Australia to introduce rules for transparency in ministerial appointments

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Australia to introduce rules for transparency in ministerial appointments

Australia's former prime minister Scott Morrison speaks to media at a press conference in Sydney on August 17, 2022. STEVEN SAPHORE AFP SYDNEY Australia will introduce rules to increase transparency in ministerial appointments after an inquiry into secret ministerial appointments by then prime minister Scott Morrison found they corroded public trust in government.

Morrison, who lost power in a general election in May, secretly accumulated five ministerial roles during the coronaviruses epidemic: health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs.

Three ministers said they did not know they were sharing power with Morrison.

An inquiry led by former High Court judge Virginia Bell found that appointments hurt public confidence in government. In a report released on Friday, Bell said that the lack of parliamentary accountability undermined responsible government.

The secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corroborating of trust in government, Bell said.

Morrison said appointments were necessary during the epidemic to ensure continuity and as a precaution in case a minister is incapacitated.

The report raised doubts on both counts, arguing that acting ministers could have been appointed quickly if needed.

Bell recommended six changes, including legislation requiring public notice of ministerial appointments.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government would adopt all six of the recommendations.

We're shining light on a shadow government that preferred to operate in darkness. Albanese told a news conference after the publication of the report that the government was in a cult of secrecy and a culture of cover-up.

Bell noted that because Morrison's extra powers had only been exercised once, the implications of the appointments were limited.

The inquiry said responsibility for the decisions lies with Morrison, while senior official Phil Gaetjens, who prepared briefs on the appointments, did not push for more disclosure.

Morrison said he took secret roles because responsibility was his own.

Morrison spoke to the inquiry through an attorney.