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Australia to investigate ex-PM Scott Morrison's secret self-appointments

An investigation will take place into former Prime Minister Scott Morrison's secretly appointing himself to five senior government positions. File Photo by Lucas Coch/EPA-EFE
An investigation will take place into former Prime Minister Scott Morrison's secretly appointing himself to five senior government positions. File Photo by Lucas Coch/EPA-EFE

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Tuesday an inquiry will be launched into his predecessor, Scott Morrison, for secretly appointing himself to multiple ministries while at the country's helm.

New Labor leader Albanese, who defeated Morrison and his Liberal Party in the federal election in May, announced the independent investigation during a press conference, stating the inquiry was approved by the Cabinet based on a report returned the day before by Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue.

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"The advice is, I think, a very clear criticism and critique of the implications that are there for our democratic system of government of what happened under the former Morrison government," he said.

Albanese said he was also making the report by Donaghue public due to the "highly extraordinary and unprecedented nature of this issue."

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According to the report, Morrison secretly appointed himself between March 2020 and May 2021 as joint minister of the departments of health, finance, treasury and home affairs and industry science and resources.

The report states that while the appointments were "valid," the fact that Parliament, the public and other ministers within the departments were not informed "was inconsistent with the conventions and practices that form an essential part of the system of responsible government."

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"That is because it is impossible for Parliament and the public to hold ministers accountable for the proper administration for particular departments if the identity of the ministers who have been appointed to administer those departments is not publicized," it states.

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Few specifics about the investigation were revealed Tuesday with Albanese stating its form will be considered by the Cabinet as there are a range of options available, though it will need to examine what happened and what the implications are.

"It is agreed that it needs to be not a political inquiry, but an inquiry with an eminent person with a legal background to consider all of the implications," he said.

"This isn't something that can be just dismissed. This is something that goes to our very system of government."

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After the revelations were made public last week, Morrison, Australia's prime minister from 2018 to May, faced calls to resign from Parliament and he apologized, explaining the appointments were made amid the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Morrison reiterated such claims, saying in a statement that given the crises Australia was in at the time he considered it "prudent" to take on the five authorities "should they be necessary as a safeguard."

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He added that that authorities granted were not exercised and therefore "were not misused."

"In the extraordinary circumstances I was contending with, decisions were made and then I kept moving forward," he said. "We did not dwell on such decisions, especially those of a precautionary nature as they were effectively dormant."

He said he understands that many Australians will not agree with his actions but the decisions he made were with "the best intentions, in good faith and to do all I could to protect Australia in the face of multiple crises. "

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