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PM: Diane Morcom Retirement + Cabinet Manual

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister Address at Function to Mark the Retirement of Cabinet Secretary, Diane Morcom and to Launch the 2008 Cabinet Manual Grand Hall Parliament, Wellington 5.30 pm Tuesday 15 April 2008

Tonight’s gathering has two important purposes : to thank and farewell Diane Morcom, Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council, and to launch the updated Cabinet Manual.

The two purposes fit well together. As Diane departs, taking her extensive knowledge and experience of the Cabinet system with her, we know that an important part of her legacy is a revised Cabinet Manual which will provide sound guidance to Ministers and others for years to come.

First let me reflect on some of the key qualities Diane has brought to her role in the Cabinet Office.


Diane joined the Cabinet Office in 1991, following a distinguished career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The diplomatic skills Diane gained there have continued to stand her in good stead in the Cabinet Office, where tact, judgement and strong relationship skills are vital.

Service and dedication

Diane is the embodiment of a dedicated public servant. In the Cabinet Office, first as Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet and then as Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council, Diane has worked for three Prime Ministers and four Governors-General, and experienced five elections. Her leadership of the Cabinet Office team and her dedication and professionalism have contributed greatly to the functioning of governments over many years.

Diane’s thoroughness and attention to detail can be seen in all aspects of the Cabinet Office’s work, from the care with which Cabinet minutes are crafted, to the comprehensive planning she has undertaken for significant events. These include in recent times, the award of the Victoria Cross to Corporal Willy Apiata, and the arrangements supervised from New Zealand for the recent thanksgiving service at Windsor for the life of Sir Edmund Hillary.

Prudence and propriety

Diane has always brought a thoughtful and considered approach to her work. She has offered careful and appropriate advice, and always upholds the institutions and principles which underlie the Cabinet system. At the same time, she has looked ahead – anticipating where problems might lie, preparing for the unforeseen, and making changes where needed.

Judgement and advice

Underlying all these qualities has been Diane’s ability to exercise good judgement and give advice which can be relied on. For that reason, Diane has had the respect of Prime Ministers, Ministers, Governors-General, and colleagues in the public service. As Clerk of the Executive Council, working to both Governors-General and Prime Ministers, and as Secretary of the Cabinet, conveying advice and decisions between Ministers and the Public Service, Diane has ensured that processes have worked smoothly.

The high quality and the nature of the advice which Diane gives is closely paralleled by the nature of the guidance in the Cabinet Manual – it too is a sound and trusted source of advice on the processes of executive government. So it is fitting that we should gather here not only to farewell Diane, but also to launch the 2008 edition of the Cabinet Manual, the production of which she has supervised.

Cabinet Manual

The Cabinet Manual is an authoritative guide to the system of Cabinet government. It is regularly updated so that it remains relevant and reflects the changes which take place in our system.

The Cabinet Manual records the constitutional conventions and principles which surround Cabinet government. It is also a practical tool to which Ministers and others working in government can turn.

I see the strong system of Cabinet government as one of the great strengths of the New Zealand political system, and the Cabinet Manual is an important and reliable guide to that system.


Diane’s understanding and support of the Cabinet government system is reflected in this careful revision of the manual. As Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council, Diane has been a promoter of good process, proper procedure, and sound decision-making.

Thank you, Diane, for your work on this new edition of the Cabinet Manual. It is but a small part of the contribution you have made to the Cabinet Office. Thank you also for your dedication and judgement as Cabinet Secretary, and for your sound advice to me as Prime Minister, over many years.

I wish you all the best for the future.


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