indicate if they wish to propose any other amendments;
  2. ask the proposer of the item or originator of the paper to introduce discussion;
  3. invite general discussion from other Ministers;
  4. give the proposer of the item right of reply;
  5. ask Council to consider (in order, if more than one – see point 7.2 below) each amendment or alternative resolution;
  6. ask the proposer(s) of amendment(s) or alternative resolutions to explain their proposals and seek reactions generally from members;
  7. seek a reaction from the proposer of the original motion, who may:
    1. accept the amendment(s), which would mean the amended motion could be put to the vote;
    2. not accept the amendment(s), in which case the Chair has two courses of action:
    • to put the amendment or alternative to the vote as a foreshadowed motion; or
    • to suggest a small writing group of officials be given the task of developing a compromise resolution to take account of the original and the amendment(s). This would then come back as a foreshadowed motion later in the meeting. In the interim, the original resolution (on yellow paper) is put on hold and remains the motion before the Chair.

    When the writing group's compromise resolution is circulated, this is put as a foreshadowed motion and, if successful, it becomes the resolution.

    If the foreshadowed motion is defeated, the Chair proceeds.

  8. after any/all amendments have been dealt with, if none has been accepted, put the original motion to the vote.
First drafts of resolutions (on pink paper), especially those with substantial amendment or alteration, will be circulated for checking by members, although this may not be possible for the final series of items debated. The Chair may wish, at convenient points during the meeting, ie before or after a break, to return to these items to gain members' confirmation of the wording of the draft resolutions.

Tabling of alternative resolutions and amendments

If members wish to table alternative resolutions or amendments to draft recommendations contained on the yellow coversheets for items, they provide these to the Secretariat for copying on blue paper and indicate at that time whether they wish such documents to be distributed in advance of the relevant item or held by the member for distribution at an appropriate time. The Secretariat indicates on the 'blue' the time and date received and the instructions given regarding circulation.

Normally, time of distribution to Ministers constitutes a basis for priority of consideration; however, in some circumstances it may be preferable to change the order to achieve more effective debate.

Speaking rights at Council meetings

Council meetings are forums of Ministers who are normally the only speakers. Officers attending meetings with their Ministers speak only on the approval of the Chair and at their Minister's request to the Chair. In such cases, their function is to provide factual information to clarify points raised and not to carry argument.

Where Ministers are unable to attend a meeting, they may, with the approval of the Chair, nominate a representative (either another Minister from their government or a chief executive from their portfolio) to speak on their behalf. It is desirable that such arrangements are formally conveyed to the Chair via the Secretariat in advance of the meeting.

With the approval of the Chair, arrangements may be made for eminent persons, eg Chairs of major relevant committees or reviews, to address the meeting and answer members' questions. Such persons would normally only attend for that part of the meeting.

Order of speaking

The Chair requests the sponsor of the motion, or, in the case of a taskforce report, the Minister from whose department the taskforce Chair has been selected, to introduce discussion on each item. In the case of some items, it is appropriate to seek a first reaction from a particular Minister with specific interest, such as the Australian Government Minister, then ask in turn whether Ministers from other governments wish to comment.

The Chair would normally ask New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Norfolk Island if they wish to comment, even on those items specifically related to Australian Government–State relations.

Finally, the Chair offers right of reply to the Minister originally proposing the resolution and then requests that Minister to put the motion. Alternatively, the Chair may move adoption of the motion.

Voting procedures

Voting, if necessary, is on the basis of one vote for each government. If a Minister has designated a senior officer as his/her representative, the designated person exercises that Minister's right to vote.

No casting vote is held by the Chair. In the event of a tied vote, the status quo remains.

New Zealand abstains from voting on matters which could intrude on the central functions of the development and coordination of policy, problem solving and joint actions within the Australian Federation. As observers, Papua New Guinea and Norfolk Island have no voting entitlements.

Press releases/information statements

Media releases on items of general public interest may be issued during, or at the conclusion of, Council meetings. The coordination and distribution of media releases is undertaken by the Chair's Press Officer with the assistance of other members' Press Officers.

Any formal press release is made by the Council Chair.

In consultation with the Chair, the Secretariat prepares general information statements, and after the draft minutes have been circulated and comments received, these can be distributed to a wider audience.

Minuting and follow-up actions

The Secretariat is responsible for the production and distribution of draft minutes to Council members within five working days of the meeting.

Comments and suggested amendments to the draft minutes are then provided to the Secretariat. On receipt of comments and suggested amendments, the Secretariat liaises with the Chair regarding revised draft minutes, which are forwarded as final minutes to Council members according to the normal distribution formula.

Copies of the final minutes are also forwarded to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) after each meeting. PM&C circulate these minutes to other First Ministers' Departments.

For formal confirmation the final version is included in the set of agenda papers for the subsequent major meeting of the Council.

In consultation with the Chair, the Secretariat is responsible for carrying out follow-up actions arising from the minutes.


 Page last updated 14 Feb 2011

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