Australia's former PM Morrison defends secret minister roles

He had secretly made himself health, finance and resources minister between 2020 and 2021

By Reuters

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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Published: Tue 16 Aug 2022, 11:36 AM

On Tuesday, former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended taking on extra ministerial roles without his cabinet's knowledge during the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that it was "an unprecedented time", and that the powers served as a safeguard.

On Monday, Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stated that Morrison had sought to centralise power, and that he would seek legal advice from the Solicitor-General, Australia's second law officer, on the arrangements.

Morrison's actions to make himself health, finance and resources minister between 2020 and 2021 have also drawn criticism from his Liberal party's coalition partner, the National party, and former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, as undermining Westminster parliamentary traditions.

Morrison, who lost office in a national election in May, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he didn't make the arrangements public because they were a safeguard only, and the ministerial powers for health and finance were not triggered.

"We had to take some extraordinary measures to put safeguards in place," he told radio station 2GB, likening it to having two keys on a nuclear submarine.

Morrison said it was an "oversight" and "regrettable" that the finance minister was not informed his role had been duplicated.

The resources minister role he took on in 2021 was different, he said, because he had used the power to stop approval for a gas drilling project off the coast of Australia which was opposed by local communities.

"I sought to be the decision maker on that one because of its importance," he said.

He added the powers in those three portfolios were not overseen by the Cabinet.


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