Australian PM could launch inquiry into Morrison’s secret ministries saga
Published: Aug 21, 2022 09:29 PM
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday said his government could consider an inquiry into former prime minister Scott Morrison being secretly sworn into key ministries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Morrison, who stepped down as leader of the Liberal Party after losing a general election in May, was secretly sworn in to five key ministries during the pandemic, which represented an unprecedented assumption of powers, it emerged last week.

The action has drawn criticism from the Labor government and Morrison's own party, but the former prime minister has defended the moves on the basis that he felt responsibility for the nation in the pandemic was his alone.  

Albanese said Sunday the government would receive advice on Monday from the Solicitor General, the country's second-highest law officer, on the legality of Morrison's actions.

Albanese indicated the government would also consider an inquiry and reforms to ensure the actions could not be repeated.

"We'll examine all of those issues after we receive the Solicitor General's advice. I am running a proper cabinet government, that has proper processes, and we'll give full consideration to it," Albanese said.

He said while the Solicitor General would advise on legal issues, there also were broader issues that needed to be probed.

"There's separate questions about the functioning of our democracy, about conventions and whether any conventions have been overturned, and whether there's a need for any reforms required to ensure that something like this can never happen again," Albanese said.

Albanese has previously said Morrison had attacked the Westminster system of government by secretly appointing himself to the portfolios, which included home affairs, treasury, health, finance and resources between 2020 and 2021.

Morrison said Wednesday he decided to be secretly sworn in to the five key ministries because he felt responsibility for the nation was his alone. Three of the ministers were unaware Morrison shared power over their ministries until the revelations last week, they said.

"I was steering the ship in the middle of the tempest," Morrison told reporters, recalling how the pandemic hit in 2020. "As prime minister, only I could really understand the weight of responsibility that was on my shoulders and on no one else." 

Morrison said he did not "take over" the ministries, after being sworn in by the governor general, and no ministers were interfered with except on one occasion, where he rejected a resources project.