Australia’s PM says former leader Morrison took on secret ministerial roles during COVID-19 pandemic

SYDNEY: Revelations that Australia’s former prime minister secretly appointed himself to several ministerial posts during the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a political firestorm on Monday (Aug 15), with his successor promising a rapid investigation.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused Scott Morrison of “tin-pot activity” after it emerged that the former leader had made himself minister of health, finance and resources, among other positions, without informing colleagues, parliament or voters.

Ministers are traditionally sworn in at a ceremony by the governor-general, but that did not happen in the case of the additional roles, and Albanese said it was “unprecedented” that key Cabinet members were not aware of the appointments.

“This was a centralisation of power by the former prime minister,” Albanese told reporters.

“This isn’t some, you know, local footy club,” he added. “This is a government of Australia, where the people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were.”

Describing Morrison’s actions as “extraordinary”, Albanese said that he had sought legal advice from the solicitor-general and would be briefed later today.

“This is a sort of tin-pot activity that we would ridicule if it was in a non-democratic country,” Albanese said. “Scott Morrison was running a shadow government.”

In some cases, Morrison made himself a co-minister without telling the Cabinet members he had already appointed to those positions.

Newspaper the Australian said that Morrison was appointed health minister in 2020, alongside health minister Greg Hunt, to avoid concentrating power in one person when biosecurity emergency powers were adopted to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

He was later also appointed finance minister and resources minister. Former resources minister Keith Pitt told broadcaster ABC the situation was “unusual” and he was “concerned” when he was told Morrison shared his responsibilities in 2021.

Morrison later blocked an offshore gas project.

Morrison, who was prime minister from 2018 to 2022, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.