Former prime minister Scott Morrison's decision to appoint himself resources minister was "inconsistent" with constitutional conventions, according to legal advice provided to the government.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Tuesday released advice from the solicitor-general on the legal implications of Mr Morrison's decision to secretly swear himself into five ministries.
While the advice said Mr Morrison was validly appointed to the role of resources minister in April 2021, the legal advice said the secrecy surrounding the appointment was unusual.
"In summary, the solicitor-general has concluded that Mr Morrison was validly appointed by the Governor-General to administer the various departments to which he was appointed," the prime minister said.
Mr Albanese said making the solicitor-general's opinion public is a "one-off".
"Today, given the highly extraordinary and unprecedented nature of this issue, I am releasing opinion as a one-off. It should not be considered to be a precedent," he said.
Scott Morrison owes Australians an apology
Mr Albanese said his predecessor owes the Australian public an apology for secretly assuming the additional ministerial roles.
"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," Mr Albanese said.
A further inquiry will take place and Mr Albanese said further reform is needed to ensure something like this doesn't happen again.
Proper advice will be sought and further action will be made based upon that advice.
"I want to run a government that gets proper advice and makes decisions based upon it and in contrast to what we have seen of the shambles and chaos of the government that we have succeeded," he lamented.
Mr Albanese said the ordeal is something that should not be dismissed.
Last week, Mr Morrison insisted him being secretly sworn into the additional roles was necessary.
"Only I could really understand the weight of responsibility that was on my shoulders and on no one else, and as a result, I took the decisions that I thought I needed to take," he told reporters on Wednesday.
"I took the calls that I thought were necessary."
Mr Albanese said Mr Morrison's press conference last week "raised more questions than provided answers".
Today I announced the Cabinet has agreed to an inquiry into how the former Prime Minister secretly appointed himself to multiple ministries.
Our democracy is precious. Australians deserve to know who is responsible for making decisions on their behalf. pic.twitter.com/WsGvzKgX4W
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) August 23, 2022
Former PM should face "severe consequences"
Mr Morrison took on health, finance, treasury and home affairs – as well as the industry, science, energy and resources portfolio – between March 2020 and May 2021.
His colleagues and the Australian public were unaware the former prime minister assumed these positions.
Mr Morrison claims he only used his powers to interfere with the portfolios once.
On that occasion, he intervened as co-resources minister and blocked the PEP-11 gas exploration licence off the NSW coast after then-resources minister Keith Pitt approved the project.
Earlier on Tuesday, deputy prime minister Richard Marles called for Mr Morrison to face “severe consequences” for his actions.
Mr Albanese acknowledged several people had expressed their opinions on the matter, pointing out Karen Andrews had called for Mr Morrison’s resignation.
“That in my view is a matter for Mr Morrison and his colleagues,” he said.
“Quite clearly, I think that Mr Morrison's behaviour was extraordinary. It undermined our parliamentary democracy and he does need to be held accountable.”
- with AAP
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