Australia

Governor-general had ‘no reason’ to believe Scott Morrison’s ministerial appointments wouldn’t be made public

Governor-general David Hurley says he had no reason to believe Scott Morrison’s self-appointments to ministerial positions wouldn’t be publicly announced, as the former prime minister resists calls to resign over the revelations.
In a statement, a spokesman for the governor-general said Mr Morrison’s decision to keep was a matter for the previous government.
“The governor-general had no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated,” the spokesman said.

“Any questions around secrecy after the governor-general had acted on the advice of the government of the day are a matter for the previous government.”

However, the governor-general’s spokesman said Mr Hurley had acted consistently on the advice of the government of the day and in line with protocols.
“The governor-general is content for the process that the prime minister has put in place to be completed and will not comment further,” he said.

“The governor-general signs an instrument to act on the advice of the government of the day. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for that process (to appoint a minister).”

Scott Morrison defends secret appointments

Earlier, in a tense first press conference since he lost the election, an under-fire Mr Morrison defended his decision to appoint himself to the finance, treasury, health, home affairs and resources portfolios during the COVID-19 pandemic between March 2020 and May 2021.
Mr Morrison said it was a lawful move that was for an emergency scenario when he would need to act in the national interest.

He said he never used the powers or overruled ministers, apart from the resources portfolio decision which saw the controversial PEP-11 gas proposal killed off.

Only one of the six ministers was told about Mr Morrison’s plans.

Mr Morrison said he kept the powers a secret to not “undermine the confidence of ministers”.

“To best of my recollection … I didn’t exercise any override of any of the ministers in any of their agencies except for (PEP-11).”
He said he was not given additional payment for assuming the additional ministerial roles.
The secret moves have been condemned by both Labor and Coalition figures, including by former home affairs minister Karen Andrews who has called on Mr Morrison to resign as the sitting member for the NSW seat of Cook.
Asked if he would step down, Mr Morrison said he was no longer prime minister and the issues raised do not relate to his role as an MP.
“I will continue to serve the member – as the member for Cook for the people of Cook with the best of my ability.”

Mr Morrison has apologised to his colleagues for keeping them in the dark.

‘Our democracy is precious’

A number of crossbenchers have flagged referring Mr Morrison to parliamentary committees.
Mr Morrison said he was happy to cooperate with any “genuine or positive process” that examined the government’s pandemic response.

Labor is considering ways to make ministerial appointments more transparent.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says he will work with the government to ensure “checks and balances are put in place to make sure it can’t happen again”.
The solicitor-general is preparing advice for Mr Albanese, to be delivered on Monday, on whether there are other legal issues at play relating to Mr Morrison’s actions.
Mr Albanese called on the former prime minister to apologise to the Australian people for “a trashing of our democratic system”, saying democracy cannot be taken for granted.
“Democracy is in retreat worldwide. There’s people fighting now in Ukraine to protect democracy … you have a rise of undemocratic regimes. Our democracy is precious, we need to defend it and strengthen it, not undermine it,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

“(It’s) a clear misleading of the parliament, whereby parliamentarians and ministers are held to account for areas in which they have responsibility.”

Several sitting parliamentarians have raised concerns that the secret appointments have now implicated the governor-general, who approved the appointments, in a political scandal.
But Mr Albanese has stood by the Mr Hurley, saying members of the former government need to take responsibility for “a trashing of our democratic system”.

“The governor-general acted in accordance with the recommendations of the government of the day. The government of the day has to accept responsibility for this,” he said.

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