Albanese described the events as “extremely extraordinary and unprecedented”, adding that “The recommendation is a very open critique and critique of the implications for our democratic system.”
Albanese, who defeated Morrison in May’s federal election, is tough on his predecessor, who appointed him to five top government portfolios, including health; finance; treasury and internal affairs; and industry, science and resources — between 2020 and 2021, often without the knowledge of the ministers who take on each role.
The Attorney General found that Morrison’s secret assignment to portfolios was “valid” but “inconsistent with the contract and practice” of a responsible government.
The disclosures of the classified portfolios emerged in excerpts from a book published last week about Morrison’s tenure, based on interviews the former leader gave to the authors.
Morrison defended his actions in a lengthy Facebook post last week, reiterating Tuesday’s assertion that he thought it was “prudent” to authorize him if the minister in charge became incapacitated during the pandemic.
“I can say that I took the decisions I made as Prime Minister in good faith and in good faith.”
Some of his former colleagues reportedly were angry that they were not aware of what the Australian media referred to as “power grabs”.
Former home secretary Karen Andrews, who said she didn’t know Morrison had appointed her, urged her to quit politics. “He needs to resign and leave Parliament,” Andrews told Sky News last week.
Morrison has so far resisted calls to resign.
Few details are known about the investigation and its scope, but Albanese said the investigation will be led by “a distinguished person with a legal background”. It won’t be a political investigation, but “there are a lot of questions that have been raised clearly,” he said.
Some of the questions the government wants answered are, “Why did this happen, how did it happen? Who knew this happened? What are the implications for our parliamentary system? Are there any legal implications behind the decisions taken? How can we prevent this from happening? Again?” said the prime minister.
Morrison is known to have used the force at least once to refuse an application for a gas exploration license off the coast of New South Wales. The relevant company, BPH Energy, is seeking judicial review of the government’s decision to reject the application.
Albanese said Morrison’s decision to take on new roles may have other consequences that are not yet known.
“He was minister of health and minister of industry at a time when we were considering an mRNA vaccine manufacturer in Australia,” said Albanese, the former prime minister.
And he said Morrison may have influenced funding decisions in the departments he owned.
“I know it’s certainly not normal practice for the Prime Minister to be appointed as the final decision maker for grants in excess of $800 million for a production fund. Now, in my view, this is an issue for accountability,” Albanese said. .
Morrison sheds light on the controversy
The controversy took on a life of its own on social media, where users photoshopped Morrison’s face into images of people in different roles. The general theme was that Morrison was everywhere, especially where you least expected him.
Morrison appeared to be leaning on the train by commenting on the footage and then creating some of his own photos, including an image showing his face superimposed on an image of a comedy group.
“It was fun to join all the memes,” Morrison said in the accompanying post. “But there are so many now that I can’t keep up. As Australians we can always chuckle at ourselves.”
But Albanese has made it clear that he doesn’t like Morrison’s attempt to brush aside the criticism.
“The undermining of the parliamentary system of government, the entire Westminster system, and our traditions of democratic accountability is no laughing matter,” he said last week.
And on Tuesday, Albanese said Morrison should apologize to the entire country.
“Scott Morrison owes the people of Australia an apology for undermining our system of parliamentary democracy that we have, which is inherently unacceptable.”
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