Secret powers of an Australian prime minister, now revealed

SYDNEY, Australia – Most Australians pride themselves on their Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, in which ministers are empowered to decide how government groups operate. Like a cooperative politics, they hate the pomp and centralized power of the US president – which is exactly why this week’s revelations about the country’s pro-Trump ex-prime minister have caused a stir. fire of criticism.

Turns out, the cute leader that Australia chose kicked out of the office in May, Scott Morrison, took himself to the next level. After Covid arrived in March 2020, he was more than just prime minister. He was sworn in as second health minister, finance minister, resource minister and interior minister, along with appointing himself as co-treasurer. And he kept his new roles secret from the public and most of his colleagues in Congress.

“I can’t imagine the mindset that has created this,” said his own, Anthony Albanese, the current prime minister, who stood before reporters on Tuesday.

“It undermines our democracy,” Mr. Albanese added.

This difficult deal seems to have started with Mr Morrison realizing in 2020 that his government’s declaration of a “human biosecurity emergency” would give the health minister extraordinary powers. to direct any citizen in the country to do whatever it takes to control the spread of Covid-19. The public health law essentially puts the health minister above the prime minister.

So according to a new book excerpt in the Australian newspaper Mr Morrison and the country’s attorney general, Christian Porter, have offered an administrative solution. Realizing there were no barriers to having two ministers in charge of the same portfolio, Mr Morrison quickly appointed himself health minister, then finance minister, to ensure that He can also have a say over emergency spending.

On Tuesday, amid growing calls for him to step down from his parliamentary seat, Mr Morrison said his power play was the “right decision” for “very unusual times”.

Less clear is why in the 14 months after Covid arrived he added more responsibilities. But one anecdote offers a hint: Before the election in May, he used his new acting minister to sidestep the resource minister, Keith Pitt, in a controversial, killing gas project. it out of concern that it could hurt his party’s chances at the polls.

“This is the only issue I have directly related to this or any other department,” Mr Morrison said in a statement on Tuesday, apologizing “for any offense against the My colleagues”.

What hurts Australians most, perhaps, is the gut-wrenching punch of what Mr Albanese calls a “deceitful government”. Traditionally, prime ministers who wanted to take control of a portfolio would fire a minister and hire another minister along the lines of the party. In the case of the resource role – as with other self-appointed ones – Mr Morrison did not disclose to the public that he was simply giving himself an extra lever of control over decision-making.

The Governor-General, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative, officially Australia’s head of state, also said nothing the whole time, after providing a rubber-stamped approval of his appointments. Morrison.

Some of the ministers who were sharing power with Mr Morrison were never told, including the finance minister at the time, Mathias Cormann, who currently serves as secretary general of the Organization for Cooperation and Development. Economics, known as OECD

Another senior lawmaker, Karen Andrews, who served as home secretary, said she had “no idea” about the move until this week.

On Tuesday, she called on Mr Morrison to step down. “There can be no justification for why this has not been disclosed publicly,” she said.

Many Australians were equally appalled to see Mr Morrison’s moves attributed to Trump.

Some analysts say the revelations confirm voters’ suspicions about their recently ousted leader.

Jill Sheppard, a political scientist at the Australian National University, said: “At some point, perhaps some point, between 2019 and 2022, voters turned against Morrison. “While this decision by Morrison is intended to sabotage a series of parliaments and may even claim that the Constitution has been kept silent, to me it shows that Australian voters can smell it. of how good a mouse is.”

As evidence, she cites post-election surveys of voters that show that more than any policy or issue, contempt for Mr Morrison – who is often described by voters as a no-brainer honest – cost his coalition the election.

And the incumbent prime minister, Mr Albanese, seems eager to take the points home. On Tuesday, three months after taking office, he described the previous government’s moves as an “unprecedented act of evil against our democracy.”

Jason Bosland, a professor at Melbourne Law School, notes that the trouble extends beyond Mr Morrison, to the way the Australian government operates. The Westminster system may require shared responsibility, but it does not prioritize sharing information for public scrutiny.

Professor Bosland said: “We lack legal mechanisms for accountability and transparency in the law. “And we have a growing culture of secrecy in government.”

Mr Albanese was asked repeatedly by reporters on Tuesday what he planned to do about the systemic issues Mr Morrison’s actions appear to have revealed. Transparency issue has been getting worse over the yearswith prosecutions of whistleblowers, raids on journalists’ homes, suppressive orders to keep court proceedings private, and repeated denials of public records requests.

The Prime Minister has said little about it. “We’ll get the right advice, then we’ll make the appropriate considerations,” he said, without committing to the law. “We will run a proper government.”

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