Former Supreme Court Justice Virginia Bell concluded that it was “unnecessary” for Morrison to appoint himself undisclosed Secretary of Treasury and Health.
Morrison defended his actions in a statement on Facebook, saying they were carried out “to promote and protect Australia’s national interests and the well-being of the Australian people”. He also said the investigation showed he had not acted illegally.
Scott Morrison apologized “for any offense” he had caused when he secretly appointed himself to five ministerial portfolios. (Nick Moir)
However, he did not specifically address Bell’s description of his conduct, which the former Supreme Court justice had labeled “disturbing”, “unnecessary” and “undermining confidence in the government”.
Instead, Morrison responded more broadly, saying his “decisions were made at an extremely challenging period that required great urgency”.
But Bell rejected that argument.
“If Mr Hunt or Mr Corman were to become incapacitated and it was desired that a senior minister exercise the vast human biosecurity emergency powers of the Secretary of State for Health or the key financial authorities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Morrison would be appointed as minister of Public Health. or minister may be authorized to act. Finances in minutes,” she wrote.
Bell concluded that the secrecy surrounding ministerial appointments “could undermine public confidence in government”.
“As the nominations came out, the secrecy surrounding them eroded confidence in the government,” she wrote.
Bell recommended that an Acting Minister’s authorization be published in the Commonwealth Gazette as soon as possible.
Scott Morrison has secretly sworn in for various ministries. (Nick Moir)
Morrison told Bell through a legal representative that he assumed the swearing-in of five ministerial portfolios would be published in the Commonwealth Gazette.
This despite saying he didn’t tell the ministers because he didn’t want them to guess for themselves.
“It is difficult to accept Mr Morrison’s choice not to inform his ministers of appointments made to his will, lest he be thought to be second-guessing them,” he said.
“Any idea that the Government Gazette of the Prime Minister’s appointment to administer the treasury would not be picked up and quickly circulated within the public service and parliament seems highly unlikely to me.
“Omission to mention that he had at all times acted on the assumption that each appointment was publicly announced in the Gazette.”
In response to that criticism of his secrecy, Morrison said that “he discussed these issues privately with his colleagues when these issues were reported several months ago”.
The Bell Report also revealed for the first time that Morrison had also attempted to appoint himself Secretary of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Morrison ultimately decided not to take over that portfolio.
Bell concluded that criticism of Governor General David Hurley for not warning Morrison about secret appointments was “unfair”.
Speaking to the media in Canberra after the release of the Bell Report, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese denounced the former government’s “cult of secrecy”.
Anthony Albanese has criticized the “cult of secrecy” in the Morison administration. (Alex Ellinghausen)
Morrison did not agree to meet with Virginia Bell and communicated only through his lawyers, he said.
“This contradicts Mr. Morrison’s very clear statement when this investigation was announced.”
Albanese said he would recommend that the cabinet adopt all of Bell’s recommendations.
“The Australian public deserves to know this kind of information,” Albanese said.
“We are operating as a mature, orderly government and this is in stark contrast to the chaos of the previous administration.”
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Albanese said any decision to censure Morrison would be made by the cabinet.
“I lead a government that is cooperative,” he said.
“It is very clear that this is a damning report that is an indictment of the Morrison government.
“What was the culture that allowed it to flourish?”
He criticized other members of the Morrison ministry who knew about classified portfolios but did not make them public.
Albanian did not directly answer whether he thought Morrison should resign from parliament, where he is a member of Cook’s electorate.
Scott Morrison remains MP. (Alex Ellinghausen)
“I think a lot of people have to look at their own behavior in this,” he said.
“Frankly, he misled Parliament, he stood there every day.
“He has misled the Australian people.”
Albanians also questioned the behavior of Phil Gaetjens, the prime minister and then head of the cabinet department.
“Phil Gaetjens is coming out with questions from the report,” Albanese said.
“Why wasn’t the right handbrake pulled, especially not by the Prime Minister and the Chief of Cabinet?”
Asked if he wanted the yet-to-be-established National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate Morrison, Albanese replied that the commission would be independent.
He was referring to former treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who demanded an apology after Morrison vowed to include himself in the portfolio without his knowledge.
Josh Frydenberg was unaware that Scott Morrison had secretly appointed himself treasurer. (Getty)
“I don’t care. Where’s the apology to the Australian people?” Albanian said.
“We are responsible for that.”