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Judge to probe how former Australian Prime Minister gained secret power

CANBERRA, Australia –

A retired judge has been appointed to investigate how former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was able to secretly amass unprecedented ministerial powers while defying political conventions.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced on Friday that former Supreme Court Justice Virginia Bell will report on November 25 on the findings of her investigation into Morrison’s covert handling of power.

Morrison secretly appointed himself to five ministerial roles between March 2020 and May 2021, often without the original minister’s knowledge.

Albanese, who replaced Morrison in the May election, cited Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue’s legal opinion that while the appointments were legitimate, they undermined the principle of responsible government duty.

“We need to have a quick and proper investigation, not about the politics but into how this happened, why it happened, who knew about it,” Albanese said.

“The investigation will make recommendations to the government on any changes that could provide greater transparency and accountability to ensure that this can never happen again,” Albanese said. more.

Morrison’s unusual takeover of power is seen as part of a broader trend in Australian politics to centralize power in one leader’s office at the expense of the British Westminster tradition of delegating responsibilities. responsibilities among ministers.

Donaghue wrote in his scathing 29-page legal opinion that went public this week: “It is not possible for Parliament to leave ministers in charge of ministries without knowing that ministers are responsible for ministries. any.”

Morrison, now an opposition lawmaker, insists that he has given himself investment portfolios in health, finance, treasury, resources and household affairs as an urgent measure needed. due to the coronavirus crisis.

But his only known secret use of power has nothing to do with the pandemic. He overturned former Resources Secretary Keith Pitt’s decision to approve a controversial gas drilling project near Sydney’s north coast that could hurt his Conservative coalition’s chances of re-election .

Opposition deputy leader Sussan Ley on Friday said the investigation was evidence that Albanese was focused on the past rather than management.

“Mr Albanese’s priorities are all about the past. He is obsessed and consumed by the politics of the past when Australians need him to focus on their future challenges,” Ley said.

But three of Australia’s surviving former conservative prime ministers have criticized Morrison’s secret power. Morrison is the only living prime minister of the Conservative Liberal Party.

Malcolm Turnbull, whom Morrison replaced as prime minister in 2018 during an internal power struggle within government ranks, has described his successor’s secret portfolio as “sinister stuff”.

“This is secret government. This is one of the most horrifying things I’ve heard in our federal government. The idea that a prime minister would take an oath of secrecy into other ministries is unbelievable. “, Turnbull told Australian Broadcasting Corp. last week.

Former Home Secretary Karen Andrews, who discovered Morrison this month shared his portfolio, has asked him to leave Parliament.

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