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Scott Morrison's Secret Ministries

Enjoying the memes of five Scott Morrison heads all pictured for different Minister profiles? A brief coverage on what it means will be led by our Editorial Assistant, Zoe van der Merwe.


Scott Morrison made national headlines on 15 August when it was revealed that he had secretly appointed himself to five additional ministry roles while still as acting prime minister.


Between the period of March 2020 and May 2021, Morrison had appointed himself to ministerial responsibilities in the treasury, health, home affairs, finance and resource portfolios, without his own cabinets or the public’s knowledge. There was no official record of his swearing in by the Governor General, and as such he was granted key decision-making powers in these areas.


Current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese labelled the former Coalition’s leader’s actions as “an attack on the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy as we know it,” and despite the numerous calls from government leaders for Morrison’s resignation and formal apology, he defended his actions at a press conference held two days later [4]. He stated that his actions were undertaken during the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and as such he believed it was “necessary to have authority” that could be exercised in “extreme” unforeseen circumstances [5].


With his actions however comes growing concerns and questions over their legality.


In advice released Tuesday 23 August 2022, Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue said the ministry positions were in legal terms “valid.” Under the advice of the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, under section 64 of the Australian Constitution, could give additional State ministerial roles to existing Ministers of the State [6]. The problem then lies not solely in the actions themselves but with the formation of these ministries in secret.


In terms of undertaking immediate action, Albanese said he would direct new legislative changes that would see the practice of publicly publishing ministerial appointments in the Commonwealth Gazette [7]. The actions by the former prime minister, however, have called in to question government accountability, and have placed further pressure on the Federal parliament to ensure there is more clarity and transparency in ministerial changes.




[4] Butler, Josh and Sarah Martin. “Scott Morrison secretly appointed to five ministries, including Treasury and home affairs, says PM.” The Guardian, 16 Aug 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/aug/16/scott-morrison-five-more-secret-ministries-minister-portfolio-ministry-including-treasury-home-affairs.

[5] Orr, Aleisha and Akash Arora. “The Scott Morrison ministerial self-appointments saga is ‘unprecedented’. What can be done to stop a repeat?.” SBS News, 18 Aug 2022, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/the-scott-morrison-ministerial-self-appointments-saga-is-unprecedented-what-can-be-done-to-stop-a-repeat/ kqhss4hkz.

[6] Visentin, Lisa. “Morrison’s extra ministry legal but undermined principles of responsible government: solicitor-general.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 Aug 2022, https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-s-ministries-legal-but-undermined-principles-of-responsible-government-solicitor-general-20220823-p5bc2j. html.

[7] Ibid.

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