Scott Morrison will face a parliamentary censure motion this week, after the inquiry by former High Court judge Virginia Bell found his multi-ministry power grab “corrosive of trust in government”.
Cabinet on Monday confirmed legislation to implement the Bell recommendations would be introduced this week and the censure would also be moved.
Anthony Albanese is not planning to move it himself – he indicated that would be done by the Leader of the House Tony Burke or Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.
If the motion is passed, as is certain given the government’s majority, it will be the first time since federation there has been a successful censure by the house against a former PM, according to parliamentary records.
Morrison had himself appointed to five portfolios in 2020-21, with only one of the ministers being aware at the time he was their co-minister. No public announcement was ever made – his actions only came to light after the election.
Bell concluded that “the lack of disclosure of the appointments to the public was apt to undermine public confidence in government. Once the appointments became known, the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government”.
The opposition will vote against the censure. Manager of Opposition Business Paul Fletcher said the motion was “a political stunt” by the government.
Fletcher said the solicitor-general had found no illegality in what Morrison did, nor had Bell.
He told Sky: “Censure motions are typically used to deal with the accountability of a minister to the Parliament. There is no need for a censure motion here. It would purely be an exercise in political payback.”
“The issue of the relationship between the then prime minister and his then ministers – that’s a matter for the prime minister and each of those ministers. I’ve certainly said if I’d been a minister who’d been on the receiving end of this, I would not have been happy. But that’s a very separate question from your calling for consequences.”
Albanese rejected Fletcher’s argument.
“It’s not a personal relationship between two mates over what happened down the pub. This is about accountability of our democratic system, and whether the parliament was functioning properly. And about the relationship between the prime minister and the people of Australia.”
Fletcher flagged the opposition would support the legislation to implement the Bell recommendations to ensure ministerial appointments are always made public. Albanese indicated the legislation mightn’t be passed before parliament rises this week but said regulatory changes had already been made.