Key points in Morrison ministries inquiry

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INQUIRY INTO MORRISON’S SECRET MINISTRIES

Former High Court judge Virginia Bell has handed her report on Scott Morrison’s secret ministries to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

FINDINGS

* Health and Finance appointments were “unnecessary”. If the ministers had been incapacitated during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Morrison could have been authorised “in a matter of minutes”.

* His Treasury and Home Affairs appointments “had little if any connection to the pandemic”. Rather the appointments were to “give himself the capacity to exercise particular statutory powers”.

* A Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet brief noted it was “somewhat unusual” for a prime minister to appoint himself to administer other departments.

* Mr Morrison’s use of his power as resources minister to refuse the PEP11 project was his only exercise of statutory power in the extra ministries he took on. But the report found: “There was a risk of conflict had Mr Morrison decided to exercise a statutory power inconsistently with the exercise of the power by another minister administering the department.”

* The Finance, Treasury, Home Affairs and Health departments were unaware of the appointments.

* The secrecy meant parliament was “unable to hold Mr Morrison to account in his capacity as minister administering any of these five departments”.

* “The lack of disclosure of the appointments to the public was apt to undermine public confidence in government. Once the appointments became known, the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government.”

RECOMMENDATIONS

* Law change to ensure publication “as soon as reasonably practicable” of any new ministerial appointments.

* Authorisation of “acting ministers” for a period of two weeks or more to be published.

* List of all acting arrangements to be published on a departmental website.

* A document identifying the ministers appointed to administer each department, the offices the ministers are directed to hold in the case of two or more ministers administering the one department, and an outline of the division of responsibilities between the ministers should be published on the Department the of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s website.

* A website concerning ministerial appointments should be established so the public can easily see which minister is responsible for which particular matter.

* All departments should publish a list of the ministers appointed to administer them on their website and include in their annual report the name of all ministers appointed to administer the department during the reporting period.

* Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General have agreed on a new protocol for the publication in the Government Gazette of all ministerial appointments and directions to hold office.

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