Former PM questions G-G’s role in Morrison’s ‘sinister’ secret ministries

UPDATED | Anthony Albanese has received legal advice on whether his predecessor Scott Morrison breached the constitution by secretly swearing himself into three ministerial portfolios, as another ex-prime minister branded it “sinister stuff”.

Aug 16, 2022, updated Aug 16, 2022
Then Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) with Governor-General David Hurley during a swearing-in ceremony in July 2021. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

Then Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) with Governor-General David Hurley during a swearing-in ceremony in July 2021. Photo: AAP/Lukas Coch

The Labor prime minister was briefed by his department on the constitutionality of the former prime minister’s actions moves while in government, after he returned to Canberra on Monday afternoon.

On the weekend, The Australian reported Morrison swore himself in as health minister and finance minister, alongside his own ministers, after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Morrison also swore himself in as resources minister in 2021 and used his powers to overturn a decision by former minister Keith Pitt to approve a controversial gas project off the NSW coast, according to

On Monday evening, Pitt issued a statement saying he was unaware Morrison had joint oversight of his portfolio and that he stood by the decisions he made.

“I stand by the decisions I made as a minister, the fact that they were discharged correctly and they met all of the requirements under the ministerial standards,” Pitt said.

“I worked closely with the former prime minister and cabinet during a difficult time for the people of Australia.”

Albanese said the action taken by his predecessor, to jointly hold at least three portfolios, was unprecedented.

“The people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were – it’s completely unacceptable,” he said.

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the revelations about the man who toppled him for the leadership were appalling, and against the traditions of Westminster parliamentary democracy.

“I’m astonished that Mr Morrison thought he could do it, astonished that prime minister and cabinet went along with it,” he told ABC television’s 730 program.

“I’m even more astonished that the Governor-General was party it to. This is sinister stuff.”

A spokesperson for Governor-General David Hurley said he followed processes consistent with the constitution when he appointed Morrison to the additional portfolios.

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“It is not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“These appointments do not require a swearing-in ceremony. The governor-general signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he didn’t know Morrison had sworn himself into the cabinet positions while he was in office.

“Obviously the prime minister had his reasons, his logic for it, but it was not was not a decision that I was a party to or was aware of,” he told ABC Radio on Monday.

Dutton also said he didn’t know whether Morrison had sworn himself in as defence minister, which was his former cabinet position in the coalition government.

South Australian independent MP Rebekha Sharkie called on Morrison to explain himself.

She said the secret appointments showed “the fragility of democracy” and everyone involved should explain themselves in the interest of public trust.

“I think the best thing to do will be for Scott Morrison to front up to the media, and explain to the parliament,” Sharkie told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Until today, Morrison hadn’t commented, apart from a text to a Sky News anchor saying: “Since leaving the job I haven’t engaged in any day to day politics.”

However, this morning he defended keeping the multiple portfolios secret, saying they were a safeguard and that he would have made them public had he needed to use the powers involved.

“Sometimes we forget what was happening two years ago and the situation we were dealing with; it was an unconventional time and an unprecedented time,” Morrison told Sydney radio station 2GB on Tuesday.

“Boris Johnson almost died one night. We had ministers go down with COVID.”

– with AAP

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