So, the Dominion Post reports ("Banks, Dunne strike a deal with National"):
"Dunne - a strong 1080 opponent - will also keep his Associate Minister of Health post. He will be a minister outside cabinet, which means he is not bound by collective responsibility."
No. Not quite.
The position on this has been settled for a number of years now,* and is more nuanced than that.
1. The general rule is that Ministers, whether full Ministers or Associate Ministers or Ministers in or outside Cabinet, are bound by collective responsibility.
2. However, Ministers from support parties (usually outside Cabinet) may only be bound by collective responsibility in relation to their assigned portfolios, if the relevant governance agreement so provides.
As the Cabinet Manual and applicable Cabinet Circular record:
"Ministers outside Cabinet from parliamentary parties supporting the government may be bound by collective responsibility only in relation to their particular portfolios. Under these arrangements, when such Ministers speak about issues within their portfolios, they speak for the government and as part of the government. When they speak about matters outside their portfolios, however, they may speak as political party leaders or members of Parliament rather than as Ministers, and do not necessarily represent the government position. When such Ministers represent the government internationally, they speak for the government on all issues that foreign governments may raise with them in their capacity as Ministers."
The confidence and supply agreement just agreed between National and United reflects this:
United Future agrees to fully represent the government's position and be bound by Cabinet Manual provisions in respect of any areas within the portfolio responsibility of the Leader of United Future, and to support all areas which are matters of confidence and supply.
In other areas "agree to disagree" provisions will be applied as necessary.
Where there has been full participation in the development of a policy initiative outside of any portfolio responsibility held by the Leader of United Future, and that participation has led to an agreed position, it is expected that all parties to this agreement will publicly support the process and the outcome."
In other words, selective collective responsibility applies. A subtle, but important, difference.
More thoughts on the confidence and supply agreements in due course, once any agreement with the Māori Party is settled. From a public law perspective, there are some other tid-bits to note.
* I have earlier suggested that the convention regarding collective responsibility might be evolving further, as Ministers from support parties may, in practice, be given some greater flexibility to "agree to disagree" in respect of their own portfolios. But, if this is the case, it is (a) rare; and (b) not yet reflected in the governing Cabinet protocols.