Scott Morrison has defended his actions after secretly swearing himself into four ministerial roles while in government.
The move has sent shockwaves through the Australian parliament, with Malcolm Turnbull slamming Mr Morrison's actions as "sinister', but Mr Morrison says such steps were necessary during the pandemic.
"We had to take some extraordinary measures to put safeguards in place," he told Sydney radio station 2GB on Tuesday.
"Sometimes we forget what was happening two years ago and the situation we were dealing with; it was an unconventional time and an unprecedented time."
Mr Morrison said he didn't recollect other ministries he took on outside health, finance and resources but documents reveal he was also sworn in to oversee aspects of the social services portfolio.
The former prime minister insisted that "none of these in the case of the finance and health portfolio were ever required to be used".
"The powers in those portfolios, they weren't overseen by cabinet. The minister ... in both cases had powers that few, if any, ministers in our federation's history had," he said.
He also added that it was an "oversight" to not inform every cabinet colleague affected by his additional portfolio responsibilities, believing the information had been passed on through offices.
"It was regrettable ... but things were moving quickly at the time," he said.
Mr Morrison says he 'had to take the steps'
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 pandemic in March 2020.
He 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.
Mr Morrison said all actions were taken to ensure the "buck stopped with the prime minister" as he had no legal powers to directly order a minister to make a certain decision.
"If I wished to be the decision maker, then I had to take the steps that I took," he said of a call to overrule resources minister Mr Pitt.
"People know where the buck stops and the buck stops with the prime minister. I sought to be the decision maker on that issue because of its importance."
System 'deliberately undermined' by former PM
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese slammed the revelation as "extraordinary" while speaking to journalists on Monday morning.
"The people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were," he said. "It’s completely unacceptable."
After it was announced on Tuesday that an administrative arrangements order for the social services portfolio was signed by Mr Morrison and Governor-General David Hurley, Mr Albanese said the latter was just doing his job.
"The governor-general acted on the advice of the government of the day. It is Scott Morrison that initiated this extraordinary and unprecedented action," Mr Albanese told the ABC.
"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."
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
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 I'm properly briefed," he said.
"There are checks and balances in this system and they've been deliberately undermined by the former prime minister."
Widespread criticism over 'appalling' move
Malcolm Turnbull didn't hold back from sharing his views 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 into other ministries, secretly, is incredible."
Mr Turnbull, Scott Morrison's predecessor, said he is "astonished that Morrison thought he could do it".
"And I’m even more astonished that the governor-general was party it to. I mean this is sinister stuff," he said.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he didn't know Mr Morrison had sworn himself into the cabinet positions.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.