Did the head of state have eyes bigger than his stomach? Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was the focus of criticism from newspapers and his colleagues on Monday. In question: The local press revealed that the former CEO had secretly transferred several strategic positions within his government under mysterious circumstances. His goals then remain unclear, while the case has just burst open and is causing incomprehension and outrage among several heads of government.
What is the ex-Prime Minister accused of?
The Liberal Party (centre right) native Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia between 2018 and 2022, is accused of appointing himself Minister for Health, Finance and Resources alongside existing ministers, without his colleagues, Parliament or the to inform voters. The scope of the functions assigned to Scott Morrison remains unclear, the file was revealed this Sunday.
A first controversy has already arisen around Scott Morrison’s work as head of the Energy Department’s Department of Resources, website news.com.au reveals. The seizure of this department raises suspicions that Scott Morrison unilaterally terminated a major project off some affluent areas of Sydney. The oil and gas drilling plan, dubbed PEP11, was contested by local Liberal Party politicians and environmentalists, but was initially endorsed by then-Resources Secretary Keith Pitt. The project’s planner, Asset Energy, has also taken legal action to review the terms of stopping this initiative.
How did Scott Morrison get there?
This question moves many commentators: How could such a “theft” of functions come about in a democratic country? Especially since these appointments were confirmed at the head of Australia’s state: they were registered by David Hurley, the country’s Governor-General, who was responsible for representing the British monarchy in Australia (which is part of the Commonwealth) and endowed with several high-level institutional roles, such as as confirmation of a minister in office.
The governor therefore stated in a press release that he had appointed Scott Morrison to several ministerial positions at his request in secret and without any official ceremony, while disapproving of the confidentiality of those decisions. In Australia, for example, it is possible for a minister to be given ad hoc functions from another ministry when his colleague is ill. On the other hand, for a prime minister to do this over the long term and, above all, in secret, is unprecedented and seen as disrespectful of the parliamentary and institutional process. “The secrecy surrounding this case is just bizarre. One wonders what is going on with these people when they have to do everything in secret,” reacted University of Sydney constitutional law professor Anne Twoney.
How is the Australian government reacting?
Anthony Albanese, the Australian Prime Minister and Labor (Liberal Party rival of Scott Morrison), who came to power in May 2022, strongly condemned the actions of his predecessor. “It’s a kind of junk activity that we would ridicule if it happened in an undemocratic country. Scott Morrison led a shadow government,” the head of government castigated and denounced “extraordinary and unprecedented” facts. Anthony Albanese has also requested that these actions be fully investigated to determine their legality and consequences.
The former ministers who discovered the deception in the press were equally stunned: in an interview with news.com.au they said they did not understand why Scott Morrison had chosen their functions when they were holding them themselves. “Scott’s problem is that he has a grandiose vision of himself and that was quite strange,” commented a former Australian side minister. Keith Pitt, at odds with Scott Morrison over the PEP11 project, unsuccessfully complained to his Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in 2021. “He’s the prime minister,” his superior had replied simply.
What does Scott Morrison say?
The former prime minister has yet to give an official response. Scott Morrison has just cracked a text message sent to a Sky News reporter, in which he said he has “not followed day-to-day politics” since the end of his term in office, despite being elected to Australia’s Parliament to this day.