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Shadow Government: Morrison’s Ministries

Two journalists, Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers, are soon to publish a book entitled Plagued, dealing with the Morrison Government’s response to COVID-19. The part of the book making headlines currently is the claim that Mr Morrison swore himself into various government ministries, without his colleagues’ knowledge. I want to look at a few articles dealing with this issue and offer some analysis.

The Allegations

The following is taken from a Sydney Morning Herald piece, and outlines what Mr. Morrison is alleged to have done

Morrison secretly swore himself into the health and finance portfolios… has subsequently reported Morrison was also sworn in as second resources minister

So, three additional portfolios. One wonders if he was compensated according to the salaries for those portfolios, but that is an issue for another time. More to the point is the suggestion that he ‘swore himself in’. Our Constitution is quite clear: it is Their Excellency the Governor General who swears ministers in. Mr. Morrison’s high opinion of himself is well known, but this is ridiculous. If he truly did swear himself into these additional portfolios, he usurped the authority of the Governor General.

The Law Responds, Part One: The Office of The Governor General

In response to these frankly explosive allegations, the office of the Governor General issued a statement, which says, in part,

The Governor-General, following normal process and acting on the advice of the government of the day, appointed former prime minister Morrison to administer portfolios other than the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The appointments were made consistently with section 64 of the Constitution

There is an interesting element of buck-passing there: Hurley acted on the advice of the government of the day. This essentially places the blame on Mr Morrison and his government. As if any further evidence were needed that the Governor General is a ceremonial figurehead. More to the point though, let us consider Section 64 of The Consitution Act of 1901. I am no constitutional scholar, and we will go to Professor Anne Twomey in a moment, but I want to look at this for myself.

Section 64 reads, in full

The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.

Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.

It is somewhat archaic, but the point seems to be that the Governor General appoints officers of state (ministers) to their portfolios. Further, since those ministers serve at the pleasure of the Governor General, they may dismiss them at any time. The demarcation of authority is clear: the Prime Minister does not have the authority to swear himself into any position.

The Law Responds, Part Two: Professor Anne Twomey

The ABC, specifically Radio National, interviewed renowned Constitutional Law expert Professor Anne Twomey recently. I want to deal first with a remarkable example of bias from a clip of an interview with current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The clip runs as follows

Interviewer: Have you been briefed about how many other portfolios the Prime Minister swore himself into?

Did you catch it? Australian Prime Ministers are not, as much as Mr Morrison thinks they are, like US Presidents. They are not referred to as Prime Minister after they leave office. No talks about Prime Minister John Howard, or Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Mr Albanese and his troops have been in office for months now. Kindly acknowledge the result of the election and show a little respect.

Now to Professor Twomey. She notes that since the Governor General acts on the advice of the Prime Minister, unless the Prime Minister told him to do something that was unlawful, he cannot be blamed. An interesting take: should the Governor General not be aware of his responsibilities and duties and any restrictions on his actions? Regardless of that, she notes that there is a lack of clarity in legislation around which minister administers which part of which law. Further, finding these details requires an inception-level investigation. This seemingly makes something like what Morrison is alleged to have done possible, if not easier to pull off.

Dissent in The Ranks: The Opposition Piles on Morrison

Members of the Liberal Party have responded variously to these accusations. Naturally, current Opposition Leader Peter Dutton defended his master and said that Mr Morrison ‘had his reasons’. Others were not so forgiving.

Current Nationals Leader David Littleproud gave this response to the allegations, noting that he did not know about Mr Morrison’s alleged actions

That’s pretty ordinary, as far as I’m concerned. If you have a cabinet government, you trust your cabinet. You create that environment in the cabinet room to have those discussions. If you don’t think a minister’s suitable to do that, that’s a discussion with the minister [and you] probably ask him or her to remove themselves

Mr Little proud advocates, rightly, for a consultative process. This seems to fit a cabinet-based model of government. Essentially, Mr Littleproud castigated Morrison as an autocrat, concentrating power in himself. Littleproud also seems annoyed with not being kept in the loop, and understandably so.

A second National, Kevin Hogan, said this to the echo-chamber of choice, Sky so-called News

The pandemic meant some conventions were thrown out the window but I look forward to the rationale for those being explained

Conventions? The Governor General appointing and swearing in ministers is a convention? It is the damned law of the land! Even accounting for the pandemic, rather than throwing the law out the window as Morrison is alleged to have done, you adapt. Have the Governor General swear in would-be ministers over Zoom or something similar. It is difficult to conclude that this situation is not the culmination of Mr Morrison’s career: self-appointed supreme power. But what does the alleged autocrat of the hour have to say for himself?

The Would-Be King Speaks: Morrison Responds

It should come as a surprise to precisely no-one that Mr Morrison defended his actions. This section is based on an article from MSN.

Going on one of the other echo-chambers of choice, radio 2GB, Mr Morrison said, in regard to specifically taking over the Social Services portfolio

I don’t recall that … I don’t dispute that and my answer for all that is the same, we were dealing with an incredible amount of discretion and money being paid.

They were unprecedented times and as a result they were very unconventional times.

Fortunately, none of these [appointments] in the case of the finance and the health portfolio were ever required to be used

As usual with Mr Morrison, there is much to unpack. The phrase ‘I don’t recall’ immediately makes a politician look suspicious, regardless of what actually happened. But he does not deny that he assumed control of the social services portfolio, even if he does not recall doing it. He is actually going through multiple stages of crisis management in one go: I do not know if I did it, but if I did it I was justified. Many birds, one stone; you get the idea. Unprecedented times, he says. Perhaps, but as I argued above, adapting the law to circumstances, rather than jettisoning it entirely in an authoritarian personal power grab, is, to put it mildly, strongly preferred.

Finally, the fact that none of the appointments actually needed to be used is a red herring. You still did it. You still blatantly subverted the very system under which the nation is governed.

Please note that this is not me doing the whole ‘civilitah, good Sir’ norm-humping that so many seem to do these days. Such is not my purpose. Scott John Morrison is alleged to have subverted not only the Constitution, but the very Westminster system purely for personal gain. Any claim of pragmatism is rendered nonsense by the fact that the powers were not used.

Beyond the Pandemic: Morrison’s New Powers

Following on from the previous paragraph about pragmatism, Morrison’s own actions belie that claim too. The previously referenced MSN piece says that Morrison also took over the Resources portfolio from the aptly named Keith Pitt. The issue is a petroleum license on the NSW coast


“That was a very different issue … it was one I sought to be the decision-maker on that issue because of the importance of that issue,” Mr Morrison said.

“This is a power a minister has that is not overseen by cabinet … the minister makes their own decision and the prime minister can’t direct the minister.”

“I always respected Keith’s role as the decision-maker, and if I wanted to be the decision-maker, I had to take the steps that I took.”

This took place in 2021, and had, in Morrison’s own words, nothing to do with the. pandemic. He just wanted to make the decision because it was an important issue. Since he was not able to directly instruct the minister on how to act, he simply seized control of the portfolio. Finally, to claim to have respected Pitt’s role as the decision maker is clearly crap, since you robbed him of that power. Morrison is full of crap once again.

Conclusion: What is to be Done?

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is being briefed regularly on these issues. If ever there was a situation custom-built for a federal investigative body such as ICAC, this is it. So blatant a personal power grab violates not only meaningless norms, but also the very rule of law itself. To whom was Morrison accountable? If he could simply swear himself into positions sua sponte, he was effectively a king.

To end on a lighter note, if a empire is ruled by an Emperor, and a kingdom is ruled by a King, Australia was a country ruled by Scott Morrison…


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  1. Henry Rodrigues

    As explanations and reasons are bandied about by Scummo and his benefactors, and smoke and dust clouds are churned ,up to obscure the facts by the players in this whole devious matter and excuses made and accepted by his mates and the media, just remember that the journalists who wrote about it in their forthcoming book, were News Corp employees or affiliates and by connecting the dots, it is very unlikely that the executive and the movers and shakers in News Corps did not not know. And what about that crinkled old scroat the media owner himself, are they expecting us to believe he didn’t know ???????

    Fool us once, and we are mugs. fool us twice and they are criminals. The whole fucking lot of them. Including that idiot of a Governor General. What a useless piece of shit he is.

  2. Josephus

    Morrison was afraid to lose the votes of the yummy mummies of the North Shore so he refused to permit the polluting, noisy expansion of a nearby mine. He didn’t care about the planned destruction . NIMBY rather than eco sentiment.
    Anyway, I imagine Scomo consulted god, never mind parliamentary democracy, which matters little to this religion -besotted man . The man must begone, in disgrace.

  3. leefe

    How can he simultaneously claim to not recall it but insist that he had a good reason for doing so and also didn’t use these powers he can’t recall giving himself for a very good reason?

    Trying to make sense of those three sentences is nearly frying my brain; what must it have done to ScoMoFo’s to come up with them in the first place?

  4. Terence Mills

    The Governor General is clutching at straws by referring to section 64 of the Constitution :

    Ministers of State
    The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as
    the Governor-General in Council may establish.
    Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the
    Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
    Ministers to sit in Parliament
    After the first general election no Minister of State shall hold office for a longer period than three months unless
    he is or becomes a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

    This section is largely obsolete and is a powerful argument for a complete Constitutional overhaul to get rid of this monarchist clap-trap !
    Only the final paragraph remains relevant.

  5. RoadKillCafe

    The timeline for the slut from the shire’s megalomaniac ways . . .

    Dept of health. March 14, 2020

    Finance. March 30, 2020

    Home affairs. May 6, 2021

    Treasury. May 6, 2021

    Industry, science, energy & resources. April15, 2021

    “Fortunately, none of these in the case of finance and health portfolio were ever required to be used.”

    The holy scum sucking, motherfucking liar from the shire says he didn’t recollect other ministries he took outside health, finance and resources. However, documents had revealed the smirking jerk had been sworn in to oversee aspects of social services portfolio.

    “No, not to my knowledge no,” says the sanctimonious shitbag when asked directly if he was sworn into social services. When forced to clarify his fucking bullshit “ I don’t recall that but I mean, as I said, I’m a morally bankrupt compulsive liar exhibiting psychopathic traits . . . No he didn’t say that, he said — “ . . . As I said, there was some administrative issues done. I don’t dispute that”.

    Welcome to democracy as practised in Australia. Still, look on the bright side, the destruction of our home, our planet, the only one we have gathers pace, won’t discern between the just or unjust, we are all, equally, fucked.

  6. Canguro

    RKC, in what is most assuredly less of a bromance but more an untarnished admiration for your never-ending capacity to call it for what it is, I gotta say you get the gong for the best effort at black humour in the midst of another 24 hour cycle of gobsmack.

    re. …‘look[ing] on the bright side, [as] the destruction of our planet gathers pace, we are all, equally, fucked.’

    Delicious thought, isn’t it?

    There is, of course, enormous amounts of human suffering going on right now; the causes arising from circumstances such as poverty and unemployment, hot wars, racial & ethnic tensions, overpopulation and competition for depleting resources, destruction of the environment, water scarcity, environmental disasters (like landslides & slips, avalanches, sinkholes, mudslides, flooding of towns, cities, villages, landscapes, dust storms, deforestation, locust plagues and more) due to the just mentioned destruction, crop failures, diseases & epidemics and various national & international bodies’ collective incapacity to deal effectively with them, political bastardry as governments variously adopt right-wing autocratic modes of control, drug and alcohol abuse, poor parenting, white-anting of personal consciousnesses through the unadulterated promulgation of bullshit information and fake news, breakdowns in social polity and other circumstances which have lead to an unprecedented tidal wave of homeless refugees with all the stress that that brings, both to the homeless and their target host countries, and much much more.

    Yes, we are all equally fucked, some right now, and some to be rooted at a later date, but there ain’t no planet Earth Mk II, and there ain’t no escape from this one. The richest amongst us, comprising a vanishingly small percentage of the global mass, will hang out for the longest as the curtain falls, but I expect that as the complex interconnections break linkages, a snap here – supply chain failure – a snap there – cessation of potable water – another snap – energy and communication systems fail, and so on, they’ll get theirs’, but just a little later than the rest of us.

    Some preparatory escapism: Don McKellar’s 1998 film Last Night, John Hillcoat’s 2009 film The Road, Lars von Trier’s 2011 film Melancholia, and Adam McKay’s 2021 effort, Don’t Look Up. The list of apocalyptic movies is, unsurprisingly, extensive. It seems as if the the artistic community, by definition a little more sensitive or imaginative than clodheaded proles like myself, have been on to this for quite a while.

  7. RoadKillCafe

    Cheers Canguro, at times, many times, I would have your ability to communicate clearly and concisely and diplomatically. These comments of mine attempt to hide a broken heart, a damaged being looking and knowing the uncountable instances of cruelty, destruction, wilful fucking evil, the unbearable damage done to those with no voice.

    The hound and I head out on predawn walks through the woods to the river mouth, this morning my mate, the Osprey came to say good morning, he circled maybe 5 metres up, over my head, twice, to be sure I noticed, landed in tree, we talked for a little, I apologised, for what is worth. Move on, appreciate this glorious day, cherish the moments, try not to break.

    Well, fuck me, Canguro, now I cry

  8. RoadKillCafe

    Well, Canguro, it would appear I have been banned, my reply has been fucked off, we see if this makes it. If not, perhaps the censor could give their reason why my reply was not acceptable.

  9. Michael Taylor

    RKC, it was nothing sinister.

    Whenever we receive a comment from a first-time commenter their comment sits in moderation while we check if they’re a spammer or a troll.

    As there was a typo in your email the system didn’t recognise you so assumed you were commenting for the first time.

    It’s all good.

  10. Michael Taylor

    PS: The only other reason you might have a comment set aside for moderation is if there are a lot of links in the comment.

    Lots of links are typical of spammers, but the system thinks; “Hang on. I know this guy. I’ll pass this one on to the moderators.”

    Our system is also set by default to send comments containing the “C” word straight in the bin. As for the “F” word, we tolerate it but after a while one of the moderators will go in and edit the comment. It’s a necessity so we can keep our “G Rating”.

  11. wobbles

    These appear to be the actions of a megalomaniac who considered himself “chosen by God” yet distrusts others around him to do what he wants. Very Trump-like.

    Despite often brushing off criticism of inaction as “it’s not my job” he secretly took on the jobs of others – albeit symbolically, but probably just to feed his ego.

    He’s probably someone to be pitied rather than blamed and the damage he has done to his party will be long lasting .

  12. Terence Mills

    Whilst John Howard has been trotted out (again) his only contribution is that ‘we should all move on’. Not a very helpful contribution when we haven’t yet ascertained why Morrison secretly appointed himself to five ministerial positions.

    The role of the Governor General also needs to be considered : he should have been asking questions, he should have asked – as the Queen would have done – why are you doing this, is it necessary, why have you not discussed the issue with the affected ministers, why are you not making a formal announcement ?

    Unfortunately it all comes back to a Constitution that is groaning with age and obsolescence and an adherence to a monarchical system where a foreign monarch is our Head of State.

    Much of our democratic stability is based on conventions but when you have a grifter at the head of government, overturning conventions is done without a second thought.

  13. Bruce Winchester

    My guess for why Scommo appointed himself Minister for Everything is that he really didn’t/doesn’t trust his fellow Lieberals Party members who have the knack of habitually soiling their own ministries with various scandals and graft and embarrassing their leaders into making those tedious public denials or deflections. That or he simply lacked the prerequisite managerial skills he likes to boast possessing to deal with people generally. Bring on the by-election.

  14. Harry Lime

    With his uncanny knack for torching every job he ever had,perhaps he was gunning for Russ Hinze’s record as the Minister for everything in crooked Joh’s maladministration.We shouldn’t be surprised,he’s been a self inflated arsehole from birth.I suspect this will turn into a saga to rival Blue Hills.

  15. Terence Mills

    This morning in a shambolic interview Barnaby Joyce was very coy about confirming that he still held the view of Morrison that he had previously expressed.

    Prior to his re-appointment as Deputy Prime Minister, Joyce said of Morrison in a tweet that :

    “He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time. I have never trusted him, and I dislike how earnestly [he] rearranges the truth to a lie.”

    Well, he didn’t hold back then but all of a sudden he doesn’t want to talk about his former boss.

  16. Henry Rodrigues

    Terence M…… The fornicator as well as the rest of the frigging coalition are dead scared of a bye-election in Cook. Last night Howard the rodent on the 7.30 report said it very clearly, without mincing his words. Karen Andrews was personally affronted, but the rest are shitting their pants.

  17. Canguro

    If any of the Cook electorate read these pages, it would be good to get a sense of their current view of the former PM, and their reaction on learning how he’s so royally shafted & middle-fingered them. There’s a weakness in our electoral system inasmuch as it’s virtually impossible to dislodge a politician after he’s been elected into parliament; criminality aside.

    Given the more that we know about Morrison, as if earlier knowledge wasn’t sufficient to have a well-formed view – these latest revelations only deepen our sense of what a deeply unworthy individual he is, a disgrace to the profession of responsible politics – wouldn’t it be a good thing if there existed a sort of moral trigger that would allow the electorate a second chance to redeem themselves and boot the god-bothering machiavellian schemer cum lunatic into the dustbin. Or the shredder… whatever erases him most effectively?

  18. Phil Pryor

    The totally mad masturbatory machinations of Morrison, an unspeakably rotten synthetic apparition of a human, is such an affront, that nothing as bad has happened in the nation’s political history. A renewed and huge post Freudian team of active psychoanalysts would take time to find out much about the various forms of insanity and anti-social, anti-intellectual stances that riddle this superstitious extreme fool. It will make us cringe forever, has ruined and poisoned our reputation, helped doom our future.

  19. GL

    “It’s not fair!” said Scummo. “I just wanted to take over as dictato…er…to help the country in times of tribulations. Curse you honesty and your little dog integrity.”

  20. andy56

    Kick him out before november when he is entitled to a pension. make sure he gets the bare minimum in entitlements rather than max them out.
    As for his behaviour. He is a person with a sense of entitlement. Entitled to do shit in his previous life as a marketing maniac, entitled to do as he pleased when he got to the top. Too clever to know when to stop. He aint no christian either, thats just a smokescreen to hide his true personality. He has no moral compass. Just listen to his response, ” I didnt do anything……..” with no sense of WTF have I done. No self awareness. ” I dont hold a hose mate”.
    The Liberals are wondering why they got the boot. Look no further than Scott. He a perfect reflection of the party as it stands.

  21. andy56

    another way to look at it is this. Morrison is a weak personality. He is easily manipulated, ie, a Pentecostal. So like a child who is bullied becomes the bully. When he finds himself in a position of power, he has found his precious. The phrase absolute power corrupts absolutely comes to mind. What was his next move if he got re elected? I find this thought rather disturbing.

  22. GraemeF

    Two journalists knew that something extremely irregular happened but they sat on the story so they could publish a book.

    So much for public interest.

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