Former Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has revealed his fury at Scott Morrison over his secret power grab while Prime Minister in an explosive book extract published on the eve of a report to be handed down on the secret ministerial powers saga.
Political journalist and author Niki Savva has recounted a conversation between Mr Morrison and his then Liberal Party deputy after Mr Frydenberg learned of what the Prime Minister had covertly done. His response provided "further proof that Scott Morrison had lost touch with reality," she wrote in the extract published Friday.
"Almost immediately after Albanese’s stunning announcement [of what had occurred], Morrison tried to contact Frydenberg, ostensibly to apologise ... Frydenberg ignored Morrison’s first few attempts, not trusting himself to speak to him," she wrote.
When Mr Morrison did make contact with the former Treasurer, the PM remained somewhat defiant, saying he would do it again given the circumstances that arose during the Covid pandemic.
"What really stuck in Frydenberg’s mind, and his craw, was Morrison’s response in that initial conversation when a profoundly disappointed Frydenberg put it to him that: ‘You wouldn’t do it again if you had your time over!’ Morrison replied: ‘Yes I would."
Among the numerous portfolios that he secretly oversaw was that of Mr Frydenberg's, while the former PM continued to publicly describe the pair as "the best of friends".
"The fact he did take it, and it was not made transparent to me and others, was wrong and profoundly disappointing," Mr Frydenberg said, describing it as "extreme overreach".
By the former treasurer's telling, his boss had "no coherent explanation" for what he had done.
"Frydenberg can’t actually remember Morrison using the ‘s’ word - sorry," Savva wrote.
The damning insights are laid out in the upcoming book Bulldozed, named after Mr Morrison's chosen analogy to describe his governing style. The extract comes as former High Court judge Virginia Bell handed down a report into the affair on Friday.
In her findings, she blasted Mr Morrison's secrecy. "Once the appointments became known, the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government," she wrote. "Given that the parliament was not informed of any of the appointments, it was unable to hold Mr Morrison to account in his capacity as minister administering any of these five departments."
Ms Bell recommended six changes to be made following the report, including implementing legislation requiring public notifications of the appointment of ministers.
Morrison saga could prompt changes from next week
Mr Morrison appointed himself to administer the departments of health; finance; industry, science, energy and resources; treasury; and home affairs.
Earlier the solicitor-general found it was "impossible for the parliament to hold ministers to account for the administration of departments if it does not know which ministers are responsible for which departments".
Ms Bell was also asked to look at the implications arising from the appointments for the functioning of departments, and for accountability and public confidence in government.
The government had earlier pledged to start work on implementing any recommendations as early as next week.
Former Liberal PMs critical of Morrison's actions
Former Liberal prime ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have all expressed concerns about Mr Morrison's action.
Mr Abbott described it as "highly unconventional, highly unorthodox" and said it "shouldn't have happened".
Mr Morrison updated his parliamentary biography earlier in November to include the ministries.
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