A report is set to shed light on how and why Scott Morrison took on multiple ministries when he was prime minister.
Former High Court judge Virginia Bell was asked by Anthony Albanese on August 26 to investigate the matter after the Solicitor General concluded that Mr Morrison’s action had ‘fundamentally undermined’ the principles of government responsible.
Mr Albanese called for the investigation to explore how and why the action was taken and who knew about it.
The Solicitor General said it was “impossible for parliament to hold ministers accountable for the administration of departments if it does not know which ministers are responsible for which departments”.
Mr. Morrison appointed himself to administer the health departments; finance; industry, science, energy and resources; Treasury; and home affairs.
Ms. Bell was also asked to consider the implications arising from the appointments for the functioning of departments, as well as for accountability and public trust in government.
It will make recommendations to the government on any changes that could ensure greater transparency and accountability.
The government has pledged to begin work on implementing any recommendations as early as next week.
Former Liberal prime ministers John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have all expressed concern over Mr Morrison’s action.
Mr Abbott described it as ‘very unconventional, very unorthodox’ and said it ‘shouldn’t have happened’.
Mr Morrison updated his parliamentary biography earlier in November to include government departments.
The portfolio roles of Health and Finance began in March 2020, while he started as Minister for Industry in April 2021, and Home Affairs and Treasury in May 2021.
He justified the action by saying the only time he used his extra powers was to veto the PEP11 resource exploration project off the NSW coast.
Mr Morrison wanted the powers only to be used in extreme circumstances ‘due to incapacity or in the national interest’.
They had not been made public because there was no consistent process for publication, he said, but in any case the authorities were legally sound.
“I can only state that I have made the decisions I have made as Prime Minister with the best intentions of doing all I can to protect Australia in the face of multiple crises,” he said. he said in a statement in August.
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