Anthony Albanese confirms Scott Morrison censure motion in Parliament after inquiry into five secret ministerial portfolios

Former prime minister Scott Morrison is set to face a censure motion in Parliament this week. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed to reporters on Monday Cabinet had agreed to the move after an inquiry was completed into Mr Morrison’s five secret ministerial portfolios.

Cabinet also agreed to endorse all six recommendations of the inquiry carried out by former High Court judge Justice Virginia Bell, who handed her findings to the government late last week.  

“This week the House will be moving a censure motion in the Member for Cook as a result of the findings of Virginia Bell and the inquiry, which found that the actions of the former prime minister fundamentally undermined the principles of responsible government,” Mr Albanese said.

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“Because the former prime minister wasn’t responsible to the parliament – and through the parliament to the electors – for the departments that he was appointed to administer.

“And that that had real consequences of acting to undermine public confidence in government and were corrosive of trust in government.” 

The censure motion is expected to be moved by either Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus or Leader of the House Tony Burke. 

The Prime Minister also announced the government will this week introduce legislation to Parliament to amend the Ministers of State Act 1952 “to make sure that this can never, ever happen again”. 

Mr Albanese tasked Ms Bell with looking into Mr Morrison’s decision to secretly appoint himself to the portfolios of health, finance, home affairs, treasury, and industry, science, energy and resources over the period between March 2020 and May 2021.

The bombshell revelations were only made public in August.

Ms Bell confirmed the appointments to the handful or portfolios were “unnecessary” as Mr Morrison could have been authorised into the health or finance role “in a matter of minutes”.

She also found the principles of a responsible government were “fundamentally undermined” as the former prime minister was not “responsible” to the parliament.

The secrecy of the appointments was “apt to undermine public confidence in government” and was “corrosive of trust in government”.

Manager of Opposition Business Paul Fletcher said the opposition supported the recommendations of the inquiry but will be voting against the censure motion.

“At the end of the day, a censure motion here is purely about political payback,” Mr Fletcher told Sky News Australia.

“If there’s some sensible changes we’ll support them, but frankly I think the Australia people would expect that the Albanese Government would be using parliamentary time to deal with the issues facing Australians.”

Mr Fletcher said it was “very, very unusual” for a censure motion to be brought against a backbencher, which Mr Morrison now is.   

“The proper purpose of a censure motion under the standing orders is to bring a minister to account to the parliament,” he said. 

“It’s not to be used as some kind of political payback exercise. 

“Let’s be clear the Solicitor-General report or advice… found that there was no unconstitutionality, no illegality. Former high court justice Virginia Bell was asked to produce a report, that found similar things.” 

More to come. 

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