Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has sought to appoint himself to a secret sixth ministerial portfolio, a report has revealed.
Former High Court judge Virginia Bell’s report on Mr Morrison’s secret ministries revealed memoirs had been prepared for him to be appointed Minister for Agriculture, Water and the Environment .
However, he later decided not to go ahead with the decision to appoint himself to this position.
Former agriculture minister and now Nationals leader David Littleproud told AAP he was unaware that Mr Morrison had asked for such advice.
‘It was regrettable and wrong Mr Morrison signed up for any portfolio without informing the firm,’ Mr Littleproud said.
Mr Morrison has appointed himself minister for the departments of health, finance, industry, science, energy and resources, treasury and home affairs, unbeknownst to most ministers or named departments.
But the Bell report released on Friday revealed that plans had been drawn up in April 2021 for a sixth wallet to be added to the mix.
“The Prime Minister’s Office has also instructed (the Prime Minister and Cabinet Department) to prepare a brief for the appointment of (Mr Morrison) to administer the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment “, says the report.
“Subsequently, Mr Morrison decided not to proceed with the appointment to administer (the department).”
The report notes Mr Morrison’s concern in finding the role related to “powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999”.
The EPBCA is the central piece of Commonwealth environmental legislation, which comes into play when a major project such as a gas development, mine, resort or pulp mill has the potential to impacting heritage, wetlands, endangered species, marine areas and water resources among other topics.
Mr Morrison admitted taking over the Resources portfolio on April 15, 2021, which he used to veto the PEP11 gas project off the NSW coast, against the wishes of then Minister Keith Pitt .
But until the publication of the Bell report, his interest in the environmental role was not known to the public.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Morrison told AAP, when asked why the wallet had been sought, “‘As made clear in the report, Mr. Morrison chose not to seek permission to administer this department”.
Asked about Mr Morrison’s action, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek told AAP: “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Scott Morrison also wants to be appointed environment minister. “
“What’s important now is to make sure this can never happen again,” she said.
The report, released on Friday, called the secret appointments corrosive to trust in government.
Ms Bell recommended that six changes be made as a result of the report, including the implementation of legislation requiring public notifications of the minister’s appointment
She took aim at Mr Morrison’s decision not to inform ministers of his appointment to their portfolios.
“It is difficult to reconcile Mr Morrison’s choice not to inform his ministers of the appointments out of concern that he would not be seen as second guessing them,” the report said.
Mr Littleproud said the Nationals would work constructively with the Government on the reforms “so that the position of our democratic institutions is protected in the future”.
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