Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed he will make public on Tuesday the legal advice on Scott Morrison secretly appointing himself to five portfolios.
Mr Albanese said he would be briefed by the Secretary of Prime Minister and Cabinet Glyn Davis on Monday afternoon on whether the former Prime Minister breached any rules.
The Labor leader will first meet with Cabinet in Canberra on Tuesday to discuss the advice from the Solicitor-General before making it public.
“I intend to release that advice so that people can see it and be transparent about it, and we will because my government is an orderly government,” Mr Albanese said.
“We have Cabinet meetings tomorrow. I think politeness and proper process mean that they should have access to it. I will do that and I intend to release the advice tomorrow.”
There are growing calls for an inquiry into Mr Morrison’s decision to secretly swear himself in as the joint minister for health, finance, treasury, home affairs, and industry, science, energy and resources between March 2020 and May 2021.
The Prime Minister argued even if the former Liberal leader did not break the law by his actions, he said questions still needed to be answered.
“There have been questions raised about how this could occur, how it fits in with the conventions and the normal accountability mechanisms and checks and balances that are there in our parliamentary democracy,” he said.
“I will await and consider the advice properly. I will release it publicly. I am giving that commitment so that everyone will have the opportunity to see the advice for themselves. 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?
“That is why there is a need in a parliamentary democracy, and in our Westminster system of cabinet government, for cabinet to be aware, let alone the Australian people to be aware of who is responsible for what at any particular time.”
Last week, Mr Morrison defended his decision to secretly swear himself into the five ministries, insisting he was forced to arm himself with “emergency powers” to take unprecedented measures during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the nation from “unforeseen” challenges.
At the time, he said he only used his “emergency powers” once to kill off a controversial gas project off the NSW coast, which had been approved by then Resources Minister Keith Pitt.
It has since been revealed that a disclaimer noting that ministers may be sworn to administer other portfolios without it being shown on the official parliamentary list was added just four days after Mr Morrison took over as Prime Minister in 2018.
Liberal MP Bridget Archer is backing calls for an inquiry, saying Mr Morrison should “reflect” on his position within the parliament.
“Australians generally agree that we don’t want to see this sort of situation occur into the future, so we need to examine how we got here and how we stop it happening going forward,” Ms Archer told ABC Radio.
“It also is forcing other colleagues to… defend themselves and their own records. And I think that that’s unfair. (Mr Morrison) should reflect on that and, and certainly consider whether it’s the best thing for him to do going forward.”
Greens Leader Adam Bandt is also pushing for an inquiry to look into if Mr Morrison pressured Governor-General David Hurley into signing off on the secret portfolio arrangements.
The Albanese Government has been reluctant to criticise Mr Hurley, saying he was acting on the advice of the government at the time.
The Greens have already asked House of Representatives Speaker Milton Dick to refer Mr Morrison to the privileges committee over the saga.
“One of the things that we don’t yet know is whether or not that was done at Scott Morrison’s requests, whether or not he made requests of the Governor- General to keep some of these appointments secret,” he said.
“Similarly, with respect to his own department, what did… the former Prime Minister do?”