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Anthony Albanese responds to Scott Morrison's five additional ministerial roles — as it happened

ABC News Channel live stream

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Scott Morrison's decision to secretly swear himself in to five ministerial portfolios was an "unprecedented trashing of our democracy".

Look back on Tuesday's developments.

Key events

Live updates

By Bridget Judd

Calls for legislative changes to avoid improve transparency

In light of the recent developments, there are growing calls for new laws to be introduced to make the process of ministerial appointments more transparent.

Constitutional law expert, Professor George Williams, says there should be legislative changes to avoid this ever happening again.

"We should now respond by legislating the transparency, and there should be a clear rule stated in legislation that means whenever a minister is appointed it must be notified to parliament within say a week, so we know who's holding public power."

By Bridget Judd

'He needs to leave parliament' — catch up on the interview with Karen Andrews

'Just unacceptable': fmr Home Affairs Minister demands Scott Morrison's resignation

For those looking for the video, former home affairs minister Karen Andrews is calling on Scott Morrison to immediately resign from Parliament.

Ms Andrews has told the ABC she was blindsided by the news, and had no knowledge of the situation until this morning.

“I think that Scott Morrison needs to resign, and he needs to leave parliament,” she said.

“I mean this is just unacceptable, and if this is the way that he is prepared to conduct himself without an adequate explanation — even though it is now going to be well past the time when such an explanation should have been made — then it is time for him to leave the parliament and look elsewhere for employment.”

By Bridget Judd

'We shouldn't have to create laws to prevent leaders from trying to grab power'

That's according to Higgins MP Michelle Ananda-Rajah, who says the saga comes back to "leadership 101".

"We shouldn't have to create laws to prevent leaders from trying to grab power like this so it's extraordinary [Scott Morrison] did this," Dr Ananda-Rajah says.

"Frankly the Australian people know we are going to be presenting a federal anti-corruption commission, that legislation is imminent and it will be up to these commissioners to decide what they choose to investigate.

"In the meantime, the Prime Minister has referred this matter to the Solicitor-General and we are waiting briefings from that. The next steps will follow. But it's not over."

By Bridget Judd

Michelle Ananda-Rajah: 'Why didn't he come clean and tell the Australian people?'

Also appearing on the ABC's Afternoon Briefing, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, the Labor MP for Higgins, says she wants to reassure those in her electorate that she's not "moonlighting as the member for Bass".

"The cloud cover of the pandemic has been used here by some members of the Liberal Party to justify what are very serious revelations that go straight to the principles of our democracy, namely transparency and accountability.

"It's not good enough to say the public health emergency required Scott Morrison to put in place these kinds of changes when, if it was such a good idea, why didn't he come clean and tell the Australian people?'

By Bridget Judd

Bridget Archer: 'What happens to stop this situation from occurring in the future?'

The Liberal MP says it's important to understand what has happened and how it was able to occur "before we consider what should happen after that".

"Both in relation to Mr Morrison and his conduct himself, but broadly around, what happens to stop this situation from occurring in the future? Which I think is an important consideration.

"Again, I certainly didn't understand [this] was something that could occur. I don't know that other Australians understand this is something that could occur in this way, so there is a wider conversation as well."

By Bridget Judd

Bridget Archer: 'The public needs to have trust and confidence in their elected officials'

A woman in a chequered jacket appears on TV from Launceston.

Liberal MP Bridget Archer is speaking on the ABC's Afternoon Briefing now.

She says she doesn't know any more about Mr Morrison's actions than what "the community does".

"I know the Prime Minister has said he will be doing some further inquiries into this matter but certainly on the face of it, it's unacceptable, particularly around the lack of transparency involved with this.

"I've spoken a lot about integrity obviously in the last 12 months, and this is the type of thing that is a good example, where the public needs to have trust and confidence in their elected officials and it requires a level of transparency that I don't think we have seen in regard to this matter."

By Bridget Judd

Simon Birmingham unclear on whether he shared finance portfolio with Scott Morrison

In case you missed it earlier today, former finance minister Simon Birmingham says he remains less than "100 per cent" clear on the extent of the overlap between himself and Scott Morrison in the role.

Mr Birmingham became finance minister in October 2020.

"It has been reported now that he [Mr Morrison] was sworn to that portfolio before I became the finance minister," he said.

"The public reports all relate to a period that goes back to when Mathias Cormann was the finance minister, not me.

"If it were the case, I would certainly prefer to have known, but as I say, I'm not aware as to whether it was the case still by the time I took the portfolio on."

By Bridget Judd

'He should be standing up in parliament and providing an explanation'

Appearing on ABC Melbourne Drive a short time ago, former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says Mr Morrison "owes the nation a much better explanation than this".

"He should be standing up in parliament and providing an explanation."

By Bridget Judd

'We do need to ask whether the Governor-General can be put in a stronger position'

A constitutional lawyer says the Governor-General's duties should be reviewed in light of the recent saga.

David Hurley has confirmed he swore in the former PM into a number of portfolios, but says the decision to make it public is a matter for the government.

Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales says the Govenor-General's role in the developments deserves scrutiny.

"But we do need to ask whether the Governor-General can be put in a stronger position to demand that these are made public, once the Governor-General has made the decision, sworn in a minister.

"Because it may well be here the Governor-General was left in a tight spot, and that again may be an area to look for improvements."

By Bridget Judd

The questions still to be answered

 As the ABC's Patricia Karvelas writes, Scott Morrison has apologised for any offence caused to his colleagues, describing them as an "outstanding team who did an excellent job".

"If they were such an outstanding team, why didn't he trust them to make decisions without him shadowing them secretly? How could Josh Frydenberg — who he lived with in Canberra during the pandemic — not know he had a secret treasurer over the top of him? It defies logic," writes Karvelas.

"The statement by the former PM will not shut down anger or calls for his resignation — and inside the Coalition there is outright contempt for the man who led them to a thumping defeat."

By Shiloh Payne

You can read Scott Morrison's statement in full here:

By Shiloh Payne

Environmental concerns raised over Morrison's secret resource portfolio

The Enviroment Centre NT says Scott Morrison's decision to secretly take on some additional ministries while he was Prime Minister, raises questions about the functioning of Australian democracy.

During his joint appointment as resources minister, the federal government granted over 25 million dollars to two gas companies to speed up exploration in the Northern Territory's Beetaloo Basin.

Kirsty Howey from the Environment Centre NT told the Country Hour Mr Morrison's decision prevented transparency. 

"Something like granting taxpayer funds directly to gas companies is always going to be controversial and we should know who's accountable and who is making the decisions and it does matter, frankly, if it's the prime minister in some other guise who's role is not clear and wasn't disclosed to the public at the time, who had involvement over the those grants," Ms Howey says.

By Shiloh Payne

Analysis: Scott Morrison has left a lot of unanswered questions

 Here's the latest analysis from Patricia Karvelas:

At a time when democracy is under strain and threat around the world, and trust in institutions is fragile, the decision by former prime minister Scott Morrison to secretly appoint himself to five ministries — including Treasury — is both unfathomable and alarming.

It matters because protecting our democracy matters.

The notion that he was doing this — essentially for our own good — to protect us at a time of intense economic challenges and a health emergency smacks of arrogance and is self-serving.

If the then Prime Minister genuinely believed he needed these additional powers to safeguard in the event of illness of one of his cabinet ministers — why did he not tell the ministers themselves? Why was the public kept in the dark? Why was a quiet plan hatched away from parliamentary scrutiny?

Democracy survives and thrives on the basis of transparency and clear lines of responsibility.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

  • Keep reading Patricia Karvelas' analysis piece with the link below

By Shiloh Payne

Former ministers left unclear on portfolio timelines

This morning, former finance minister Simon Birmingham spoke with ABC Radio Adelaide wher he said that he recalled there being "discussion" around Mr Morrison becoming joint health minister, but nothing about him in the finance portfolio.

"In terms of Scott Morrison being sworn in to the health portfolio, I can recall a discussion at some point at the very early days of the pandemic when extraordinary powers were being used, that he had had himself sworn in to that as well just as a precaution," Senator Birmingham said.

"I don't recall something specific to finance at the time, but there were similar decisions being made around finance."

Asked to clarify whether their time in that role had overlapped, Senator Birmingham responded: "I'm not 100 per cent on that, to be clear."

  • You can read more on this with the link below

By Shiloh Payne

Key Event

Morrison's decisions closer to president than Prime Minister, expert says

An expert on constitutional law says Scott Morrison's self-appointments to ministries resemble a president rather than a Prime Minister.

Mr Morrison has defended his actions, saying they were undertaken during an extraordinary period of the COVID pandemic.

The University of Sydney's Professor Anne Twomey says the PM's decision to be secretly sworn into cabinet positions undermines Australia's entire political system.

"To actually say instead 'no, the Prime Minister has to take charge of all the portfolios because I'm the top person' suggests, well let's face it, delusions of grandeur that suddenly you're a president who's in charge of everything rather than a Prime Minister who's first among equals.

By Shiloh Payne

'Did anyone object?' Malcolm Turnbull on 'lack of respect' for democracy

By Shiloh Payne

Morrison appointed positions as 'safeguard' during pandemic

Scott Morrison says he gave himself the ministerial positions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as a precaution "should the need arise due to incapacity of a Minister or in the national interest".

"The risk of Ministers becoming incapacitated, sick, hospitalised, incapable of doing their work at a critical hour or even fatality was very real," Morrison says.

"The Home Affairs Minister was struck down with COVID-19 early in the pandemic and the UK Prime Minister was on a ventilator and facing the very real prospect of dying of COVID-19.

"As Prime Minister I considered it necessary to put in place safeguards, redundancies and contingencies to ensure the continuity and effective operation of Government during this crisis period, which extended for the full period of my term."

By Jessica Riga

Expert says Morrison is unlikely to be investigated by a federal integrity body

Independent MP Helen Haines has called on a federal integrity body to investigate Mr Morrison’s appointments, but is that possible?

A former commissioner of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption said it’s unlikely Morrison would be scrutinised by a federal integrity body.

The Albanese Government has announced that it will establish a federal ICAC but Anthony Whealy QC, who is also the chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, told ABC NewsRadio that it would take “a little while” to establish.

Mr Whealy said that, at this stage, it was unclear how the federal ICAC would define corrupt conduct, and the definition could affect its ability to investigate Mr Morrison’s case.

“If it's a narrow definition, then it will have a limited role of investigation. If it has a reasonably wide definition of corrupt conduct, it will enable it to cast its net a bit more widely,” Mr Whealy said.

He said it was “very inappropriate” that Mr Morrison appointed himself to these additional portfolios and kept them secret.

“Why can't the assistant ministers take over if there's an emergency, why is it the Prime Minister who takes on these multiple portfolios?” he said. “And why is it done secretly? 

“I think that it absolutely shakes the foundations of the Westminster system.”

Reporting by Thomas Oriti, Anna Pykett and Wing Kuang

By Jessica Riga

Key Event

Pezzullo, Andrews unaware of Morrison's swearing in

The ABC's Political Editor Andrew Probyn has confirmed Home Affairs Secretary Mike Pezzullo did not know that former prime minister Scott Morrison had been sworn in as Minister for Home Affairs.

The ABC is aware that the highest levels of Australia's intelligence agencies were also not aware.

Then-home affairs minister Karen Andrews said she was also unaware and has called on Morrison to resign from parliament.

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