Aug 23, 2022 - World

Australia announces inquiry into former Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Australia's former prime minister Scott Morrison speaks to media during a press conference in Sydney on August 17.
Australia's former Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during an Aug. 17 press conference in Sydney. Photo: Steven Saphore/AFP via Getty Images

Australia's former Prime Minister Scott Morrison will face an independent inquiry after a report found he "fundamentally undermined" the principles of responsible government by quietly taking on extra ministerial powers.

Driving the news: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the inquiry plans Tuesday after releasing Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue's report on Morrison being sworn in as joint minister for the treasury, finance, health, home affairs and resources without notifying the public or Parliament.

A screenshot of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese's tweet announcing an inquiry into his predecessor Scott Morrison.
Photo: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese/Twitter

What they found: Morrison's action was legal but "inconsistent with the conventions and practices that form an essential part of the system of responsible government prescribed by ... the Constitution," according to the solicitor general's advice.

  • "Neither the people nor the parliament can hold a minister accountable for the exercise (or, just as importantly, for the non-exercise) of particular statutory powers if they are not aware that the minister has those powers," Donaghue wrote.
  • "Nor can they hold the correct ministers accountable for any other actions, or inactions, of departments."

The big picture: Some of Morrison's own ministers in his Liberal-National coalition government have said they didn't know Morrison had been sworn into the ministries from March 2020 to May 2021.

  • The former Liberal Party leader maintains that he "acted in good faith in a crisis" and there "was a lot going on at the time" due to the pandemic.

What they're saying: "Mr. Morrison’s behavior was extraordinary, undermined our parliamentary democracy and he does need to be held to account for it," Albanese said during a news conference in Canberra on Tuesday.

What's next: Albanese said his Cabinet would meet to discuss the time frame and nature of the inquiry, though "it is agreed that it needs to be not a political inquiry, but an inquiry with an eminent person with a legal background to consider all of the implications."

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