Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his decision to appoint himself to several secret ministries despite the release of a scathing report.
The ministries report, delivered on Friday by former High Court judge Virginia Bell, called Mr Morrison’s conduct corrosive to trust in government.
Mr Morrison appointed himself Minister for Health, Finance, Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Treasury and Home Affairs without the knowledge of most of the minister-designates.
The former prime minister said he welcomed the report’s findings and indicated he would not resign from parliament.
“At all times as Prime Minister, I have sought to exercise my responsibilities in such a way as to best advance and protect Australia’s national interests and the well-being of the Australian people,” Mr. Morrison in a statement.
“I note the criticisms made of my decision to be allowed to administer a series of departments where ministers had specific powers not subject to cabinet control.
“These decisions were made during an extremely difficult time, when there was considerable urgency needed. I note that the criticisms of my decisions were made after the fact.”
The report revealed that Mr Morrison had undermined public trust in the government, while also revealing that he had sought advice on appointing himself to a secret sixth ministry.
Ms Bell said advice had been sought from Mr Morrison on his appointment to the agriculture, water and environment portfolio in 2021, but the former Prime Minister did not proceed to the decision.
She makes six recommendations in the report, including the obligation to publicly notify the appointment of ministers.
She also recommends publishing details of the ministers appointed to administer the ministries and outlining the different responsibilities when more than one is appointed in the same ministry.
The changes are expected to be discussed at the federal cabinet meeting on Monday.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the decisions about secret ministries were unprecedented and wrong.
“It is very clear that this is a scathing report that is an indictment of the Morrison government and the culture of secrecy,” he said.
While Mr Albanese said his predecessor misled Parliament, he did not say whether Mr Morrison should step down.
Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor said criticism of Secret Ministries was a storm in a teacup.
“We will work with the government on all reasonable proposals to bring clarity and transparency and that’s fine,” he told Sydney’s 2GB radio.
Independent MP Zoe Daniel, who supports changing the law to prevent such things from happening again, said she hoped Mr Morrison would ‘stand up in parliament and apologize unreservedly to the people of Australia’ without having to be compelled to do so by the Privileges Committee.
“Scott Morrison breached the public trust in the extreme by appointing himself to secret ministries, but by the time we discovered the public was already well aware of the underlying problem and had ousted his government over concerns regarding lack of integrity.”
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