The Solicitor-General has found that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison acted within the confines of the law when he secretly appointed himself to a number of ministries during his term in office.
In the report from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet released on Tuesday, August 23, Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue concluded that the appointments were “valid” but that “the principles of responsible government are fundamentally undermined” given the portfolios were appointed in secret.
“The Governor-General has no discretion to refuse to accept the Prime Minister’s (Mr Morrison’s) advice in relation to such an appointment,” the report states.
“Nor is there any constitutional or legislative requirement for notification of such an appointment as a condition of its validity, or for the Minister to subscribe another oath or affirmation following such an appointment.
“The end result is that, to the extent that the public and the Parliament are not informed of appointments that have been made under s 64 of the Constitution, the principles of responsible government are fundamentally undermined.”
Despite the advice from the department on the validity of Morrison’s actions, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called for an independent inquiry into the matter, claiming that “this isn’t something that can be just dismissed”.
“In summary, the Solicitor-General has concluded that Mr Morrison was validly appointed by the Governor-General to administer the various departments to which he was appointed,” Albanese told reporters.
“The advice is, I think, a very clear criticism and critique of the implications that are there for our democratic system of government of what happened under the former Morrison Government.
“This is something that goes to our very system of government which the Solicitor-General’s advice makes clear.”
Today I announced the Cabinet has agreed to an inquiry into how the former Prime Minister secretly appointed himself to multiple ministries.
Our democracy is precious. Australians deserve to know who is responsible for making decisions on their behalf. pic.twitter.com/WsGvzKgX4W
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) August 23, 2022
Albanese demanded that Morrison apologise to the Australian public for his actions.
“Scott Morrison owes the Australian people an apology for undermining our parliamentary democracy system of government,” he said.
“And it’s one thing to see this as an issue between him and Josh Frydenberg or other individuals. He misses the point here completely. This is about the Australian people.”
Morrison has staunchly defended his decision to appoint himself the Health, Treasury, Home Affairs, Resources, and Finance portfolios.
In his first press conference since reports of the secret portfolios sage emerged, the Member for Cook claimed his actions were “necessary” and provided him the opportunity to “act in the national interests”.
“These were extraordinary times no Prime Minister, I think, has faced the same combination of circumstances — be it the pandemic or indeed the drought, the global recession and the Australian recession caused by the pandemic and the many other natural disasters that befell the country over that period of time,” Morrison told reporters on August 17.
“It was a very difficult time. It was a very unusual time. It was a very extraordinary time.
“There was a clear expectation established in the public’s mind, certainly in the media’s mind that I as Prime Minister was responsible, pretty much for every single thing that was going on.
“People held me, rightly, to account for that.”
Despite Morrison’s justification, calls have continued to grow for Morrison to resign with the likes of conservative commentator Andrew Bolt, Shadow Home Affair Minister Karen Andrews and Senator Jacqui Lambie demanding Morrison step down.