Former Australian PM defends secrecy in taking control of 5 ministries

Sydney, Australia, Aug 17 (EFE).- Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that his decision to secretly assume five ministerial positions during the Covid-19 pandemic was in the “national interests.”

“I believed it was necessary to have authority, to have what were effectively emergency powers, to exercise in extreme situations that would be unforeseen, that would enable me to act in the national interests,” said Morrison, who governed the country between 2018 and May this year.

Morrison has been in the eye of a political storm after Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed Tuesday that his predecessor had appointed himself health, finance, industry, interior and treasury minister without announcing it to the public or to the ministers in question between March 2020 and May 2021.

The news came to light this week during the promotion of a book on Morrison’s management during the pandemic in which it is revealed that in March 2020, when the first wave of infections broke out, the prime minister took charge of the health and finance ministries.

A year later he also took control of the industry, science and resources ministry and in May 2021 he took charge of the last two: interior and treasury.

For months, the heads of these ministries shared the roles with him without knowing it.

Morrison, whose Liberal-National coalition lost the general elections in May after nine years in power, refused to resign from Parliament, saying that he made use of those special powers as prime minister and not as legislator.

Morrison was able to keep the appointments a secret thanks to Australia’s Governor General David Hurley agreeing to his requests to be sworn in without an official ceremony.

Morrison, currently a Liberal Party legislator, justified his actions by the need to respond with “extraordinary measures” to the Covid-19 pandemic to deal with “unexpected” events such as the sudden incapacity of its ministers, as published on Facebook on Tuesday.

In the Australian system, ministers have the highest authority in their department, above the prime minister, which explains the maneuver of the former prime minister.

The Australian solicitor-general is expected to analyze Morrison’s use of extraordinary powers and deliver a report to Albanese on Aug. 22. EFE


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