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Secret ministries ‘undermined democracy’: Morrison to face censure motion

Report finds Morrison's secret ministries 'corrosive of trust' 10 News First – Disclaimer

The federal government will move a censure motion against former prime minister Scott Morrison over his accumulation of secret ministries.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed the intention, following the meeting of federal cabinet on Monday.

The motion is expected to be moved by House leader Tony Burke or Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. As Labor has a majority in the lower house, the motion will pass.

Cabinet also agreed to implement all six recommendations from former High Court judge Virginia Bell’s report into Mr Morrison’s conduct.

Mr Albanese said his predecessor had undermined democracy.

“The former prime minister wasn’t responsible to the parliament, and through the parliament to the electors, to the departments that he was appointed to administer,” he said in Canberra on Monday.

“This wasn’t about a relationship between the former prime minister and his ministers. It’s not a personal relationship between two mates over what happened down the pub.

“This is about accountability of our democratic system.”

It emerged after this year’s federal election that Mr Morrison had appointed himself minister of the departments of health, finance, industry, science, energy and resources, treasury and home affairs, without the knowledge of most of the appointed ministers. Ms Bell’s inquiry also found he considered taking on a sixth ministry (agriculture, water and environment), but ultimately decided not to go ahead with it.

Ms Bell said the secrecy surrounding the appointments Mr Morrison covertly adopted was “apt to undermine public confidence in government”.

Mr Morrison’s only public statement on Ms Bell’s report came via Facebook.

“These decisions were taken during an extremely challenging period, where there was a need for considerable urgency,” he said.

“I note that the criticisms of my decisions have been made after the event and with the benefit of this perspective.”

On Monday, opposition government services spokesman Paul Fletcher said a censure motion against a backbencher would be highly unusual.

“This is a political stunt by the Albanese Labor government,” he told Sky News.

“The proper purpose of a censure motion under the standing orders is to bring a minister to account to the parliament, it’s not to be used as some kind of political payback exercise.”

Mr Fletcher said the opposition would oppose any censure motion.

Mr Fletcher said there were sensible recommendations in Ms Bell’s report and the Coalition would back them.

“Recommending that there be legislation to require the publication in the government gazette or similar when a minister is appointed, that’s perfectly sensible,” he said.

“We will look at the legislation when it comes forward, but I imagine we’ve said pretty clearly we would be likely to support that.”

Legislation on implementing the Bell report’s recommendations will come before parliament later this week.

Mr Albanese said it was important to ensure the actions of Mr Morrison were not repeated.

Censure motions are uncommon, and allow the parliament to express its disapproval of an MP. They have no direct legal consequences.

-with AAP

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