Politics Analysis

Secretive Scott Morrison and the skeletons in his Cabinet

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Scott Morrison secretly gave himself powers to jointly run the health, finance and resources ministries during the pandemic (Image by Dan Jensen)

Recent revelations that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison secretly swore himself in as a co-minister in three portfolios may explain why he stood so firmly in the way of a Federal ICAC.

Because people with nothing to hide have no need to skulk around in the dark, usually.

And Morrison loves the dark. Has there ever been a prime minister, or even a senior cabinet minister, since Federation who was so opposed to transparency – to open and honest dealings with the public − as this bluff figure?

It seems unlikely.

The full litany of Morrison’s surreptitious actions is far too long to catalogue in such a short column, but still, certain examples stand out.

Such as in press conferences, when PM Morrison was pushed, he would invariably either filibuster; make the asinine statement, “I reject the premise of your question”; attack the interrogator; or, if none of that worked, simply walk away, refusing to answer any more questions. His media appearances were simply PR exercises, in no way designed to elucidate the electorate.

The fact this was so readily accepted by those in attendance is yet another sad indictment of the parlous state of Australia’s popular media.

This state of affairs was taken to the next level by Morrison as Immigration Minister in the Abbott Government when he took the almost inconceivable and unprecedented step of refusing to answer any questions about boat arrivals. Morrison said he would not be commenting on any “on water matters” ─ and that was that.

Since practically every question put to him related in one way or another to refugee boats, Morrison had given himself a free pass to escape almost all scrutiny in his portfolio. And this was just accepted by the mainstream media, such that it became the norm.

Notably, Morrison had a trophy on his desk of a shiny refugee boat, carrying the caption, ‘I stopped these’. Yet given his media blackout, Australia’s lazy media had no clear way of saying if he had ─ which, in fact, as IA revealed at the time, he had not.

Scotty from Marketing is never one to let the truth get in the way of a good splash.

Like in 2019, soon after the Election, when Morrison took a secret holiday to Hawaii while Australia blazed in a wildfire inferno unlike any the continent had hitherto suffered.

Even more relevant to recent revelations, Morrison ran roughshod over freedom of information legislation. As PM, he even implemented new legislation declaring his “National Cabinet” of state ministers to be a subcommittee of the Federal Cabinet to prevent disclosure of its discussions. He did this after the Federal Court declared the National Cabinet not to be a part of the federal executive.

Morrison the politician played it fast and loose, but always with the same goal: preventing voters from discovering the full story about his activities.

And so, the latest revelations should come as no surprise, as reprehensible and shocking as they indeed are.

When the news first broke, it was not clear whether Scott Morrison swearing himself in as second health, finance and resources minister, respectively, when COVID struck was even legal. His then Attorney-General Christian Porter – who has since skulked away from politics – declared that it was.

The Governor-General has since issued a statement indicating that he was aware of Morrison's self-appointments indicating that these particular secrets were thus only kept secret from the Australian people:

The Governor-General, following normal process and acting on the advice of the government of the day, appointed former Prime Minister Morrison to administer portfolios other than the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet...


...Questions around appointments of this nature are a matter for the government of the day and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Similarly, the decision whether to publicise appointments to administer additional portfolios is a matter for the government of the day.

The question of whether the Governor-General should now resign in disgrace is a matter for another column.

Then there's the question of which journalists knew — also a matter for another column.

But certainly, the whole affair is so irregular – so outside the long-established conventions of responsible government − that it should stretch the credulity of any objective observer. The argument proffered by the authors of the revelation, Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers from The Australian, was that Morrison needed these additional powers in case any of those ministers were struck down by the virus, as Opposition Leader Peter Dutton apparently had been at the time.

Yet this proposition seems utterly absurd, given arrangements for assistants and other ministers to act in portfolios when any relevant minister is incapacitated are routine.

It is especially nonsensical, given Morrison did not make himself a duplicate defence minister with Dutton. Indeed, the only minister from whom he co-opted power that he allegedly informed was then Health Minister Greg Hunt, who labelled the move akin to the “divine right of kings”.

Former Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and former Resources Minister Keith Pitt both claim they were unaware that they were sharing their portfolios with the “god-king” Prime Minister. In Pitt’s case, he discovered his ministerial powers being used by Morrison in a decision about a New South Wales offshore gas project, despite Pitt apparently being in perfect health at the time.

It has since emerged that several other ministers were also aware of Morrison's surreptitious extra ministerial duties. Amazingly, some were apparently “shocked” but none saw fit to inform the Australian people of these secretive arrangements.

None of this makes any sense, unless one suspects that perhaps some perfidy was afoot. The scenario becomes much more understandable if one entertains the possibility that Morrison may have used the cover of COVID to push through certain decisions in select portfolios for his own nefarious ends, whatever those may be.

Of course, there may be an entirely innocent explanation that we at Independent Australia cannot for the life of us conceive and this publication makes no assertion one way or another.

Still, Morrison was steadfast in his opposition to a Federal ICAC with the capacity to hold him accountable. But now, Morrison is a mere backbencher, out of power, with a rejuvenated new Labor Administration threatening to legislate such an authority by the end of this year.

While the former Prime Minister may have no skeletons hiding in his secret cabinet, it should still be the very first matter a newly instituted national integrity commission chooses to investigate.

IA founder David G Donovan shares this column almost every Tuesday morning. Follow Dave on Twitter @davrosz. Also follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

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