Scott Morrison’s appointment valid but inconsistent with convention, Solicitor General says

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The country’s second highest ranking judiciary has found that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison was validly appointed to the resources portfolio, but failure to inform ministers, parliament or the public ‘fundamentally undermined’ the principles responsible government.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has issued the long-awaited opinion on the legality of his predecessor’s appointment to the resources portfolio, after sharing it with the cabinet.

Mr Albanese said there was a clear need to ensure absolute confidence in the political processes ahead.

“Our system was based on conventions, accountability, checks and balances – these were rejected,” he said.

The specific question posed to the Solicitor General was: “Has Mr Morrison been validly appointed to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources on April 15, 2021?”

Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue concluded that the appointment was valid under section 64 of the constitution.

“The Governor-General, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, has the power under Section 64 of the Constitution to appoint an existing Minister of State, including the Prime Minister, to administer a department of Additional state,” he said.

“The Governor-General has no discretion to refuse to accept the Prime Minister’s advice regarding such an appointment.”

Anthony Albanese has requested a legal briefing from Stephen Donaghue.(ABC News: Luis Ascui)

Dr Donaghue said it was impossible for Parliament and the public to hold ministers to account when the identities of those responsible were not public.

“This conclusion does not depend on the extent to which Mr Morrison exercised powers under the legislation administered, for from the time of his appointment he was responsible for the administration of the department,” he said. declared.

Investigation planned but exact nature to be determined

Mr Albanese has announced his intention to launch an investigation into the appointments.

“The firm has determined that a future investigation will be required,” he said.

“We will give thoughtful thought to the structure of an investigation based on the appropriate advice I have asked the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet to give me.

“The investigation will need to look at what happened and what are the implications of what happened to find out if there are any legal issues that are being raised which is why we would be looking for someone with a background. legal seriousness to undertake the investigation.

“Third, he has to look at future reform, how we can make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future…so also make positive future recommendations, which I can’t imagine the government wouldn’t act on all the recommendations that are fabricated.”

Albanian man gestures with one hand while standing in front of national flags and blue curtain.
Anthony Albanese will launch an investigation into the Secret Ministries of Scott Morrison on the advice of the Solicitor General.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

The Prime Minister and Cabinet Department referred the matter to the Solicitor General last Monday.

The next day, Mr Albanese announced he was also seeking further legal advice, accusing his predecessor of orchestrating an “unprecedented rampage to democracy”.

Mr Albanese revealed that the former prime minister had taken on five additional portfolios already held by other ministers, and the majority were unaware of the move.

Potential Solutions

The Solicitor General has recommended several options to ensure that the public and Parliament are informed and able to hold ministers to account.

The first was to include all appointments under section 64 of the constitution in ministerial lists and to require departments to list all relevant ministers on their websites.

Furthermore, Dr. Donaghue suggested adopting the practice of publishing appointments in the Gazette.

Other recommendations concerned changes to the Administrative Arrangements Orders or the establishment of a legal requirement to publish such appointments.

Possible next steps

Greens leader Adam Bandt has written to Speaker of the House of Representatives Milton Dick asking that the matter be reserved for Parliament’s powerful Privileges Committee.

The government has the option of tabling a motion of no confidence on the floor of parliament during next month’s sittings.

The action, which condemns Scott Morrison’s covert actions, is expected to convey government figures with the potential for some of Mr Morrison’s former cabinet ministers, who have publicly and privately expressed their disappointment, to cross the floor.

The motion would formally record the House’s disapproval of the actions, but it would not significantly impact Mr Morrison.

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