Scott Morrison says ‘I don’t recall’ if he secretly appointed himself to even MORE jobs

Scott Morrison says ‘I don’t recall’ if he secretly appointed himself to even MORE jobs

Scott Morrison was secretly sworn in as home affairs minister and treasurer during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as taking on at least three other portfolios, Anthony Albanese has revealed. 

The Prime Minister has received an internal briefing detailing which ministries Mr Morrison took control of after it emerged he was sworn in as health minister, finance minister and resources minister.

The revelations mean Mr Morrison was jointly in charge of at least five ministries at once without telling the public, with unconfirmed reports he was later sworn in as social services minister.

It is not clear if former Treasurer Josh Frydenberg or ex Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews were aware that Mr Morrison was sharing their jobs. 

Mr Morrison was not paid extra from the additional roles, Mr Albanese said. 

The Prime Minister has received an internal briefing detailing which ministries Mr Morrison took control of during his time in power

Scott Morrison’s secret jobs 

Health: Sworn in on 14 March 2020

Finance: 30 March, 2020

Home Affairs: 6 May, 2021

Treasury: 6 May, 2021

Industry, Science, Energy and Resources: 15 April, 2021

These are the jobs he had between March 2020 and May 2021 

Speaking in Canberra on Tuesday, Mr Albanese said his predecessor made a mockery of Australia’s Westminster system of government which is designed to ensure power does not reside with one person.

‘Scott Morrison, and others who were involved in this, deliberately undermined those checks and balances that are so important and essential for our democracy,’ he said after receiving the briefing from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mr Morrison earlier claimed he cannot recall if he was secretly sworn into more ministries than health, finance and resources.

The former PM said he secretly appointed himself with ministerial powers in several portfolios as a ‘safeguard’ during the Covid-19 crisis.

Speaking to Sydney’s Radio 2GB, Mr Morrison said he was probably not sworn into more portfolios but could not be sure. 

‘There are no other portfolios that I’m aware of but there may have been others that were done administratively,’ he said. 

During the interview, a story broke online that Mr Morrison was also sworn into the social services portfolio on June 28, 2021.

Fordham asked Mr Morrison about this and the former PM replied: ‘Ben I don’t recall that but as I said there were some administrative issues.

‘If there’s anything different to that, then you know, I’m happy for that to be disclosed.’

‘My answer for all of these is the same. We were dealing with incredible amounts of discretion and money being paid. 

‘And as prime minister, I was just putting myself in a position to ensure that I could exercise my responsibilities. It’s as simple as that.’

Asked why he did not inform the public that he had taken on additional roles, Mr Morrison said: ‘It was there only as a safeguard and it wasn’t needed. 

‘The ministers were continuing to run their portfolios without any interference. 

‘None of those powers were exercised. Should they have been used I would have obviously disclosed that.’

Scott Morrison (pictured in Parliament this month) has said he cannot recall if he was sworn into more ministries than health, finance and resources during the Covid-19 pandemic

Later on KIIS FM, Mr Morrison revealed he wanted the power in case he had to overrule his ministers.

‘The prime minister can’t overrule them necessarily unless you did what I did,’ he said. 

‘I know it was unusual and it was unusual times.’ 

Last night former PM Malcolm Turnbull described Mr Morrison’s actions as ‘sinister’ and ‘appalling’.

Mr Morrison’s secret moves were revealed in a new book, Plagued, about the federal government’s handling of the pandemic.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has blasted the secretive actions, saying Mr Morrison did not trust his own ministers.

In an ABC radio interview on Tuesday morning, he said ‘there may well be more’ portfolios that Mr Morrison had assumed.

‘We don’t have a one-person band here. What we have is a Government that has inbuilt checks and balances. And that’s why this is such a breach of convention,’ he said.

Mr Albanese said the Coalition ‘simply lost any perspective about accountability to the Australian people’ towards the end of its nine years in power. 

Nationals leader David Littleproud has slammed Mr Morrison’s moves as ‘pretty ordinary’ and even new Liberal leader Peter Dutton said he was not made aware. 

In March 2020, Mr Morrison decided he wanted to share power with the existing health and finance ministers, Greg Hunt and Mathias Cormann, to prevent them wielding too much influence over the nation’s biosecurity laws and coffers during the crisis.

Scott Morrison (pictured in March 2022) suffered insomnia and used to drug himself with sleeping pills during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the book Plagued also revealed

How was the PM secretly sworn in? 

In early 2020, Scott Morrison wanted to share responsibility with the health and finance ministers, Greg Hunt and Mathias Cormann, to prevent them wielding too much power.

He and then attorney-general Christian Porter hatched a plan to have him secretly sworn in as joint minister.

Governor-General David Hurley swore Mr Morrison in by signing an ‘administrative instrument’, meaning no public ceremony was required.

The Governor-General said the appointments were legal under section 64 of the constitution.   

The plan was hatched with the approval of attorney-general Christian Porter. Mr Morrison apparently told Mr Hunt: ‘I trust you, mate… but I’m swearing myself in as health minister, too.’ 

It was later revealed that in April 2021 the former PM was also sworn in as resources minister to prevent minister Keith Pitt from approving a huge oil and gas project off the Central Coast where Liberal members faced pressure from climate activists and teal independents. 

‘I sought to be the decision-maker on that issue because of its importance,’ Mr Morrison told 2GB on Tuesday.

‘The prime minister can’t direct the minister.

‘Those powers were not subject to the cabinet. It was important as PM that I was exercising my responsibility.’

A concerned Mr Pitt only found out in December when he wanted to move ahead with the project but the PM killed it.

‘He hadn’t made a decision and I decided to make the decision,’ Mr Morrison told KIIS FM. 

The secretive moves were slammed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese who is seeking advice as to whether the actions were legal.

‘This is quite extraordinary. Australians need a prime minister who is focused on the job that they’re given,’ he told reporters in Melbourne on Monday.

Mr Turnbull has described his successor’s actions as ‘one of the most appalling things I have ever heard in our federal government.

‘The idea that a Prime Minister would be sworn in to other ministries, secretly, is incredible,’ Mr Turnbull told 7.30.

‘I’m astonished that Morrison thought he could do it, I’m astonished that Prime Minister and Cabinet went along with it – that’s the department – and I’m even more astonished than anyone that the Governor-General was party it to.’

‘I mean, this is this is sinister stuff. This is secret government. What Albanese said today about it is absolutely right. This is the sort of thing that – it is not something we associate with our form of democracy.’

He added he never took on secret roles during his three years as prime minister. Mr Turnbull said Mr Morrison’s actions fly in the face of everything Australians believe in about democracy.

Scott Morrison secretly swore himself in as health minister and finance minister during the Covid-19 pandemic

‘Doing things in this secret way, I mean, what’s democracy about?’ he continued.

‘I mean, fundamentally, we, the people, are entitled to know who is governing our country. We need to know who is the minister for this? Who is the minister for that? If, in fact, these things are all being done secretly, that’s not a democracy.’

Explaining why Mr Morrison wanted to share power with the health and finance ministers, the book Plagued – written by journalists at The Australian – says he felt there ‘needed to be more checks and balances before any single minister could wield such powers’.

The health minister was in charge of shutting the nation’s borders and the finance minister was overseeing the largest fiscal stimulus in Australia’s history. 

The powers could not be delegated to Cabinet so Mr Morrison ‘then hatched a radical and until now secret plan with Porter’s approval.’

We, the people, are entitled to know who is governing our country

Mr Hunt was aware of the decision and Mr Morrison, Mr Hunt and Mr Porter felt the move safeguarded ‘against any one minister having absolute power.’

However, Mr Cormann was unaware that Mr Morrison was sharing his job, and Mr Pitt complained to deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce about the PM intervening on his turf. 

Asked why he didn’t tell Mr Cormann, Mr Morrison said: ‘That was an oversight. I thought it had been done through offices. That’s regrettable but things were moving very quickly at the time.’ 

He said he has apologised to the former finance minister, who now leads the OECD group of rich nations. 

In a statement on Monday, Governor-General David Hurley revealed he swore Mr Morrison in to several portfolios by signing an ‘administrative instrument’, meaning no public ceremony was required.

He appointed Mr Morrison as administrator of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources on April 15, 2021. 

‘The decision whether to publicise appointments to administer additional portfolios is a matter for the government of the day,’ the statement said. 

The Governor-General said the appointments were legal under section 64 of the constitution. 

During a press conference on Monday, Mr Albanese hit out at his predecessor. 

‘The people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were. It’s completely unacceptable,’ he said.

‘There’s an absolute need for clear transparency. These circumstances should never have arisen. 

‘You know, we do have a non-presidential system of government in this country – but what we had from Scott Morrison is a centralisation of power, is overriding of ministerial decisions, and all done in secret.’ 

Federal health minister Greg Hunt addresses the media at a press conference in March 2020

The book also reveals some of the Covid-19 restrictions that were discussed between Mr Morrison and the state premiers in the early days of national cabinet.

One idea that was not taken up was to allow drinkers into a pub for two hours on a rotation system using wristbands. 

The former PM recalled: ‘We were talking about pubs… the idea of people only being allowed in for two hours, how would you rotate them in and out – with wristbands or stamps’. 

When Gladys Berejiklian and Daniel Andrews informed the media of their March 2020 lockdowns, the other premiers were apparently furious they had not been warned first.

Ms Caisip (pictured) was eventually allowed to see her father’s casket but was forced to wear full PPE

Queensland leader Annastacia Palaszczuk and WA Premier Mark McGowan were particularly angered and Ms Berejiklian apologised for the lack of consultation, the books says. 

Premier Palaszczuk also features in the book in a chapter on state border closures. 

In September 2020 Mr Morrison phoned the premier, begging her to let 26-year-old Canberra nurse Sarah Caisip attend her father’s funeral in Brisbane after he died while she was in hotel quarantine.

Ms Palaszczuk apparently accused him of bullying her before hanging up.

”You are bullying me,” Palaszczuk accused him abruptly, before reminding the prime minister that it was R U OK? Day,’ the book says.

Ms Caisip was eventually allowed to see her father’s casket but was forced to wear full PPE and ushered by government workers wearing gloves.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured) apparently accused Scott Morrison of bullying her

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