Former PM Scott Morrison says secret portfolios were 'necessary'
Former prime minister Scott Morrison has downplayed revelations he was secretly sworn in to five ministerial portfolios and he stands by his decision to do so.
"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 Morrison said the country was facing its biggest crisis since World War II in the shape of the Covid-19 pandemic at the time, saying he was sworn in as a precautionary measure and stressed what he did was legal.
It has been revealed Mr Morrison had appointed himself to the finance, treasury, health, home affairs and resources portfolios between March 2020 and May 2021.
He said the fact that the ministers were unaware was evidence of how little interference he had with the portfolios.
"I did not want any of my ministers to be going about their daily business any different to what they were doing before," Mr Morrison said, explaining why all of the ministers, bar Health Minister Greg Hunt, did not know about the decision.
"I was concerned that these issues could have been misconstrued and misunderstood and undermine the confidence of ministers in the performance of their duties at that time."
Morrison apologises to his ministers
Mr Morrison rejected suggestions he did not have the courage to tell the ministers in question. He did reveal however he has since apologised to them for the offence caused.
Mr Morrison said he would continue to serve as the MP for Cook but has yet to make a decision to contest the next election.
He was repeatedly pushed by Sky News journalist Andrew Clennell, and warned the reporter at one point he would not be "bullied in this press conference".
Malcolm Turnbull slams Scott Morrison's 'appalling' secret move
'Disrespectful' detail in first parliament sitting sparks uproar
Mr Morrison also called on the media to respect the privacy of his family, saying photographers had been waiting outside his home, capturing images of his wife and children.
Following the press conference, ABC journalist Patricia Karvelas said Mr Morrison's address had only "poured fuel on the fire".
The solicitor-general is preparing advice for Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to be delivered on Monday on whether there are other legal issues at play relating to Mr Morrison's actions.
Following Mr Morrison's press conference, Mr Albanese slammed his predecessor.
"The first rule of power grab club is don't talk about power grab club. And Scott Morrison broke that rule today," he told reporters.
"Scott Morrison was evasive, he was defensive, he was passive aggressive and he was self-serving.
"So at least he was true to himself today. What we saw was all of his characters on full display. Blaming everybody else, not accepting any responsibility."
He said Mr Morrison's lack of transparency at the time was "incomprehensible".
Minister unaware of move calls for Mr Morrison's resignation
On Tuesday, former home affairs minister Karen Andrews, one of the unwitting cabinet ministers who shared their portfolio with Mr Morrison, said he "betrayed" Australians and called for him to quit politics.
Mr Morrison had earlier defended the move in a Facebook statement, saying the Covid-19 pandemic meant his government was faced with an "unprecedented" scenario.
"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.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers called the move "dictatorial" and questioned whether Opposition Leader Peter Dutton knew about the moves while part of Mr Morrison's cabinet.
"Peter Dutton has the choice here — whether he stands up to Scott Morrison or sucks up to him. That's the test of leadership," he said moments before Mr Morrison faced the media.
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