Australia

‘No laughing matter’: Anthony Albanese criticises Scott Morrison for secret ministries memes

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has chastised his predecessor for making light of secretly taking on five portfolios during the pandemic.
Scott Morrison, who was sworn in to oversee the departments of health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs, on Thursday commented on memes and posted photoshopped images of himself in various groups, including as the head of the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks.

Mr Albanese expressed his dismay at Mr Morrison’s actions on Friday.

“This undermining of the parliamentary system of government, of the whole Westminster system and our democratic traditions of accountability, are something that aren’t a laughing matter,” he told the ABC.
“I’m surprised at the response of Mr Morrison to this but then again, I frankly was shocked by the revelations.”
“I’m also somewhat surprised that there’s been no concept that there’s a need to say to the Australian people that the wrong thing was done.”
It comes as Opposition leader Peter Dutton has taken aim at upcoming legal advice from the solicitor-general on Mr Morrison’s action.

As scrutiny of Mr Morrison increases, Mr Dutton said the advice would offer nothing more than a chance for Mr Albanese to criticise his predecessor.

The solicitor-general is expected to advise the government on Monday, following revelations of Mr Morrison’s series of confidential ministerial appointments between March 2020 and May 2021.
Mr Dutton said while what Mr Morrison did was wrong, Australians wanted to put the scandal behind them.
Monday’s advice was unlikely to provide “anything further than probably another opportunity for the prime minister to have a whack”, he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“And I think most people, frankly, want to move on and start dealing with issues that are more important.”

Mr Morrison could face questions from parliament’s powerful privileges committee over the secret appointments.

Greens leader Adam Bandt has written to House of Representatives Speaker Milton Dick requesting the matter be examined by the committee.
The committee would assess whether the former prime minister deliberately misled the lower house, Mr Bandt said.
“Scott Morrison’s contempt for the Australian people may also be a contempt of parliament … I want him held accountable,” he said in a statement.
The former prime minister has apologised personally to former cabinet members he had secretly shared a ministry with.

But Mr Albanese said he still owed an apology to the Australian public who were “kept completely in the dark with his shadow government operating”.

“It’s the Australian people who have had their democracy undermined,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he kept the roles confidential as he did not want to “undermine the confidence of ministers in the performance of their duties”.
He said he only used the extra powers once, to block a gas drilling project off the NSW coast.

That decision, made in 2021, is the subject of a Federal Court appeal.

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