Australia announces investigation into Morrison’s secret ministries | Politics News
The move comes after the solicitor general said the former prime minister’s actions were “inconsistent” with the practices of responsible government.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced an independent inquiry into the secret appointment of his predecessor Scott Morrison to multiple ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Albanese announced the move on Tuesday after Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue concluded that even if Morrison’s appointments were legal, they “fundamentally undermine” responsible government.
“Our democracy is precious,” Albanese wrote on Twitter. “Australians deserve to know who is responsible for making decisions on their behalf.”
Today I announced that the Cabinet had agreed to an inquiry into how the former Prime Minister secretly appointed himself to several ministries.
Our democracy is precious. Australians deserve to know who is responsible for making decisions on their behalf. pic.twitter.com/WsGvzKgX4W
—Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) August 23, 2022
Morrison, who resigned as leader of the Liberal Party after losing the general election in May, faced a barrage of criticism from the Labor government and his own party, after it was revealed that he had been secretly sworn into ministries without informing parliament or his cabinet, an unprecedented power grab.
In the written opinion, the Solicitor General criticized the fact that the public and Parliament were not informed of Morrison’s appointment to ministries.
This was “inconsistent with the conventions and practices which constitute an essential part of the system of responsible government prescribed by the … Constitution”, the council said.
“This is because it is impossible for Parliament and the public to hold ministers accountable for the proper administration of certain departments if the identity of ministers who have been appointed to administer those departments is not made public.”
Three ministers were unaware Morrison shared power over their home, treasury and finance ministries until last week. Morrison said he only intervened in one department, resources, to block an offshore gas project. The decision is now being challenged in court by the resource company.
Albanese told reporters in Canberra that the advice from the country’s second most senior judicial officer was a “very clear critique” of the implications for Australia’s parliamentary democracy.
The prime minister said his cabinet had agreed “there will be a need for further investigation” into the matter, although the nature and scope of the investigation remains to be determined.
He added that Morrison’s behavior was “extraordinary” and said his predecessor “must be held accountable”.
Morrison’s appointments were approved by Governor General David Hurley, the ceremonial head of state, but there was no public swearing-in ceremony.
Donaghue, the solicitor general, said Hurley’s actions were within convention.
“The Governor General has no discretion to refuse to accept the Prime Minister’s advice regarding such an appointment,” he wrote.
Morrison’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The former prime minister said last week that the coronavirus pandemic was an extraordinary time and that he secretly took on the ministries because he felt the nation’s responsibility was his.
Australia has a cabinet-based system that relies on a group of ruling ministers, not a presidential system.
The popularity of the Albanese government has soared since May’s election victory, with a Resolve Strategic opinion poll published by Nine Journals showing Labor had a primary vote of 42%, up from 33% in the election, ahead of the 28% of the Coalition.