Australia

Scott Morrison doesn’t ‘recall’ being sworn in as social services minister as secret portfolios grow

Former prime minister Scott Morrison has broken his silence following revelations he was secretly sworn into extra portfolios during his tenure, saying he took the measures as safeguards in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday morning, it was revealed Mr Morrison was sworn into a fourth portfolio, with documents showing more about the former prime minister’s moves to secretly install himself across his government’s ministries.
It was previously revealed that Mr Morrison was appointed to the portfolios of health, finance and resources (alongside other ministers) in 2021
“We were dealing with quite extraordinary circumstances, and as a result … we had to take some extraordinary measures to put safeguards in place,” he told 2GB radio.
“None of these, in the case of the finance and the health portfolio, were required to be used, they were there as a safeguard, they were there as a redundancy.”

“People know where the buck stops and … the buck stops with the prime minister.”

An administrative arrangements order for the social services portfolio was signed by Mr Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley on 28 June 2021. This was in addition to also being privately sworn in as health minister, finance minister and resources minister.
Mr Morrison told 2GB while he “could not recall” being sworn into social services, he did not dispute the reports.
“There were a number [of portfolios] that were considered at the time for safeguard reasons, but I don’t recall any others being actioned,” he said.

“But there may have been others that were done administratively … for the same reason, for the same precaution.”

People know where the buck stops and … the buck stops with the prime minister.

Scott Morrison

The former prime minister also claimed a text message exchange published on Monday by Sky News had been “misunderstood”.
Mr Morrison was quoted as saying “since leaving the job I haven’t engaged in any day-to-day politics”.
He told 2GB he was still committed to doing the job of “being the local member for Cook”.
“What I’m not doing is, as a former prime minister, putting my two cents in on every single issue.”
Mr Morrison’s predecessor Malcolm Turnbull – the former head of the Australian Republican Movement – voiced his concern about Mr Morrison’s actions and those of the governor-general and attorney-general.
“We should be very concerned that a PM, an Attorney General, the Governor General and apparently their officials thought Morrison’s sinister secret state appointments were legitimate,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

“All showed a grave lack of respect for and understanding of democratic governance.”

On Monday night, Mr Turnbull told the ABC the secret swearing-ins were “one of the most appalling things” he had ever heard.

“I’m astonished that Morrison thought he could do it. I’m even more astonished that the Governor-General was party to it … this is sinister stuff.”

Prime minister briefed

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declined to directly express his support for the governor-general when asked to on Tuesday morning, as the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet inquires into the legality of Mr Morrison’s leadership arrangements.
“The governor-general acted on the advice of the government of the day. It is Scott Morrison that initiated this extraordinary and unprecedented action,” Mr Albanese told the ABC.
“The governor-general’s job is to take the advice of the government of the day. I don’t intend to pass judgement … blame for this lands squarely on the former government. Clearly other ministers knew … they chose not to make it public.”
Mr Albanese indicated there could be further portfolios Mr Morrison swore himself into.
“There may well be more but I’ll have more to say about that when I’m properly briefed,” he said.

“There are checks and balances in this system and they’ve been deliberately undermined by the former prime minister.”

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