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's former prime minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday he decided to be secretly sworn in to five key ministries during the epidemic because he felt that the responsibility for the nation was his alone.
Morrison, who was stepping down as leader of the Liberal Party after losing a general election in May, addressed a news conference to answer a barrage of criticism from the Labor government and his own party over the unprecedented move.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Morrison had attacked the Westminster system of government by secretly naming five portfolios, including home affairs, treasury, health, finance and resources, between 2020 and 2021.
Three ministers were unaware that Morrison shared power over their ministries until the revelations this week, they said.
Morrison told reporters that they were steering the ship in the middle of the tempest and remembered how the pandemic hit Australia in 2020.
He said that only as prime minister, I could understand the weight of responsibility that was on my shoulders and no one else.
Morrison said he didn't take over the ministries, and said no ministers were interfered with except on one occasion, where he rejected a resources project.
He said he did not inform the ministers because he would only use the powers in an emergency.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said earlier on Wednesday Morrison's behavior was dictatorial and whether he remained in parliament was a test of the leadership of the Liberal Opposition, Peter Dutton.
Morrison rejected this, saying emergency powers were put in place by a democratically elected prime minister and according to law.
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Morrison's secret accumulation of ministerial roles began in 2020 with health and finance ministries, which he said was because of concern that these ministers could be struck down with COVID- 19 while wielding emergency powers that could not be checked by parliament.
The former prime minister Scott Morrison speaks to media at a press conference in Sydney on August 17, 2022. Morrison became minister for home affairs in May 2021, and became secretary of state affairs in May 2021, according to STEVEN SAPHORE AFP.
Morrison said that this was due to the national budget being delivered in May and ongoing negotiations with Britain and the United States over the AUKUS security agreement for nuclear submarines.
In 2021, the resources minister role he took over was different from the others, and the only role in which he triggered ministerial power - to stop approval for a gas exploration project off the coast of Australia, which was opposed by local communities. The decision is being challenged in court.
After listening to Morrison's press conference, Albanese said on Wednesday that this is a trashing of our democratic system.
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The solicitor general will give advice on the matter to Albanese on Monday.