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'Shadow government': Australia ex-PM took on secret roles during pandemic

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Australian former Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference on the governments' bushfire response at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, January 5, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Australian prime minister has promised a speedy investigation after it was revealed that his predecessor secretly appointed himself to several ministerial posts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a new revelation on Monday, it emerged that ex-prime minister Scott Morrison had made himself minister of health, finance, and resources, among other positions, without informing his cabinet colleagues, parliament, or voters.

Describing Morrison’s actions as “extraordinary and unprecedented”, the incumbent premier Anthony Albanese accused Morrison of "tin-pot activity" and said that he had sought legal advice from the solicitor-general.

“This is a sort of tin-pot activity that we would ridicule if it was in a non-democratic country,” Albanese said, stressing that Morrison was "running a shadow government”.

“This was a centralization of power by the former Prime Minister,” Albanese said. "This isn’t some, you know, local footy club, this is a government of Australia.”

In some extraordinary cases, Morrison had made himself a co-minister without telling the cabinet members. However, it is still not clear how many posts he held.

The revelation has shone a light on the opaque nature of decision-making inside Australia’s government, with constitutional law expert Anne Twomey describing the allegations as “bizarre”.

“The secrecy involved in this is just simply bizarre,” she said. “It's just utterly inappropriate. We live in a democracy, which requires transparency.”

Ministers are traditionally sworn in at a ceremony by the governor-general when being appointed to the role, but that did not happen in the case of the additional roles that were filled by Morrison.

“These revelations do raise into question our Westminster system of government,” said Bridget McKenzie, the national leader in the upper house.

Morrison, who was appointed as Australia’s prime minister in 2018, lost power in elections in May 2022, ending nearly a decade of center-right rule in the country.

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