Scott Morrison served as Australia’s 30th prime minister from 2018 to 2022. Throughout his administration, he faced criticism over his leadership style and responses to national issues. Now, it’s coming out that he also held a secret form of “shadow government” that most people inside his administration didn’t know about.
Reports have come out saying that Morrison took on additional, secret profiles during his time in office, some even being jointly held. On Monday, Governor-General David Hurley – the Queen’s representative in Australia – confirmed he had signed an “administrative instrument” allowing Morrison to take on the portfolios secretly. So, in addition to being the prime minister, Morrison also took on joint portfolios in health, finance and resources. And, he did this all without being publicly sworn in, instead secretly swearing himself into the roles.
Aside from swearing himself in as resources minister, two of Morrison’s other secret roles in health and finance were revealed in a new book, “Plagued,” by Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers. And, according to local news outlets, it wasn’t until last week that the then-Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, found out that Morrison had jointly held his role.
Australia’s current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that he’ll look into the reports of the shared portfolios and seek legal advice about if any of it was even constitutional. Either way, the move draws questions about the unethical centralization of power.
“This is the sort of ‘tin pot’ activity that we would ridicule if it was in a non-democratic country,” Prime Minister Albanese told reporters on Monday.
So far, Morrison has declined to comment on the reports, only telling Sky News: “I haven’t seen what he [Albanese] has said. Since leaving the job I haven’t engaged in any day-to day-politics.”
“It is not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility,” said the spokesperson for the governor-general’s secretary, asserting that the appointments were all constitutionally valid.
“To do it secretly in a way the public don’t know about it and your cabinet colleagues don’t know about it is incredible,” Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said to ABC’s 7:30 Report. “This is sinister stuff,” he said. “This is secret government.”
“All of this needs to be made clear,” said Nationals senator and former minister Bridget McKenzie. “If there were two ministers effectively exercising the same authority within cabinet, who was the senior minister? What if they disagreed? What implications does that have for decisions ministers made and signed off?”