Revelations that Australia’s former prime minister secretly appointed himself to several cabinet posts during the pandemic sparked a political firestorm on Monday, with his successor promising a swift investigation.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese charged Scott Morrison of “phony activity” after his appearance, the former leader had appointed himself minister of health, finance and resources, among other posts, without informing his colleagues, parliament or voters.
Describing Morrison’s actions as “extraordinary and unprecedented,” Albanese said Monday he had sought legal advice from the solicitor general and would be briefed later in the day.
“It’s a kind of phony activity that we would ridicule if it was in an undemocratic country,” Albanese said. “Scott Morrison ran a shadow government.”
In some cases, morisson made himself co-minister without informing the members of the cabinet he had already appointed to these posts.
The scandal has shed light on the opaque nature of decision-making in the Australian government – and raised questions about the need for stronger democratic safeguards.
It is still unclear how many positions Morrison held, but local media reported that he took over the resource portfolio and used his power to shut down a major gas project off Sydney.
Morrison’s conservative coalition lost power in May’s election, ending nearly a decade of centre-right government in the country.
In Australia, elected politicians are selected by the Prime Minister before being sworn in by the Governor-General in an official ceremony usually recorded publicly.
Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey called the allegations “bizarre” and said they raised possible legal challenges to some of the former government’s decisions.
“The secrecy involved in all of this is just weird. I mean, you know, you wonder what’s wrong with these people, if they have to do everything in secret,” she said.
“It’s just totally inappropriate. We live in a democracy, which demands transparency.