Malcolm Turnbull has slammed former prime minister Scott Morrison amid claims he had secretly sworn himself into four ministerial portfolios while in government, calling the move “appalling” and “sinister”.
Mr Turnbull didn’t hold back when addressing the revelation about his successor during an interview on ABC’s 7.30 program on Monday night.
“I think this is one of the most appalling things I have ever heard in our Federal Government,” he said.
“I mean, the idea that a Prime Minister would be sworn in to other ministries, secretly, is incredible.
“I’m astonished that Morrison thought he could do it, astonished that prime minister and cabinet went along with it.
“And I’m even more astonished that the governor-general was party it to. I mean this is sinister stuff.”
On the weekend, The Australian reported Mr Morrison swore himself in as health minister and finance minister, alongside his own ministers, after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.
Mr Morrison also swore himself in as resources minister in 2021 and used his powers to overturn a decision by former minister Keith Pitt to approve a controversial gas project off the NSW coast, according to news.com.au.
On Tuesday morning, it was revealed Mr Morrison was sworn into a fourth portfolio.
An administrative arrangements order for the social services portfolio was signed by Mr Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley on June 28, 2021.
Former prime minister @TurnbullMalcolm says the revelations about Scott Morrison secretly appointing himself to several ministries is “sinister stuff”, and “one of the most appalling things” he has ever heard in federal government. #abc730 pic.twitter.com/6jthgXOY8c
— abc730 (@abc730) August 15, 2022
'It is very sinister': Malcolm Turnbull on Scott Morrison
Mr Turnbull said the “unusual” and “unprecedented” move flies in the face of democracy.
“It is very sinister because it is a secret,” he said.
“Doing things in this secret way, I mean, what's democracy about? I mean, fundamentally, we, the people, are entitled to know who is governing our country.”
When asked why Mr Morrison had sworn himself into the cabinet positions while in office, Mr Turnbull told 7.30 he “can’t understand it”.
“Let's assume as prime minister — I know what that's like — you felt that you needed to have the discretions and authorities of the health minister or the finance minister. Well, then, you should do it openly.
“You should be sworn to those portfolios and then explain why you want to do it.”
Pressure is mounting on Mr Morrison to explain his actions, which Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says he wasn't aware of.
A spokesperson for Governor-General David Hurley said he followed processes consistent with the constitution when he appointed Mr Morrison to the additional portfolios.
“It is not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“These appointments do not require a swearing-in ceremony. The governor-general signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister.”
Albanese receives legal advice
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declined to directly express his support for the governor-general when asked to on Tuesday morning, as the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet inquires into the legality of Mr Morrison’s leadership arrangements.
However, Mr Albanese told the ABC: “The governor-general acted on the advice of the government of the day. It is Scott Morrison that initiated this extraordinary and unprecedented action.
“The governor-general’s job is to take the advice of the government of the day. I don’t intend to pass judgment ... blame for this lands squarely on the former government.
“Clearly other ministers knew ... they chose not to make it public.”
Mr Albanese indicated there could be further portfolios Mr Morrison swore himself into.
“There may well be more but I'll have more to say about that when Im properly briefed,” he said.
“There are checks and balances in this system and they've been deliberately undermined by the former prime minister.”
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