Scott Morrison likely to be censured for ‘usurping’ parliament, Albanese suggests

Scott Morrison is likely to be censured for “usurping” the Australian parliament, Anthony Albanese has suggested, after being approached by those wishing to “express a view” on the former prime minister’s multiple ministries.

The prime minister said on Sunday that Morrison should be “embarrassed” by the Virginia Bell inquiry report into the saga. Labor will decide its position on the possible censure at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

The Bell report, released on Friday, agreed with the solicitor general’s conclusion that Morrison’s decision to be appointed to five additional portfolios during the pandemic undermined responsible government, adding that it was “corrosive of trust in government”.

Asked about a possible censure motion on Sunday, Albanese said he ran “proper government” that would decide its position in cabinet, including whether to accept the six recommendations of the Bell report.

“But on the parliament – I’ve been contacted by parliamentarians already, not just Labor parliamentarians, [who] want the parliament to express a view about the usurping of parliament that occurred,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“You had a shadow government operating in an unprecedented, extraordinary way.

“You had a prime minister who was standing up in parliament and not telling his own side, or not all of his side knew, let alone the parliament as a whole, who held what portfolio and who was responsible for decisions.

“And that undermined, as the Bell inquiry makes very clear, that undermined the faith in our parliamentary processes and there’s a reason why under the Westminster system ministers are held accountable by the parliament.

“It wasn’t possible to hold ministers to account because people didn’t know who the ministers were.

“I believe that the parliament is likely to want to express a view on that and we will have a discussion of it, and we will let you know once that decision is made.”

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Morrison said he had acted to “best advance and protect Australia’s national interests”, explaining that the decisions to take on extra powers “were taken during an extremely challenging period, where there was a need for considerable urgency”.

“I am pleased that this matter has now concluded and I can continue, as I have since the last election, to serve the people of Cook as their federal member of parliament.”

Albanese noted that there had been discussion of Morrison’s relationship with the former deputy Liberal leader, Josh Frydenberg, who on Friday labelled the multiple ministerial appointments “extreme overreach”.

‘Corrosive of trust in government’: PM addresses report on Morrison’s secret ministries – video

“That’s kind of interesting to some – what I’m interested in is the relationship or lack thereof between Scott Morrison and the Australian people.

“They are the people, the Australian population and democracy, requires, I think deserves, an apology for this. I didn’t see any contrition in Scott Morrison’s statement last Friday.

“And I find that just extraordinary that anyone can read the Bell inquiry and not be embarrassed, if you’re the subject of it.

“It’s also the case that Scott Morrison said he’d fully cooperate with the inquiry but he chose to talk … through his lawyers. And that, of course, is his right to do but I’ll leave people to draw their own conclusions there.”

Morrison said he had assisted the inquiry with “six separate and comprehensive responses to matters raised with me and my legal representatives” by Bell.

“This engagement was done via correspondence as was the practice with other respondents to the inquiry and accepted by Hon. Virginia Bell.”

The Greens senator Barbara Pocock said her party “think that what’s unfolded … is completely unacceptable and should never have occurred”.

“We need to make sure that kind of action – totally inappropriate in Australian democracy – does not happen again.”