Australian Leader Gave Himself Powers on the Sly

Former PM Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to ministerial roles
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 16, 2022 1:02 PM CDT
Australian PM: Predecessor Hid Extra Powers
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during a news conference in Sydney, Australia, on June 10, 2022.   (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

(Newser) – Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday accused his predecessor Scott Morrison of "trashing democracy" after revealing that while Morrison was in power, he took on five ministerial roles without the knowledge of most other lawmakers or the public. Albanese said Morrison had been operating in secret, keeping the Australian people in the dark and misleading Parliament over who was in charge of what portfolios, per the AP. "This has been government by deception," Albanese said. Adding to revelations first detailed over the weekend by News Corp. media, Albanese said that between March 2020 and May 2021, Morrison was appointed minister of health, finance, home affairs, treasury and industry—moves which appeared to have given Morrison equal powers to the ministers already appointed to those positions.

"It is completely extraordinary that these appointments were kept secret by the Morrison government from the Australian people," Albanese told reporters in Canberra. Speaking on Sydney radio station 2GB, Morrison defended taking on the extra portfolios, saying they were a safeguard during the coronavirus pandemic and that he would have made the appointments public had he needed to use the powers involved. "It was an unconventional time and an unprecedented time," Morrison told the radio station. However, Morrison used his additional powers on at least one occasion, to overturn a decision by former minister Keith Pitt to approve a contentious gas project off the New South Wales coast. Pitt said in a statement he was unaware Morrison had joint oversight over his ministerial portfolio.

In a more detailed account published on Facebook, Morrison wrote that the gas project was the only matter he got directly involved with and that "I believe I made the right decision in the national interest." Morrison said that "for any offense to my colleagues, I apologize." But Karen Andrews, who served as home affairs minister under Morrison, said Morrison never told her that he was also being appointed to the portfolio. She said Morrison, who remains in Parliament on the opposition benches, should resign. Albanese said he was seeking an opinion from the solicitor-general as to the legality of some of Morrison's moves, including on the gas project, and expected to get that on Monday. Morrison's moves were signed off by Governor-General David Hurley, whose spokesperson said he followed processes consistent with the constitution. (Read more Scott Morrison stories.)

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