Ex-Australian Prime Minister criticized for holding secret ministry positions
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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for an apology, but his predecessor Scott Morrison said he stood by his decision to secretly take on five ministerial portfolios during the pandemic.
Australia's parliament voted on Wednesday to censure former Prime Minister Scott Morrison for secretly appointing himself to five key ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From 2020 until mid-2021, Morrison progressively took on the roles of minister for health, finance, resources, and home affairs, as well as treasurer — all without telling the existing ministers or the public.
The appointments were only revealed in August 2022 when an excerpt of a new book about Australian politics during the pandemic was published in The Australian newspaper.
On Wednesday, the Australian parliament said the former prime minister's actions "eroded public trust in Australia's democracy. The 86-50 vote fell largely along party lines.
"He owes an apology to the Australian people for the undermining of democracy," said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, whose center-left Labor Party defeated Morrison's conservative coalition in the most recent election last May.
How did Morrison react?
The rare vote makes Morrison the first former Australian prime minister to be censured by parliament.
Morrison, who presided over a hard border closure and various state lockdowns that shielded Australia from the early waves of the pandemic, stood by his tenure as prime minister.
"For those who wish to add their judgement today on my actions in supporting this censure motion, I simply suggest that they stop and consider the following: have you ever had to deal with a crisis where the outlook was completely unknown," he said before the vote.
"I acknowledge that the non-disclosure of arrangements has caused unintentional offense and extend an apology to those who were offended," he added.
Morrison said he only used these secret powers once to block a gas exploration project that had been approved by the sitting resources minister.
Loopholes remain open
A recent inquiry by a former high court judge Virginia Bell found that although Morrison's actions were technically legal, they were nevertheless "corrosive of trust in government."
The inquiry recommended closing the loopholes that allowed Morrison to secretly appoint himself to the ministries in the first place, including a mandatory public disclosure of every ministerial appointment.
Source: zc/ar (AFP, Reuters)