Australia launches inquiry into former PM Scott Morrison

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese said he is initiating an inquiry into how his predecessor Scott Morrison secretly assigned himself to lead multiple ministries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today I announced the Cabinet has agreed to an inquiry into how the former Prime Minister secretly appointed himself to multiple ministries,” Mr Albanese said on Tuesday.

“Our democracy is precious. Australians deserve to know who is responsible for making decisions on their behalf,” the Australian leader said on Twitter.

This comes after the Oceania island’s solicitor general Stephen Donaghue said while the appointments concerning Mr Morrison were legal, they “fundamentally undermined” a responsible administration.

Responding to the solicitor general’s advice, Mr Morrison said at “no time, other than the consideration of the PEP11 matter from first principles, did he exercise powers established under these lawful authorities”.

“This means that I did not fulfil the function of an Acting or Co-Minister, as has been alleged. Ministers continued to exercise their full authorities without any interference, with my full trust and confidence,” he said in a statement posted on his Facebook on Tuesday.

The former prime minister said the “authorities at issue were put in place as an emergency power to be used only in extreme circumstances due to incapacity or in the national interest”.

Mr Morrison added that he will “appropriately assist any genuine process to learn the lessons from the pandemic”.

In a previous statement, Mr Morrison also claimed he did not “take over” the ministries after being sworn in by the governor general and did not interfere with ministers in the conduct of the portfolios except on one occasion, when he rejected a resources project.

Mr Albanese indicated on Sunday that his administration could launch an inquiry into Mr Morrison being secretly sworn in to key ministries.

He had slammed the former prime minister of governing “in the shadows” after reports showed he had appointed himself to the five key ministerial portfolios, including home affairs, treasury, health, finance, and industry, science, energy and resources during the pandemic.

The prime minister added that he has sought legal advice from the solicitor general to verify the legality of Mr Morrison’s actions.

Solicitor general Mr Donaghue slammed the move wherein the public and the parliament were not informed of the multiple appointments.

It was “inconsistent with the conventions and practices that form an essential part of the system of responsible government prescribed by the… Constitution,” the advice by the solicitor general said.

Backing the statement by the solicitor general, Mr Albanese said the advice was a “very clear criticism” of the implications for Australia’s parliamentary democracy.

Mr Morrison stepped down as leader of Australia’s Liberal Party after losing the general election in May this year, facing criticism of his administration.

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