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Scott Morrison also secretly sworn into social services portfolio

The prime minister has received legal advice on whether Scott Morrison breached the constitution by swearing himself into ministerial portfolios.

August 16, 2022
By Dominic Giannini and Andrew Brown
16 August 2022

Scott Morrison was sworn into a fourth portfolio, with documents revealing more about the former prime minister’s moves to secretly install himself across his government’s ministries. 

An administrative arrangements order for the social services portfolio was signed by Mr Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley on June 28, 2021, on top of him also being privately sworn in as health minister, finance minister and resources minister. 

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.

However, Mr Albanese told the ABC: “The governor-general acted on the advice of the government of the day. It is Scott Morrison that initiated this extraordinary and unprecedented action.

Clearly other ministers knew … they chose not to make it public

Anthony Albanese

“The governor-general’s job is to take the advice of the government of the day. I dont intend to pass judgment … 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 Im properly briefed,” he said.

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

Former agriculture minister David Littleproud has called on Mr Morrison to explain himself.

“He owes it to the Office of Prime Minister and the exalted position that we have this this country to reflect and actually give an explanation to clear this up and give clarity,” he told the ABC.

“That is the honourable thing to do, to give the respect to the highest office that any Australian can be elected to in this country.”

Helen Haines says while there was uncertainty around the COVID pandemic and what would happen if the health minister fell ill, there was no reason for the secrecy.

“But the fact he chose not to tell anyone about this, the fact many members of his cabinet didn’t know about this, but this covered multiple portfolios,” she said.

SCOTT MORRISON SWEARING IN Scott Morrison says his ministerial intervention was prompted by unprecedented circumstances.
Scott Morrison says his ministerial intervention was prompted by unprecedented circumstances.

“The prime minister has a responsibility to inform the parliament, the public and to inform his cabinet.”

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

He 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 news.com.au.

Mr Pitt has issued a statement saying he was unaware Mr Morrison had joint oversight of his portfolio and that he stands by the decisions he made.

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

“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 Mr Morrison had sworn himself into the cabinet positions.

“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.

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