Political firestorm . . .
A furore erupted in Australia after it emerged that the country’s former Prime Minster, Scott Morrison, secretly appointed himself to five ministerial roles during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, he was added as Minister of Health and Minister of Finance. Then in April and May 2021, he assumed responsibility for three additional portfolios: Home Affairs, Treasury, and Industry, Science, Energy & Resources. He was sworn into these positions by the Governor General, but none of Morrison’s additional responsibilities were made public until the current Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, announced them earlier this week, himself having been informed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Morrison initially defended the secretive appointments as necessary emergency powers in the context of the pandemic. Albanese has described the appointments as an "unprecedented trashing of democracy."
Lack of awareness causes concern . . .
Three of the five ministers to whose ministries Morrison appointed himself did not know Morrison had done so. Karen Andrews, who was Minister of Home Affairs, claimed she had no idea Morrison had been appointed to her ministry and called on him to resign his seat in parliament. Josh Frydenberg, the former Minister of the Treasury and Deputy Liberal Party leader, who even lived with then-Prime Minister Morrison for months during the pandemic, said he learned of the appointments this week. Morrison appointed himself as Minister of the Treasury just a week before the release of his government’s May 2021 budget.
Australian politicians react . . .
While the appointments are technically legal under the Australian Constitution, or more accurately, they are not illegal, a raft of politicians, analysts and observers are criticizing them as being everything from politically inept to unnecessarily secretive to a dangerous concentration of power. Karen Andrews stated the moves “undermine[d] the integrity of government.” Morrison has since admitted that “in hindsight these arrangements were unnecessary,” although he has not explained why he kept the moves secret. The country’s Solicitor-General has been asked to investigate and is expected to offer legal advice next week. And while many are calling for a commission of inquiry into the matter and for the former Prime Minister’s resignation, Morrison is steadfastly refusing to resign his suburban Sydney seat in Parliament.
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Australian politicians’ reactions to Scott Morrison’s secret portfolio appointments
- BBC: Scott Morrison: Ex-Australia PM held five additional portfolios, Albanese says
- Reuters: Australia's Morrison says he secretly took five ministries because responsibility was his