Australia PM to release report into predecessor’s secret ministries

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Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he will release a report on Tuesday from the solicitor general on his predecessor Scott Morrison being secretly sworn into five ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Albanese said it wasn’t suggested Morrison’s actions were illegal but they raised questions over political conventions and checks on power in a democracy.

“There is a basic fundamental weakness in checks and balances. If no-one knows who the minister is, then how can they be held to account for decisions which are made?” Albanese told reporters on Monday.

Albanese said his office had received the advice from the country’s second highest law officer and he would be briefed on Monday, adding it would be publicly released on Tuesday after a meeting of his government’s Cabinet.

Morrison, who stepped down as leader of the Liberal Party after losing a general election in May, has faced a barrage of criticism from the Labor government and his own party, after it was revealed he was secretly sworn in to ministries without telling parliament or his cabinet, an unprecedented assumption of power.

Three ministers were unaware Morrison shared power over their ministries of home affairs, treasury and finance until last week. Morrison said he only intervened in one ministry, resources, to block an offshore gas project.

On Sunday, Albanese said he may consider a broader inquiry.

Morrison said last week the coronavirus pandemic was an extraordinary time and he secretly took on the ministries because he felt responsibility for the nation was his alone.

Australia has a cabinet-based system that relies on a group of ministers governing, and not a presidential system.

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