• Mon. Mar 20th, 2023

Scott Morrison breaks silence on secret ministry

Former prime minister Scott Morrison says he took the “unconventional” move to assume responsibility in several portfolios due to the “unprecedented times” brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. He says he has no regrets about exercising his responsibility as prime minister because his government’s decisions at the beginning of Covid-19 “saved 40,000 lives and tens of thousands of businesses”. He says he never triggered his responsibility in the portfolios of health and financeIt’s a different story with the resources portfolio, which resulted in him using his powers to gazump his minister to overturn a controversial gas project. He said ultimately he made that decision because the “buck stops with the prime minister”. Radio host Ben Fordhamsaid the revelations of the past few days had generated “a giant storm in a tiny teacup”. “At the end of the day, he didn’t use the powers as health minister or finance minister,” he said.Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has asked for a second briefing from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet after it was revealed Mr Morrison had been secretly sworn in to the portfolios. Reports have emerged on Tuesday morning that Mr Morrison also swore himself into the social services portfolio. Then health minister Greg Hunt and other cabinet ministers were aware of the move concerning that portfolio under the Biosecurity Act, while then finance minister Mathias Cormann was left in the dark. Mr Morrison said that was an oversight of “offices”. “I thought it had been through offices, to be honest. That was an oversight. I’ve apologised to Mathias for that,” he told Nine Radio. While Mr Morrison’s actions regarding finance and health came amid the Covid-19 pandemic, his decision to be sworn in to the resources portfolio came almost a year later. Mr Morrison said he had taken that move because of the “importance” of the decision surrounding controversial offshore gas project PEP-11. He said he had discussed the issue with then- resources minister Keith Pitt. “We’d discussed the issue, but I’d always respected Keith’s role as the decision maker, and if I wished to be the decision maker, then I had to take the steps that I took,” Mr Morrison said.“I had to follow a very meticulous process in informing myself about the issue … and then making a decision in accordance with all the legal requirements, which I did. “The buck stops with the Prime Minister. If I hadn’t personally considered that issue, then how could I look at the people of Newcastle and the Central Coast and the Northern Beaches in the eye and say, I’ve done everything I could.”Mr Pitt says people up in arms over Mr Morrison’s actions should “take a calming breath and a cold shower”.According to news.com.au, Mr Pitt told colleagues he was kept in the dark that Mr Morrison swore himself in to his portfolio. But on Tuesday morning Mr Pitt dodged questions about whether he knew that Mr Morrison had sworn himself in to the portfolio in 2021, only saying that it was “unusual”. Mr Morrison made the unprecedented move to take control of the resources portfolio reportedly to gazump Mr Pitt to reject the permit for the controversial PEP-11 project off the NSW coast.Mr Pitt said it was indeed “unusual” for Mr Morrison to swear himself into the portfolio in order to dismiss an offshore gas exploration project. But questions over whether he made that decision as prime minister or as a secret second resources minister remain unanswered. During an ABC Radio interview on Tuesday morning, Mr Pitt said “those things in the fullness of time will come forward”, citing the reason he needed to be cautious was because the PEP-11 case was before the Federal Court of Appeal. “Over a period of time, who knew what when is bound to come out over a period of time. I think everyone just needs to take a calming breath and a cold shower to be honest,” Mr Pitt told ABC Radio. “I’ve got no issues with the decisions I’ve made. “I’m absolutely confident we were a strong government.”Mr Morrison’s successor Mr Albanese has announced he will launch an inquiry into the ministerial appointments that were kept secret from the Australian people. Mr Albanese said “there may well be more” portfolios Mr Morrison had assumed responsibility for. “Our democracy deserves better,” Mr Albanese said.Mr Morrison said there were none that came to mind. “There were a number that we considered at the time for safeguard reasons, but I don’t recall any others,” Mr Morrison said.“If there’s anything different to that, I’m happy for them to be disclosed.”Mr Morrison was on air talking to Ben Fordham at the time documents emerged he had himself sworn into the social services role. At first, he said he “didn’t recall” that happening, but went on to say if that had been the case it was purely administrative. “I don’t dispute that”. Fordham said it appeared as though Mr Morrison “wasn’t trying to deceive anyone”. “You were putting backup plans in place, just in case,” he said. Earlier, Fordham said the revelations of the past few days had generated “a giant storm in a tiny teacup”. “At the end of the day, he didn’t use the powers as health minister or finance minister,” he said.Governor-General David Hurley on Monday said it was not “uncommon” for him to appoint prime ministers to administer other portfolios. Mr Albanese would not be drawn as to whether he believed the Governor-General acted in the best interests of the country, saying he had “taken the advice of the government of the day”. “I don’t intend to pass judgment,” he said.Nationals leader David Littleproud said he, his Coalition colleagues and the Australian people deserved an explanation. “I think it does warrant an explanation … It is important out of respect to the institution that the former prime minister gives an explanation,” he said.“I think it is quite ordinary that he took these steps without actually letting other members of that cabinet know that step had been taken. That is the collegiate way that cabinet usually operates“It should have been made aware to all ministers that was the reasoning and there couldn’t be conjecture. “These are the institutions that have served us well over many generations and it is important that trust is put back into them. I think Scott Morrison can do that very quickly if he comes forward.”On Monday, Mr Morrison told Sky News that since leaving the office of prime minister, “I haven’t engaged in any day-to-day politics”.Read related topics:Scott Morrison

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