World

Ex-Australia PM held five additional portfolios, Albanese says

August 17, 2022 6:19 am

[Source: BBC]

Australia’s former PM Scott Morrison secretly held five roles in the ministry, the current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says.

He described his predecessor’s actions as an “unprecedented trashing of our democracy”.

Mr Morrison is facing calls to resign as an MP following the revelations, which began emerging on Monday.

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But he has defended his actions, saying it was during the Covid pandemic and he “acted in good faith in a crisis”.

On Tuesday Mr Albanese said he had been told by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that Mr Morrison became joint minister for the health, finance, treasury, home affairs and resources portfolios in the two years before losing power in May.

This “deliberately undermined the checks and balances that are so important and essential for our democracy”, Mr Albanese said.

He added that it was “completely extraordinary” that these appointments had been kept secret from Australian voters.

Some ministers – including the then finance minister Mathias Cormann – were reportedly unaware they were sharing portfolios with Mr Morrison.

Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews told local media she would tell Mr Morrison to resign as an MP.

“For a prime minister to behave in this manner undermines everything that a federal government constitutionally should stand for,” she told news.com.au.

However in a long Facebook post Mr Morrison sought to explain his conduct, which he said was designed to ensure government could continue operating if ministers were incapacitated by Covid.

“The risk of Ministers becoming incapacitated, sick, hospitalised, incapable of doing their work at a critical hour or even fatality was very real,” he said.

He admitted that appointing himself to the extra portfolios had been unnecessary and said he had forgotten doing so. “There was a lot going on,” he said.

But his decision to assume the resources portfolio was different, he said, because he needed to gain the powers to overrule his minister and block a controversial gas project.

“Once having been given the authority to consider this matter I advised the Minister of my intention to do so…” he said. “I believe I made the right decision in the national interest.”

Mr Albanese said he would be receiving legal advice on Mr Morrison’s actions from Australia’s Solicitor General.