'I call bulls***': Governor General under fire for 'misleading' claim in Scott Morrison saga

·News Editor
·3-min read

A constitutional law expert has given a scathing assessment of the governor-general's explanation for his role in secretly swearing Scott Morrison into five federal government ministerial roles.

Governor-General David Hurley said in a statement, via a spokesperson on Wednesday, that he had no reason to believe the decisions by the former prime minister would not be publicly announced.

"The governor-general had no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated," the spokesman said.

"Any questions around secrecy after the governor-general had acted on the advice of the government of the day are a matter for the previous government."

However the claim doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Governor-General David Hurley's statement has been described as 'evasive' and 'misleading'. Source: AAP
Governor-General David Hurley's statement has been described as 'evasive' and 'misleading'. Source: AAP

Given the timeline of Mr Morrison swearing himself in to oversee various portfolios, and the fact the previous instances had not been disclosed, it beggars belief the governor-general didn't know it would be kept secret, argues Dr Luke Beck.

The Professor of Constitutional Law at Monash University didn't mince his words on Thursday morning when asked about the official's defence.

"I'm calling bulls***," he said on ABC radio.

"He in fact actually knew. Maybe he didn't know for the first appointment, but after that first appointment was never publicised, he then appointed Morrison to four other additional ministries (as much as a year later).

"And on each occasion the governor-general knew that none of those were being made public. So the governor-general knew after the first one that these were not being communicated publicly."

Dr Beck described the statement as "evasive" and, on that particular point, "misleading".

Not used to hearing profanities on her nationally broadcast breakfast show, host Patricia Karvelas didn't hide her surprise.

"If you're just tuning in we're speaking to a constitutional law expert, who just used a swear word very early in the morning.

"Children are listening Luke Beck," she said, prompting the professor to apologise.

"I will refrain," he responded.

Dr Beck added his voice to the chorus of criticism highlighting the dangerous precedent set by Mr Morrison's actions.

"We have never had secret ministers in the past. This is new, this is unprecedented ... It has always been known to Parliament who the ministers are."

Former prime minister and federal Member for Cook Scott Morrison during a long-winded press conference on Wednesday. Source: AAP
Former prime minister and federal Member for Cook Scott Morrison during a long-winded press conference on Wednesday. Source: AAP

To date, ministerial appointments have been publicly noted in the Gazette, the official government publication for notices.

"This whole saga – and the core of the blame rests with Scott Morrison, let's be clear about that – is a breach of constitutional conventions and has undermined our principles of responsible government," Dr Beck said.

Scott Morrison's explanation labelled 'delusional'

It comes after Scott Morrison gave a lengthy press conference on Wednesday in which he tried to justify his actions. Amid calls for him to resign from Parliament, including from his own Liberal Party colleagues, Mr Morrison remained defiant.

"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 said.

"I did not want any of my ministers to be going about their daily business any different to what they were doing before," he said, explaining why he kept his own ministers in the dark.

The press conference prompted bewilderment from many political commentators, including Channel 10's Political Editor Peter van Onselen who described it as "just delusional".

His successor was equally uncharitable.

"Scott Morrison was evasive, he was defensive, he was passive aggressive and he was self-serving," prime minister Anthony Albanese said Wednesday.

"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."

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