Friday 7th of October 2022

when secrecy runs democracy, we're in deep despotic shit…..

The variety of opinions on what the governor-general should or should not have done serves to highlight the vague responsibilities of the role (“What G-G should have asked then-PM”, August 17). We are perhaps being unreasonable in criticising the G-G when the role appears to depend entirely on his or her definition of it. It now clearly needs a defined job specification against which all potential future candidates would be assessed, and which would also act as a guide – or deterrent – to future PMs tempted to act as Scott Morrison has done. Either that, or the role should go only to a constitutional lawyer. 

Penny Ransby Smith, Lane Cove


And while we’re at it, we should totally exterminate the so-called “reserve powers” of the G-G to sack a PM. While this power, although highly tenuous, remains, our democratic representation is fatally compromised.

Brenton White, Mosman 


Being so brilliant at planning ahead, one wonders why Morrison didn’t twig that if there had been an emergency he could have had another member, or himself, with the G-G in 30 minutes to be sworn in to the relevant portfolio. 

Michael Clarke, St Ives


How many ministers in a Morrison cabinet does it take to change a light globe (“Minister for everything”, August 17)? Think of a number – and double it. Despite having two health ministers, we missed the boat on Pfizer vaccines in 2020 and failed to get enough RATs in 2021. Despite having two treasurers and two finance ministers, we managed to allow profitable corporations to rort JobKeeper. Even with double the number of ministers, in the end, it took an election to change the light globe. 

Keith Betts, Pennant Hills


Did the former PM, in his zeal to provide for absence of ministers, provide for the simultaneous absence of PM and deputy? If not, then his argument of prudent provision goes out the window. 

Bev Atkinson, Scone


As if it isn’t enough that the Liberals can’t oust Morrison from their party despite his undemocratic behaviour, now we have John Howard, the architect of the present Liberal “ethos”, telling us all to move on (“‘It’s not a constitutional crisis’, Howard says of ministries saga”,, August 17). This is simply politically expedient because he knows the Liberals would lose yet another seat. So forget what’s decent and correct, just protect their own interests. 

Anne Phillips, Wallarah


By keeping Morrison on the front page, Anthony Albanese is successfully misdirecting us from the dire issues at hand. Anybody want to see a doctor? Wait three weeks. Another 30 COVID deaths? Cost of living rises? Albanese hasn’t moved on these issues. By continually harking backwards, he is keeping the scrutiny away from his own doings, or lack of. We are all heartily sick of hearing about the “inherited” mess. Just get on and do the job. 

Pamela Shepherd, Balgowlah




When even the man who ate a raw onion, skin and all, describes your actions as “unusual, unorthodox and strange” (“Tony Abbott’s verdict on Morrison”,, August 17) you know there is something unprecedented occurring. 

Gina Hay, Bayview





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scott morrison should resign…..

Why on earth did he do it? It's been the persistent question asked — at times with an expletive thrown in — by senior Liberals, Nationals, bureaucrats and everyone else kept in the dark by Scott Morrison.

Yesterday, the former prime minister attempted to provide some answers. He wanted to explain both the decision to give himself ministerial powers and the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the whole exercise. He apologised for neither the decision nor the secrecy, only the "offence" he might have caused his former cabinet colleagues.

But what he did say was remarkably revealing.





Morrison put forward two reasons for taking on the five ministerial roles. The first was the fear of the existing minister being incapacitated by COVID. Fair enough, this was a legitimate fear. But it's not as if a minister has never been sick before. Indeed, a serving prime minister, Harold Holt, went missing altogether.

The Westminster system allows for acting ministers to be appointed immediately. There's no reason why Morrison couldn't have appointed someone else an acting minister if one of his team fell over. There's no reason why he couldn't have appointed himself as an acting minister, if he didn't think anyone else was up to it.

The second, and more extraordinary, reason given by Morrison for giving himself what he called "reserve emergency powers" was one of trust. Or a lack thereof.

As the former prime minister put it yesterday, he did all this because, in part, he feared "some threat to the national interest as a result of unilateral action by an individual". In those circumstances, he felt the prime minister should have "the ability to take responsibility and to take action".








scomo has to go…...



Scott Morrison must resign immediately as the member for Cook, leave the Parliament, and try to salvage what remains of his shredded reputation as Australia’s 30th Prime Minister.

Morrison’s secret appointment to at least five ministries – each of which was already held by an existing Minister – in concert with the Governor-General, is destructive of our system of responsible government, a deception of the Parliament, and an affront to the Australian people. Make no mistake about this bizarre, secret, usurpation of ministerial command of treasury, home affairs, finance, health, and resources; it is serious and disturbing.

The former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, describes Morrison’s ministerial fetish as; ‘one of the most appalling things I’ve ever heard .. this is sinister stuff’, and with good reason. It is a corruption of political process that goes to the heart of our democratic system of responsible government, in which individual ministers are responsible for specific departments, and accountable to the parliament and the Australian people for their actions. Ministerial responsibility is the critical means through which political accountability and transparency in office are realised, of which people clamoured for more at the recent election. It goes without saying that this fundamental responsibility is simply impossible if we don’t even know who the Minister is.

Let’s be clear on just what the fundamental point at issue is here. It is not, as some have suggested, that the former Prime Minister held several ministerial portfolios at the same time – that is neither uncommon nor a problem: Tony Abbott for example was both Prime Minister and Minister for Women – yes, I know right – the issue here is quite different: it is that Scott Morrison was sworn in by the Governor-General to five ministries each of which was already held by somebody else. And this was done in secret by the Governor-General, David Hurley, on the advice of the Prime Minister, without any notification of this unprecedented ministerial duplication either to the Parliament, or even, with the exception of Health Minister, Greg Hunt, the other Ministers.

This was the creation of a phantom ministry, existing above and beyond the publicly known official ministry, and capable of exercising the full range of ministerial power in relation to those portfolios, in secret. In Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s excoriating assessment, this was ‘an unprecedented trashing of our democracy’. The failure of Morrison to identify himself as a Minister, during every Question Time for instance, was a gross deception of both the Parliament to which ministers are responsible, and the Australian people.

Various commentators have depicted this as in some way being a shared arrangement, or a ‘back-up’ position – a ‘joint minister’, ‘sharing’ jobs, ‘co-ministers’ for example – this is not correct. A shared ministry would, at the very least, have required the knowledge of the other ‘co-minister’ – how could it be otherwise? -and only Greg Hunt knew of this private arrangement. It is difficult to see how these could be in any way shared Ministries if neither the other Minister, the public, nor the Parliament, were aware the arrangement even existed.

Any shared ministerial arrangement would also need to be specified with the division of responsibility between the two Ministers and set out in the Administrative Order creating the second, Morrison, position. We are yet to see the Administrative Order since the Governor-General, David Hurley, did not release it at the time. Morrison was sworn into all five Ministries as a fully-fledged duplicate Minister, despite the existence of an incumbent, with the full powers of that portfolio available to be used by him, in secret.

Whether this appointment of a duplicate Minister is ‘technically legal’, is frankly not the point. Politically, it is a nonsense, a political oxymoron which undermines political accountability and responsibility by fracturing it. If ‘responsible government’ is to mean anything at all, you cannot have a second ‘Minister’ appointed in secret, who can at any point step in and over-ride the decision of the first, and only publicly acknowledged, Minister.

Morrison was sworn in by the Governor-General, Hurley, apparently through the device of ‘an administrative instrument on the advice of the Prime Minister’, with legal advice apparently provided by the former Attorney-General, Christian Porter. Hurley has defended the failure to publicise Morrison’s appointments as ‘a matter for the government of the day’. While the Governor-General was right to act on the advice of the Prime Minister, provided the Prime Minister retained the confidence of the House of Representatives as Morrison did, the secrecy about these ministerial appointments raises obvious concerns.

Since the Governor-General had already sworn somebody else into each of these portfolios, we can expect that Hurley asked Morrison about the necessity for them, and the legal basis on which this unprecedented decision to appoint a duplicate minister was made. According to the classic duty of the Crown as described by Bagehot, ‘to advise, to counsel and to warn’, Hurley ought to have discussed these duplicate appointments openly and robustly with the Prime Minister, before acting on his advice.

We know from the vice-regal letters of previous governors-general, released by the National Archives earlier this year following my successful ‘Palace letters’ High Court action, that the governor-general would also have been expected to inform the Queen of these ministerial appointments. It is quite possible then, that the Queen knew of Morrison’s duplicate appointments, while the Australian parliament and the people did not.

However, neither Morrison nor Hurley made these ministerial appointments public, and it is here that the role of the Governor-General ought to be considered further, for the secrecy is troubling.

The Parliamentary Handbook describes the process through which Ministers are appointed by the Governor-General, and their subsequent public announcement: ‘The approval of the Governor-General to the composition of the Ministry … is notified publicly and announced in the House. The principal areas of departmental responsibility and enactments administered by the respective Ministers are notified publicly by order of the Governor-General’.

There was no public or parliamentary announcement of any of Morrison’s additional portfolios, nor any Order of the governor-general. It is not good enough to claim as Hurley has, that the decision on the public announcement was a matter for the government, it is not. If the Prime Minister directed the governor-general not to make the usual public announcement of a Ministerial appointment, then Hurley should now make this clear. As it stands, the Governor-General became a party to the deception of the Parliament and the people, and he must now consider his position.

Last year Morrison vetoed a controversial gas exploration plan, PEP-11, ostensibly as Prime Minister, and later emerging in the capacity as unknown Minister for Resources. We only know of this due to legal action taken by Assets Energy earlier this year challenging the ministerial decision, which brought Morrison’s secret role as putative ‘Minister for resources’ – who knew? – to light. That case has also highlighted precisely the dangerous folly of appointing a second, secret, Minister to a position already held by an existing Minister – it raises the prospect of potentially unauthorised decision-making on the part of the phantom Minister, whose role was previously not even known.

One intriguing remaining question is whether the Heads of Department of these five ministries knew of these appointments, as apparently the Head of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, did. Did they know of the second Minister to whom they were also accountable? Was Hurley advised by Morrison not to make these appointments public, and what other actions did Morrison take as Minister across his five newly discovered portfolios?

There is a long way still to play out in this strange and troubling case. Morrison’s own former Ministers are now calling for his resignation, shocked by this betrayal of trust, convention, and responsibility. It augurs an ignominious end to the political career of an ignominious Prime Minister.







hurley had to tell us…..





Scott Morrison’s enabling accomplice in his ministerial power grab, the Governor-General David Hurley, has some explaining to do if he is to resist suggestions that he should resign. Indeed, the political storm the ongoing revelations about Morrison’s extraordinary actions may be so embarrassing for the Governor-General that his early departure from the role cannot be avoided.

The statement issued by the Governor-General’s office immediately after the revelation of Morrison’s first two add-on ministerial posts was both inadequate and misleading. It said:

‘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. It is not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility.

‘These appointments do not require a swearing-in ceremony – the Governor-General signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister. Questions around appointments of this nature are a matter for the government of the day and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Similarly, the decision whether to publicise appointments to administer additional portfolios is a matter for the government of the day.’

First, the Governor-General in appointing ministers does not act on ‘the advice of the government of the day’. This statement has misled some commentators into discussing the role of the Executive Council in such appointments. But ministerial appointments are the gift of the Prime Minister, only – though the Prime Minister may be subject to party-political processes.

That is what happens immediately after an election, when the Governor-General calls on the leader of the successful party or coalition to be Prime Minister and then receives his or her advice as to who should be sworn in as ministers and in what positions. It is what happens during the course of a government, when there is a ministerial re-shuffle or new ministers need to be appointed. Similarly, the Prime Minister alone decides if a minister should be sacked by the Governor-General.

Second, while it is not uncommon for ‘ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility’ – whenever they take leave, or go overseas, for example – it is most unusual for the Prime Minister to appoint himself or herself to back-up an existing minister.

But it is completely unprecedented for the Prime Minister to be sworn in to a ministerial post concurrently with there being a minister exercising the relevant powers.

What Scott Morrison was doing was so unusual that the Governor-General should have asked him to put his advice (to swear himself in as Minister for Health, then Minister for Finance, etc.) in writing. If he did so, the Governor-General should publish that advice in precisely the same way that advice about calling an early election or a double-dissolution election is made public.

The Governor-General should also have concerned himself about whether he should obtain advice about the legality of what the Prime Minister wanted to do. That should have been sought not just from the Attorney-General (had the Prime Minister suggested that course) but from the apolitical Solicitor-General, with a view to making that advice public.

As well as publishing any advice given to him by the Prime Minister the Governor-General should also say whether he queried with the Prime Minister the decision to keep these appointments secret – irrespective of whether it was for the government to publicise the appointments. And he should have required that response to be in writing.

It is true that the Governor-General had no discretion in making the appointments that the Prime Minister sought. There were no ‘reserve powers’ at hand for him to refuse the Prime Minister. But even if the Covid scare was so overwhelming that he didn’t think of questioning the first couple of appointments that the Prime Minister wanted, he should have queried the later appointments (when the panic had passed), and required an explanation in writing, if only to protect the office of Governor-General.

Unless he was concerned that by doing so his occupancy of that office might be at risk?

If he did ask questions, he should make the advice he received from the Prime Minister, or his department or the law officers, public now.

If there was anything in writing by the Prime Minister it would be interesting to see whether it was more coherent that the account Morrison, who until he was corrected by the Prime Ministers Department couldn’t recall two of the later appointments, is providing now.




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the secret life of a despotic worm...


Irrespective of how much effort conservatives and the mainstream media are putting into downplaying the significance of the secret ministries of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the fact that the two people at the apex of Australia’s political system – the Prime Minister and Governor–General – made secret executive decisions, will reverberate for some time to come.

Secrecy and low levels of accountability – or in Morrison’s case, no accountability at all – are the hallmarks of autocratic societies, and are not the basis of democratic governments. It is of great concern that two journalists from News Corporation knew of these arrangements at the time, which remained a secret to everyone except for Morrison, David Hurley, the Attorney–General, the Minister for Health – and certainly remained a secret to the Australian public.

For sure, these two journalists are the reason why the public now knows about Morrison’s secret appointments, but they sat on this knowledge for well over two years, and decided to release it only after Morrison and the Coalition was out of government, and safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t spoil the Coalition’s re-election chances at the 2022 federal election.

Australia’s mainstream media is among the most mediocre and corrupt in the western world, and this is another example of how vested interests will always act to protect conservative governments and leaders, even when there is clear evidence they have acted improperly and, possible, corruptly.

The only clear course of action is for Morrison to resign from Parliament, and Hurley to resign from the position of Governor–General: there is no public trust for either of them and both of their positions are untenable.

And should Labor repeal the Stage 3 tax cuts? Morally, ethically and economically, yes, they should. It’s a tax cut legislated by the Coalition, it’s not Labor policy, and it’s not a part of the Labor Party’s philosophy to provide massive tax cuts to high income earners and virtually nothing to low and middle income earners.

So, what are they waiting for? The big issue is that, historically, any politician or political party that repeals a promised tax cut is asking for political trouble, irrespective of how valid or economically responsible it might be for the circumstances of the day. It gives the mainstream media – most of whom would be the beneficiaries of tax cuts – and the Opposition of the day to weaponise against the Labor Party, and they’d be shouting about it from the rooftops everyday until the next election.

The Labor Party doesn’t have enough political capital to repeal the Stage 3 tax cuts and, perhaps, no party every would. For the Albanese government, keeping the Stage 3 tax cuts is the lesser of two problems: they’ll have to recoup the $157 billion of lost revenue in other ways.







great scott ....