Hurley’s spokesperson says the governor-general was “following normal process and acting on the advice of the government of the day”, in appointing Morrison to these extra jobs.
The wording is extremely prudent.
Of course, it is “normal process” for a governor-general, the Queen’s representative in Australia, to act on the advice of the government of the day.
That is what governors-general do, unless, like Sir John Kerr in 1975, they are prepared to court a constitutional crisis by sacking an elected government.
Hurley, clearly not wanting to flirt with a crisis, declares “the appointments were made consistently with section 64 of the Constitution”.
And what does section 64 say, given that our Constitution doesn’t so much as recognise the existence of a prime minister?
“The governor-general may appoint officers to administer such departments of state of the Commonwealth as the governor-general in council may establish,” the document says.
“Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the governor-general. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s ministers of state for the Commonwealth.”
So that – being a section airy enough to permit a clutch of constitutional experts and a prime minister obsessed with control to hold a leisurely barn dance in it – clears the governor-general of anything particularly improper, even if Morrison’s exotic jobs were held “during the pleasure of the governor-general”.
Hurley apparently sees little pleasure in the matter, and also wants us to know he didn’t have to do any special swearing-in ceremonies for the prime minister.
In circumstances where ministers were appointed to administer departments other than their own, “the governor-general signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister”.
And there, once again, appears to be the essence of it: it was Morrison’s doing.
Indeed, a close reading of Hurley’s statement suggests he is keen to move on from the whole affair now it is out in the open.
“Questions around appointments of this nature are a matter for the government of the day and the department of prime minister and cabinet,” his spokesperson declared.
“Similarly, the decision whether to publicise appointments to administer additional appointments is a matter for the government of the day”.
Audacious? Yes. Bizarre? Certainly.
But constitutionally valid? It would appear so, given that even the Constitution keeps the existence of a prime minister a secret.