Estimated reading time 4 minutes 4 Min

Scott Morrison breaks silence on secret ministry: ‘Sometimes we forget’

Former prime minister Scott Morrison has defended his move to be sworn into a number of portfolios, saying the pandemic was an unprecedented time.

August 16, 2022
By Dominic Giannini
16 August 2022

Scott Morrison has broken his silence on why he was sworn in to a number of ministries, saying it was a decision taken as precaution during the middle of the pandemic.

The former prime minister has 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,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB on Tuesday.

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

Mr Morrison called the actions “a two key approach”.

“We had to take some extraordinary measures to put safeguards in place,” he said.

“Fortunately, none of these in the case of the finance and health portfolio were ever required to be used.

“The powers in those portfolios, they weren’t overseen by cabinet. The minister … in both cases had powers that few, if any, ministers in our federation’s history had.”

ELECTION22 SCOTT MORRISON Officials were pressured into releasing a statement about an asylum seeker boat by Scott Morrison.
Scott Morrison has defended his decision to secretly appoint himself to several portfolios. Image: AAP

Mr Morrison said he didn’t recollect other ministries he took on outside health, finance and resources but documents reveal he was also sworn in to oversee aspects of the social services portfolio. 

“No, not to my knowledge no,” Mr Morrison said when asked directly if he was sworn into social services. 

Mr Morrison was forced to clarify his position minutes later, saying: “I don’t recall that but I mean, as I said, there was some administrative issues done. I don’t dispute that.

“I’m happy if there are other (portfolios) to be out there.”

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.

Mr Morrison said all actions were taken to ensure the “buck stopped with the prime minister” as he had no legal powers to directly order a minister to take a certain decision. 

“If I wished to be the decision maker, then I had to take the steps that I took,” he said of a call to overrule resources minister Keith Pitt on a controversial NSW gas project, PEP-11.

It was regrettable … but things were moving quickly at the time

Scott Morrison

“People know where the buck stops and the buck stops with the prime minister. I sought to be the decision maker on that issue because of its importance.”

Mr Morrison says his failure to inform then finance minister Mathias Cormann he had been sworn into his portfolio was an oversight, thinking the information had been passed on through offices.

“It was regrettable … but things were moving quickly at the time,” he said.

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

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’s job is to take the advice of the government of the day. I don’t intend to pass judgement.”

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.

More in Top Stories