Ex-PM Morrison ‘undermined’ govt
Solicitor-general insists secret appointments legally valid
Published: Aug 23, 2022 08:56 PM
Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said advice from the solicitor-general showed his predecessor Scott Morrison's secret appointment to ministries during the ­COVID-19 pandemic "fundamentally undermined" responsible government despite being legally valid.

The advice from the country's second-highest law officer was a "very clear criticism" of the implications for Australia's parliamentary democracy, ­Albanese told reporters on Tuesday.

Albanese said his cabinet had agreed "there will be a need for a further inquiry" into the matter, to answer questions on how the unprecedented assumption of power occurred and the need for reform.

"Scott Morrison owes the Australian people an apology for undermining our parliamentary democracy system of government that we have - something that can't be taken for granted," Albanese said.

Morrison, who stepped down as leader of the Liberal Party after losing a general election in May, has faced a barrage of criticism from the Labor government and his own party, after it was revealed he was secretly sworn in to ministries without telling parliament or his cabinet.

In the written advice, the ­solicitor-general was critical that Morrison's appointments to the ministries were not made public, saying it was inconsistent with the system of responsible government prescribed by the Constitution.

"That is because it is impossible for parliament and the public to hold ministers accountable for the proper administration of particular departments if the identity of the ministers who have been appointed to administer those departments is not publicized," it said.

Three ministers were unaware Morrison shared power over their ministries of home affairs, treasury and finance ­until last week. Morrison said he only intervened in one ministry, resources, to block an offshore gas project. The decision is now being challenged in court by the resources company.

The solicitor-general's advice was Morrison's appointment to the resources ministry was legally valid.

It also found the governor-general "has no discretion to refuse to accept the prime minister's advice in relation to such an appointment."

The governor-general as largely ceremonial head of state had approved Morrison's appointment to the ministries, on Morrison's advice, but there was no public swearing-in ceremony.