SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Ex-Morrison minister stunned by second portfolio post

A former minister has launched a scathing attack on Scott Morrison and one of his allies after saying she was kept in the dark over a second appointment to her ministry.

While the government gazette shows Ben Morton, a former assistant minister to Mr Morrison, was sworn in to oversee the Department of Home Affairs in March 2021, then minister Karen Andrews insists she wasn't told.

Mr Morton said he had discussions at the time with Ms Andrews, as well as the department's secretary.

But Ms Andrews said she was kept in the dark about the appointment.

"I actually had some discussions with Ben Morton about the particular program that he apparently was appointed to administer," she said on Thursday.

"At no time during those discussions did Ben Morton raise with me the fact he had been appointed to administer ... a part of the home affairs department.

"It's not okay to behave in the way that the former prime minister and others have in relation to keeping information secret. Why did Ben Morton in his many conversations with me never raise that? Why did Scott Morrison never raise that?"

But Mr Morton says the appointment was above board and not part of the Morrison secret ministry saga as it was publicly notified in the gazette on March 30, 2021.

Fellow assistant minister Michelle Landry was appointed to administer the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which was listed in the same notice.

An earlier email from departmental assistant secretary Peter Rush - released under freedom of information laws - said Mr Morrison wanted Mr Morton to have oversight of the "global talents task force" within the department.

"This would require Mr Morton being sworn to administer the Dept of Home Affairs," he wrote to Governor-General David Hurley's secretary Paul Singer.

Mr Morton served as assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet under Mr Morrison.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison said there was a difference between being sworn in to administer a department and being sworn in as a minister.

The task force dealt with whole-of-government issues which meant Mr Morton had to administer responsibilities relating to the home affairs department, he said.

Mr Morrison controversially had himself secretly sworn in to several ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic period, beginning with the health portfolio in March 2020.

He was sworn in to oversee the Department of Home Affairs in May 2021, after Mr Morton's appointment.

A report by former High Court justice Virginia Bell found Mr Morrison's appointments were unnecessary, irregular and likely to erode public trust in government due to the secrecy involved.

She made a series of recommendations, including that all future ministerial appointments be publicly disclosed by departments and in the government gazette.

In November, Mr Morrison became the first former prime minister to be formally censured by parliament over the secret appointments.

He has defended his secret ministerial appointments as providing necessary safeguards during the peak of the pandemic.