“The advice is a very clear critique and a critique of the implications that exist for our democratic system,” Albanese said, describing the events as “highly extraordinary and unprecedented.”
Albanese, who defeated Morrison in a federal election in May, has been scathing about his predecessor, who appointed himself to five high-level government posts, including health; Finance; finance and home affairs; and industry, science and resources, between 2020 and 2021, mostly without the knowledge of the ministers who held each position.
The attorney general found that Morrison’s secret appointment to the portfolios was “valid” but “inconsistent with the conventions and practices” of responsible government.
The secret portfolio revelations emerged last week in excerpts from a book published about Morrison’s time in office, based on interviews the former leader gave to the authors.
Morrison defended his actions in a lengthy Facebook post last week and on Tuesday repeated his claim that he thought it was “wise” to give himself powers should the responsible minister become incapacitated during the pandemic.
“I can only say that I made the decisions that I made as prime minister with the best of intentions, in good faith.”
Some of his former colleagues were reportedly furious that they had not been informed of what the Australian media has referred to as a “power grab”.
Former Home Affairs Secretary Karen Andrews, whom she said she was unaware Morrison had appointed himself to her post, urged him to leave politics. “He needs to resign and he needs to leave Parliament,” Ella Andrews told Sky News last week.
Morrison has so far resisted calls to resign.
Few details about the investigation and its scope are known, but Albanese said it would be led by an “eminent person with legal expertise.” It wouldn’t be a political investigation, she said, but “there are clearly a lot of questions that have been raised.”
Some of the questions the government wants answered include “why did this happen, how did it happen? Who knew it happened? What are the implications for our parliamentary system? Are there any legal implications behind the decisions that were made?” How can we prevent this from happening again? the prime minister said.
Morrison is known to have used the power on at least one occasion to reject an application for a license to explore for gas off the coast of New South Wales. The company involved, BPH Energy, is seeking judicial review of the government’s decision to reject the request.
Albanese said Morrison’s decision to take on new roles may have had other consequences, as yet unknown.
The former prime minister “was the health minister and the industry minister at a time when we are considering an mRNA vaccine manufacturer in Australia,” Albanese said.
And he said Morrison may have influenced funding decisions within the departments he held.
“I know it’s certainly not normal practice for the prime minister to be appointed as the final decision maker for grants of over $800 million to a manufacturing fund. Now that’s also in my opinion something that is a problem.” for accountability,” Albanese said. he said.
Morrison mocks the controversy
The controversy took on a life of its own on social media, where users airbrushed Morrison’s face onto images of people playing different roles. The general theme was that Morrison was everywhere, especially where you least expect him.
Morrison seemed to lean into the trend by commenting on the images and later creating a few of his own, including one that featured his face superimposed on the image of a comedy troupe.
“It’s been fun joining in on all the memes,” Morrison said in the accompanying post. “But now there are so many I can’t go on. As Australians, we can always laugh at ourselves.”
However, Albanese made it clear that he was not amused by Morrison’s attempt to brush the criticism aside.
“This undermining of the parliamentary system of government, of the whole Westminster system and our democratic traditions of accountability, is no laughing matter,” he said last week.
And on Tuesday, Albanese said Morrison should apologize to the entire country.
“Scott Morrison owes the Australian people an apology for undermining our parliamentary democracy system of government that we have, something that cannot be taken for granted.”