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Australian PM accuses predecessor Scott Morrison of “trashing our democracy” with secret roles

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese accused predecessor Scott Morrison Tuesday of “a fantastic and unprecedented trashing of our democracy” after it emerged the former leader quietly took on extra ministerial powers.

Why it matters: Albanese said he’s seeking legal services as Morrison faces calls to resign as an associate of Parliament after News Corp Australia reported that Morrison “secretly swore himself in” as joint minister for the treasury, finance, health, home affairs and resources over an interval from March 2020 to May 2021.

What they’re saying: Morrison “deliberately undermined the checks and balances which are so important and needed for our democracy,” Albanese said at a news conference in Canberra. “It has been government by deception.”

  • Karen Andrews, who was simply home affairs minister in Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition government, led calls from lawmakers for the former prime minister to resign.
  • “I believe the actions he undertook in swearing himself into numerous portfolios rather than disclosing those to the minister’s responsible implies that he must resign and he must leave Parliament,” she told Sky News Australia.

Of note: A spokesperson for Governor-General David Hurley confirmed that the representative of Australia’s monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, had approved Morrison’s additional roles.

  • “It isn’t uncommon for ministers to be appointed to manage departments apart from their portfolio responsibility,” the spokesperson said in a statement to news outlets.
  • “These appointments usually do not need a swearing-in ceremony the Governor-General signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister.”

Another side: Morrison said in a Facebook post Tuesday he “acted in good faith in an emergency” and there “was a whole lot going on at that time” because of the pandemic.

  • In “hindsight, these arrangements were unnecessary, and until seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today, I hadn’t recollected these arrangements having been set up,” said Morrison, apologizing to colleagues for just about any offense caused.

What we’re watching: Albanese said he’s seeing Australia’s solicitor general for legal services on the problem, noting that problems with the portfolios “remain being worked through.”

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