Report slams former Australian PM secretly taking ministries during pandemic

Sydney, Australia, Nov 25 (EFE).- Australia’s former Prime Minister Scott Morrison “fundamentally undermined” the principles of responsible government by secretly assuming five ministerial positions during the Covid-19 pandemic, an independent investigation concluded Friday.

However, the report added that Morrison’s appointment of himself as health, finance, industry, interior and treasury minister between March 2020 and May 2021, was “not found to be illegal per se.”

“The secrecy with which the appointments had been surrounded was corrosive of trust, and thus confidence, in government,” noted the investigation, commissioned in August by current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to former High Court Judge Virginia Bell.

The report found that the principles of responsible government were “fundamentally undermined” because “given that the Parliament was not informed of any of the appointments, it was unable to hold Mr Morrison to account in his capacity as minister administering any of these five departments.”

In the document, the retired judge gave six recommendations that would provide greater transparency, which includes the enactment of laws that require the publication of details about official appointments, among others.

“The quick implementation of these recommendations will ensure that the Australian public can have full confidence that this breach of trust will never happen again,” Albanese said at a press conference after the report was released.

Morrison justified his actions were due to the pandemic

Morrison, whose Liberal-National coalition lost the general elections in May after nine years in power, justified his actions by the need to respond with “extraordinary measures” to the Covid-19 pandemic to deal with “unexpected” events such as the sudden incapacity of its ministers. 

The report also highlighted the difference between Morrison assuming the health and finance portfolios in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic and the other three ministries a year or so later when the country had already overcome two waves of the health crisis.

“These appointments had little if any connection to the pandemic. Rather, Mr Morrison was appointed to administer these departments to give himself the capacity to exercise particular statutory powers,” the report said, referring to the industry, interior and treasury departments.

The report also indicated that Morrison’s office instructed the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to draw up a brief for his appointment as Agriculture, Water and the Environment minister but that he decided not to go ahead with it. EFE

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