Aug 16, 2022 - World

Australian leader says predecessor "undermined" democracy with secret roles

Now-Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and predecessor Scott Morrison debate on live television ahead of the federal electionin May in Sydney, Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) and his predecessor, Scott Morrison, during a leadership debate in May ahead of the federal election in Sydney. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen — Pool/Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused predecessor Scott Morrison Tuesday of "an extraordinary and unprecedented trashing of our democracy" after it emerged the former leader quietly took on extra ministerial powers.

Why it matters: Albanese said he's seeking legal advice as Morrison faces calls to resign as a member of Parliament after News Corp. Australia reported that Morrison "secretly swore himself in" as joint minister for the treasury, finance, health, home affairs and resources from March 2020 to May 2021.

What they're saying: Morrison "deliberately undermined the checks and balances that are so important and essential for our democracy," Albanese said at a news conference in Canberra. "This has been government by deception."

  • Karen Andrews, who was home affairs minister in Morrison's Liberal-National coalition government, led calls from lawmakers for the former prime minister to resign.
  • "I think the actions that he undertook in swearing himself into numerous portfolios and not disclosing those to the ministers responsible means that he needs to resign and he needs to leave Parliament," she told Sky News Australia.

Of note: A spokesperson for Governor-General David Hurley confirmed that the representative of Australia's monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, had approved Morrison's additional roles.

  • "It is not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility," the spokesperson said in a statement to news outlets.
  • "These appointments do not require a swearing-in ceremony — the Governor-General signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister."

The other side: Morrison said in a Facebook post Tuesday that he "acted in good faith in a crisis" and there "was a lot going on at the time" due to the pandemic.

  • In "hindsight, these arrangements were unnecessary, and until seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today, I had not recollected these arrangements having been put in place," said Morrison, apologizing to colleagues for any offense caused.

What we're watching: Albanese said he's consulting with Australia's solicitor general for legal advice on the matter, noting that issues with the portfolios "are still being worked through."

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