Australia

Scott Morrison was censured over the ministries scandal. He could now face a fresh investigation

KEY POINTS
  • Scott Morrison could face a privileges committee inquiry.
  • Greens will ask Speaker Milton Dick to consider the matter.
  • The former prime minister was censured by parliament on Wednesday.
Scott Morrison is facing fresh pressure over the secret ministries scandal, just a day after becoming the by parliament.
Speaker Milton Dick is considering whether Mr Morrison will be referred to parliament’s powerful privileges committee, after he was secretly granted control over five key cabinet posts while in office.
If referred, the former prime minister could front a secretive panel of his fellow MPs to explain his actions further, before a report is filed to parliament.

Mr Dick rejected a Greens bid to have the matter referred in October, saying there was insufficient evidence Mr Morrison had deliberately misled parliament.

Greens leader Adam Bandt is concerned Mr Morrison deliberately misled parliament. Source: AAP / Lukas Coch

But Greens leader Adam Bandt on Thursday revived his push, saying, finding Mr Morrison’s actions undermined trust in democracy, has strengthened his case.

“Speaker, I ask that you consider whether … [it] constitutes a deliberately misleading of the House,” he told Parliament on Thursday.
Mr Morrison did not tell four of the five ministers whose portfolios he co-opted. Mr Bandt is concerned he was in contempt of parliament by failing to disclose the appointments to the House of Representatives.

The findings from an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s actions by former High Court judge Virginia Bell were handed down last week.

Mr Dick said he would take time to consider the motion before reporting back to parliament.
“It’s important that I consider this material carefully and thoroughly for the benefit of all members,” he said.
Mr Morrison became the first former prime minister censured by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, a symbolic expression of parliament’s disapproval.
His impassioned defence on Wednesday, in which he strongly criticised the censure motion as “political intimidation”, is key to Mr Bandt’s renewed push for a privileges referral.

Mr Morrison conceded giving himself authority over the Treasury and home affairs portfolios was “unnecessary”, and said he welcomed the findings of the Bell inquiry.

What is the privileges committee?

The highly secretive committee, made up of 13 MPs from across the political divide, is responsible for disciplining politicians.

It is tasked with investigating individual MPs for potential contempt of parliament, or breaches of privileges rules, before reporting back to the House.

Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton delivers his Budget Reply Speech

Peter Dutton is urging people to move on from the saga. Source: AAP / Mick Tsikas

The committee operates in private, and would give Mr Morrison the chance to defend himself against any allegations.

The committee is currently chaired by Labor MP Rob Mitchell, and includes Mr Morrison’s key ally, Liberal MP Alex Hawke.

What are Scott Morrison’s colleagues saying?

Coalition leader Peter Dutton is urging his colleagues to move on from the scandal, the day after almost all Opposition MPs rallied around the former prime minister.
Speaking to 2GB Radio on Thursday, Mr Dutton claimed Wednesday’s censure motion was motivated by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s “hatred” of his predecessor, accusing Labor of fixating on “silly games” as cost-of-living pressures mount.
“It’s time to be prime ministerial, and he’s acting like he’s still in Opposition,” he said.
“The government’s been elected. There are lots of issues facing our country. That economic conditions are deteriorating.
“What they tried to do [on Wednesday] was trash the Morrison government’s record … I just think people’s patience will run out … if they continue with it for too long.”
But Mr Albanese argued the Coalition had given their former leader’s actions a tacit endorsement by refusing to back Labor’s censure motion.

“This was the House of Representatives declaring that our Westminster System matters, that responsible government matters,” he told the ABC’s 7.30 on Wednesday.

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