Australian PM seeks legal advice after reports of predecessor's appointments

Australian PM seeks legal advice after reports of predecessor's appointments

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks at the Sydney Energy Forum on July 12, 2022 in Sydney. BROOK MITCHELL POOL AFP SYDNEY Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has sought legal advice after reports that his predecessor Scott Morrison was secretly appointed to key ministerial roles during the COVID 19 epidemic, duplicating some portfolios.

Although ministers are traditionally sworn in at a ceremony by the governor-general, this did not occur in the case of Morrison's additional roles and Albanese said key cabinet members were not aware of the appointments.

This was a centralization of power by the former prime minister, Albanese, who has sought advice from the solicitor-general, Australia's second law officer, told reporters on Monday.

He said that this isn't a local footy club. This is a government of Australia in which the people of Australia were kept in the dark as to what the ministerial arrangements were. Morrison could not be reached for comment.

In an emailed statement, the governor-general's office told Reuters that appointments were valid under the constitution, did not require a swearing-in ceremony, and that publicizing them was a matter for the government of the day.

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The spokesperson for the governor-general's secretary said it was not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility.

The governor-general followed normal process and acted on the advice of the government in appointing Morrison to administer portfolios besides his own department and cabinet, the spokesperson said.

The Australian newspaper said Morrison was appointed health minister in 2020, along with Health Minister Greg Hunt, to avoid concentrating power in one person when biosecurity emergency powers were adopted to tackle the coronaviruses epidemic.

He was later appointed finance minister, and was appointed administrator of the resources ministry in 2021. The paper said he later blocked an offshore gas project.

David Littleproud, the leader of the Nationals party and the coalition partner of Morrison's Liberal party, told ABC radio the news was disappointing and added that the cabinet should be trusted.