Scott Morrison has thanked colleagues for their support resisting a censure motion over his multiple ministries scandal, but at least one Liberal MP will join the push against the former prime minister.
On Tuesday, the Liberal MP, Bridget Archer, told Guardian Australia she was “inclined” to support the censure and took a veiled swipe at the Liberal leadership team for deciding to oppose it without proper consultation in the party room.
The government will move the censure motion on Wednesday, a push that will almost certainly succeed due to Labor’s lower house majority and support from the Greens.
The text of the motion, to be moved by the leader of the house, Tony Burke, notes that Morrison was appointed to five ministries without informing “the cabinet, the relevant departments, the House of Representatives or the Australian public”.
It notes the former high court justice Virginia Bell labelled the secrecy of the appointments “corrosive of trust in government” and concluded they undermined responsible government – the same verdict reached by the solicitor general.
“Therefore [the house] censures the member for Cook for failing to disclose the appointments to the House of Representatives, the Australian people and the cabinet, which undermined responsible government and eroded public trust in Australia’s democracy,” the motion states.
On Tuesday, the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said that Morrison had “done the wrong thing” by failing to disclose his appointment to five additional ministries during the pandemic.
Littleproud told ABC News Breakfast he did not think the censure was necessary and argued Australians were “sick of the politicisation” of the issue.
In the party room the Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, said the Coalition would not support the censure motion, labelling the move a “stunt”. “So much for a kinder and gentler parliament, this is Anthony Albanese at his political brawler best,” Dutton said.
Morrison stood up and thanked the party room for its support this week and since the election when the Coalition lost 17 seats.
Archer later said she had attended the party room but chose not to argue for the censure motion.
“It has become clear to me over time that there is not much point speaking up in there, but particularly given [the] leadership announced a position yesterday prior to [the] party room even meeting,” Archer told Guardian Australia. “I am inclined to support the censure motion.”
Archer told the ABC it “would be an act of extreme hypocrisy” if she did not support the motion, describing Morrison’s secret multiple ministries as “an affront to democracy, as I have said previously”.
“I think it is important in terms of the future of the party, to look at the lessons of the past, and I think that these actions of the former prime minister are intrinsically linked to lessons we need to learn … to get out from the shadow of that time and reset.”
In August the shadow home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, also called on Morrison to resign.
But on Tuesday Andrews fell into line, saying she “expected Labor to milk this and that’s exactly what they’re doing”.
“It’s not about fixing the problem of publishing the ministerial arrangements or acting arrangements,” she told Guardian Australia. “It’s a political stunt.”
Labor has agreed to adopt all six recommendations of the Bell inquiry, to formalise the publication of ministerial arrangements and prevent a repeat of the secret ministries.
On Monday excerpts from Niki Savva’s book Bulldozed revealed the former immigration minister Alex Hawke had criticised Morrison’s treatment of colleagues after his upset 2019 victory.
“He got addicted to executive authority,” Hawke reportedly said.
Hawke also reportedly said that Morrison “didn’t really take advice from people” and “wasn’t the greatest listener”.
Hawke, a close friend and political ally of Morrison, distanced himself from those words on Tuesday without directly repudiating them, claiming they “are not representative of views” he holds about Morrison.
“Having known Scott Morrison for many years in many different capacities I have only the highest regard for his character, ability, and service as prime minister,” Hawke said in a statement.
“For absolute clarity, when looked at in the context of the global pandemic, I believe the administrative decisions taken by Scott Morrison as prime minister make sense for the time they were taken and the situation the government faced.
“In context I have no concerns that these measures were taken or the fact that the executive of the government had to assume a stronger concentration of emergency powers during such a significant and unusual emergency period.”
Hawke said that “like several other colleagues my only concern is in not ultimately being made aware of the unusual reserve administrative arrangements even though these were clearly emergency and pandemic related”.
Hawke accused Labor of “a politically charged, payback approach”.
“Today I have caught up with Scott Morrison and like every day look forward to joining him in parliament and in particular supporting him against the Labor party’s divisive political tactics.”
Albanese made hay over the apparent division between the pair in question time, approving Hawke’s “good comments about his mate, the member for Cook [Morrison], that they were addicted to power … but weren’t very good at energy”.
“That’s the problem for those opposite. All about power policy, nothing about energy policy.”
In a statement on Friday afternoon, Morrison said he had acted to “best advance and protect Australia’s national interests”, explaining that the decisions to take on extra powers “were taken during an extremely challenging period, where there was a need for considerable urgency”.