Friday, 2 December 2022

In case you missed it....

 

The Echidna, newsletter, 2 December 2022:


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:


  • Australia's information commissioner has begun an investigation into Medibank's data-handling practices as the hackers behind the breach dumped the last customer information they stole on the dark web. The health insurer reported the breach on October 13 and the Russian ransomware group has been releasing customer information in a staged manner since early November. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner confirmed it was examining Medibank after preliminary inquiries found enough evidence to press further.



  • Health authorities have issued a warning for all green thumbs using potting mix after a Sydney woman in her 60s died from Legionnaires' disease. Legionnaires' disease is a type of pneumonia caused by exposure to legionella bacteria. It is life-threatening but rare. Symptoms include fever, chills, a cough, shortness of breath and aching muscles. Associate Professor and specialist in infectious diseases at the Australian National University Sanjaya Senanayake said gardeners should wear a face mask and gloves while handling potting mix.



  • Bushfire season has officially begun in Australia, and despite copping a drenching from La Nina, the country could still see devastating burns. NSW is facing its most significant grassfire risk in a decade, with two years of rain creating conditions for "prolific vegetation growth". Forecast hotter and drier conditions for the second half of summer also means the overall impact this season could be much worse than many are expecting. Grassfires can move up to three times faster than a bushfire, generating enormous amounts of heat, and flames up to five metres high.


To sign up for this newsletter go to: https://www.theechidna.com.au/


New Liquor Accord now operating in the Lower Clarence area

 



Clarence Valley Independent, 30 November 2022:


If you’re under 18 and are thinking about sneaking into a licensed premises, be warned – new liquor accord rules in the Lower Clarence mean you’ll have to wait until you’re at least 19 before you can enjoy a drink with friends at a pub or club.


President Chris Durrington said the new rule, which received the full support of local licensing police, and was ratified at the October meeting of the Lower Clarence Liquor Accord targets fake identification and under-age drinking.


If you’re 17 and you get caught under-age drinking on premises, your barring starts from when you turn 18,” he said.


You can’t go into a pub or club or restaurant that is a licensed premises until you are 19.


If you get caught again a second time, your ban from licensed premises will extend until you’re 20.”


The new rule for 18’s has been implemented successfully in other areas including Coffs Harbour.


Presenting fake identification becomes more prolific in holiday periods, Mr Durrington said.


Especially around this time of year at the pubs, a lot of kids from Sydney bring up fake id’s…there’s a few fake apps that they use that look 100 per-cent, but there are a few things we look for to identify it’s fake,” he said.


The licensing police have increased their presence recently and have been doing walk-throughs of premises at least every couple of weeks.”


Stiff penalties apply for licensed premises selling alcohol to a minor with a fine of $11,000 or up to 12 months imprisonment, or both, for both the person selling the alcohol and the licensee.


Mr Durrington said the new rule for under 18’s will work hand-in-hand with the liquor accords barred from one, barred from all policy.


We’ve had the barred from one, barred from all, successful initiative that’s been going for a few years,” he said.


If you commit an offence in any club, pub or any licensed establishment you can be put on the barred list, so you will be barred from anywhere in the Lower Clarence that sells alcohol.


Restaurants, bottle shops, clubs, pubs, every licensed premises.”


Since the implementation of the barred from one, barred from all initiative, Mr Durrington said all venues had experienced a dramatic drop in offences committed at premises.


Since we started the barred from one, barred from all, crime rate in the clubs and pubs is down about 80 per-cent,” he said.


They see the sign, especially if they’re locals, that they can’t go to the pub or the club for a year and it just stops them.”…..


One of the consequences of this new agreement among liquor outlets is that adults of any age may find it difficult to access home delivery from local bottleshops. 


I'm not sure that Mr. Durrington, Operations Manager of the Yamba Golf and Country Club or the Coffs-Clarence Police District commander, foresaw that situation.



Thursday, 1 December 2022

Hansard now records that on 30 November 2022 the former prime minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison was formally censured in the House of Representatives 86 votes to 50 — with one of his fellow Liberals crossing the floor to support the censure, one abstaining & a number 'missing in action'

 

An instance of politically reaping what one has sown came to pass for Scott John Morrison yesterday when a motion of censure was put to Parliament......


House of RepresentativesParliamentary Business, Chamber documents, Live Minutes, 30 November 2022:


Question put 12:02:04 PM


Division 81  12:02:17 PM


The House divided (the Speaker, Mr Dick, in the Chair) —


AYES, 86


Mr Albanese Mrs Elliot Ms McBride Dr Scamps

Dr Aly Ms Fernando Mr Marles Ms Scrymgour

Dr Ananda-Rajah Dr Freelander Ms Mascarenhas Ms Sharkie

Mrs Archer Dr Garland Ms Miller-Frost Mr Shorten

Mr Bandt Mr Georganas Mr B Mitchell Ms Sitou

Mr Bates Mr Giles Mr R Mitchell Mr Smith*

Mr Bowen Mr Gorman Dr Mulino Ms Spender

Mr Burke Mr Gosling Mr Neumann Ms Stanley*

Ms Burney Dr Haines Mr O’Connor Ms Steggall

Mr Burns Mr Hill Ms O’Neil Ms Swanson

Mr Butler Mr Husic Ms Payne Ms Templeman

Dr Chalmers Mr Jones Mr Perrett Mr Thistlethwaite

Mr Chandler-Mather Ms Kearney Mrs Phillips Ms Thwaites

Ms Chaney Mr Keogh Ms Plibersek Ms Tink

Dr Charlton Mr Khalil Dr Reid Ms Vamvakinou

Ms Chesters Ms C King Mr Repacholi Ms Watson-Brown

Mr Clare Ms M. M. H. King Ms Rishworth Mr Watts

Ms Coker Ms Lawrence Ms Roberts Ms Wells

Ms Collins Mr Laxale Ms Rowland Mr Wilkie

Mr Conroy Dr Leigh Ms J Ryan Mr J Wilson

Ms Daniel Mr Lim Dr M Ryan Mr Zappia

Mr Dreyfus Ms McBain


NOES, 50


Ms Bell Mr Hamilton Mrs Marino Mr Taylor

Mr Birrell Mr Hastie Mr Morrison Mr Tehan

Mr Boyce Mr Hawke Mr Ted O’Brien Mr Thompson

Mr Broadbent Mr Hogan Mr Pasin Mr Vasta

Mr Buchholz Mr Howarth Mr Pearce Mr Wallace

Mr Coleman Mr Joyce Mr Pike Ms Ware

Mr Conaghan Mr Katter Mr Pitt Dr Webster

Mr Coulton* Ms Landry Ms Price Mr Willcox

Mr Dutton Mr Leeser Mr Ramsey* Mr R Wilson

Mr Entsch Mr Littleproud Mr Robert Mr Wolahan

Mr Fletcher Mr McCormack Mr Stevens Mr Wood

Dr Gillespie Mrs McIntosh Mr Sukkar Mr Young

Mr Goodenough Ms McKenzie

* Tellers


And so it was resolved in the affirmative.


It is noted that all the Independent MPs  with the exception of Ms. Dai Li the Member for Fowler  voted in support of the censure motion. Ms. Dai Li appears to have abstained.


It is further noted that Mrs. Bridget Archer the Liberal Member for Bass voted in support of the censure motion, while Karen Andrews the Liberal Member for McPherson appears to have abstained. UPDATE: It appears that Sussan Ley the Liberal Member for Farrer & Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party may also have abstained.


A further 5 members of the Coalition Opposition were  

 perhaps 'diplomatically'  absent from the House at the time the vote was taken. They were Alan Tudge (Lib Aston), Lew O’Brien (LNP Wide Bay), Andew Gee (Nats Calare), Bert van Manen (LNP Forde) on leave, Darren Chester (Nats Gippsland) on leave.


The Greens Members for Melbourne, Griffith and Ryan all voted in support of the censure motion, as did Ms. Sharkie the Centre Alliance Member for Mayo. Mr. Katter the KAP Member for Kennedy voted against the censure motion.


The text of the Censure Motion to which those 86 members of the House of Representatives agreed.......


House of Representatives, Hansard, 30 November 2022, excerpt:


MOTIONS

Member For Cook

Censure


Mr BURKE (Watson—Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for the Arts and Leader of the House) (09:06): Given the nature of the motion I am about to move, I think it would suit the convenience of the House for the normal speaking times which apply to all members to not apply to the member for Cook, should he rise to speak. I think, given the nature of the motion, it's appropriate that the member for Cook, should he wish to speak, be able to make whatever length of contribution he chooses.

I move:

That the House:

(1) notes:

(a) the Constitution provides for 'responsible government', described by the High Court of Australia as a 'system by which the executive is responsible to the legislature and, through it, to the electorate';

(b) in the Inquiry into the Appointment of the Former Prime Minister to Administer Multiple Departments, the Honourable Virginia Bell AC found that while the Member for Cook was the Prime Minister of Australia he:

(i) had himself appointed to administer:

(A) the Department of Health on 14 March 2020;

(B) the Department of Finance on 30 March 2020;

(C) the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources on 15 April 2021;

(D) the Department of Treasury on 6 May 2021; and

(E) the Department of Home Affairs on 6 May 2021; and

(ii) did not inform:

(A) Cabinet;

(B) the relevant Departments;

(C) the House of Representatives; or

(D) the Australian public;

about these additional appointments; and

(c) as found by the Honourable Virginia Bell AC, the actions and failures of the Member for Cook:

(i) 'fundamentally undermined' the principles of responsible government because the Member for Cook was not 'responsible' to the Parliament, and through the Parliament to the electors, for the departments he was appointed to administer; and

(ii) were 'apt to undermine public confidence in government' and were 'corrosive of trust in government'; and

(2) therefore censures the Member for Cook for failing to disclose his appointments to the House of Representatives, the Australian people and the Cabinet, which undermined responsible government and eroded public trust in Australia's democracy.


Today's motion is not how any of us wanted to make history. In any other circumstance, for any other former Prime Minister and, certainly, even for the member for Cook, had the disclosure not been made available about the multiple ministries, we would not be here now. But a censure, while rare, has its place. The last time this parliament censured a member of parliament, it was a former minister, and it was done so unanimously. It was done so unanimously in relation to a former minister on the following basis: the decision was made that he—and I'll read this—'fell below the standards expected of a member of the House'. It wasn't that he had acted unlawfully; it was that he had fallen below the standards expected of a member of the House. That is the test. The test for censure, while rare, is not the test: would the courts overrule it? The courts are the place to determine whether or not something was lawful. In the parliament we determine whether or not something was appropriate.

I ask all members to think back to the first moment they heard about the multiple ministries and what their

reaction was. Some gave their reaction on the record and many more gave their reaction off the record. Nobody, except the member for Cook himself, had the reaction or said that this was acceptable or it met the standards expected of this House.

There are many democracies that have a system different to ours. There are many democracies around the world where the system of government is that the executive are quite separate to the legislature. Our system is responsible government. The executive are here in this room for the purpose of being held to account every day the legislature sits. That entire concept of responsible government only works if the parliament and, through the parliament, the

Australian people know which members of the executive are responsible for what.

This is not some small matter. It goes to the absolute core of the principle of responsible government. Responsible government was what Ms Bell referred to specifically. In her report she said:

the principles of responsible government were "fundamentally undermined" …

She also said:

the lack of disclosure of the appointments to the public was apt to undermine public confidence in government.

She also said:

the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government.

If we could unanimously determine that the conduct of Bruce Billson fell short of the standards, how on earth can the multiple ministries—and in question time after question time we, in fact, did not know where portfolios had been allocated—meet the standard? Question time is viewed as the most significant part of the parliamentary day.

It's when every member turns up. It's not a requirement that every member turns up; it is a convention. We have to defend our conventions too.

The core of responsible government was breached with the multiple appointments. In doing so, the member for

Cook did not tell the ministers themselves that he had been sworn into their portfolios. His cabinet was not told.

The department secretaries were not told. The parliament was not told. Through the parliament, the Australian people were not told. In doing this, the member for Cook did not just fall below the standards expected; he undermined them, he rejected them, he attacked them and he abused them.

How do we even know that all this happened? We know because at the same time that the member for Cook was not telling his colleagues, not telling this parliament and not telling the Australian people he was telling some

journalists writing a book. He thought it was interesting to contribute to the publication of a book, but not important to let anybody know where it was directly relevant to them.

The defences that have been offered, including the defences offered by the member for Cook through his lawyers to the Bell inquiry, are logically impossible. The member for Cook's lawyers said for him:

However, this in no way suggests that he did not expect that the usual practice would apply and that PM&C would publish the appointments in the Gazette.

It beggars belief that the member for Cook is now arguing that it was somehow just presumed it would have been made public in the Gazette and yet he was making sure he didn't tell the ministers themselves. When asked about the ministers, he said on 17 August the reason he didn't want to tell them was, 'I did not wish ministers to be second guessing themselves.' Both cannot be true. It cannot be the case that it was presumed it was going to come out in the Gazette and that it was important for people to not be told. To this day, the different versions being offered by the member for Cook cannot reconcile themselves with each other.

In the same way, when this started to emerge, when only Health, Finance and Industry, Science and Resources appointments had been known, on radio the member for Cook said this. He was asked, 'Just to be clear: are there other portfolios you assumed any control over?' The answer was: 'Not to my recollection. I don't recall any others being actioned.' It beggars belief that anyone in Australia's history could forget that they had been appointed Treasurer. It beggars belief.

At the start of question time each day, when a minister is not present, every prime minister has an obligation to

allow the House to know who is answering questions on their behalf. And, yet, at those exact moments the former Prime Minister never once said that he in fact was sworn into different portfolios and could answer those questions as well. The pathway of question time, the pathway of what this House did last term, was different because we were deceived. It was different. Questions were asked in different forms to different people because we weren't told.

It is true that what happened here was the end of a long process of enabling. When conventions were attacked, one after another, it led in a direct line to where we ended up, when we had the situation of there being constant silencing of opposition voices, when we had a cabinet committee with only one member, when we had a circumstance where, for the first time in living memory, a Speaker, a member of their own party, made a recommendation for a privileges reference which could have led to censure of one of their own. But they used their numbers to prevent the independence of the Speaker being recognised to defend—

An opposition member: It's just politics.

Mr BURKE: I hear the comment there—'It's just politics.' If that's the attitude then you never would have censured Bruce Billson. Every single threshold that has previously resulted in a censure being given of a member is met today and is met more strongly today than it ever has been before.

This place runs on rules and conventions. The mere existence of the office of Prime Minister and the existence of a cabinet is a convention. It's not in the Constitution. It's not required. It is a convention on which our system of government hangs. The concept that the parliament knows who has which job is essential to responsible government.

You cannot have responsible government if you don't know what people are responsible for, and for two years we didn't know. For two years, the ministers themselves did not know. For two years, departmental secretaries were unaware of who the ministers were to whom they had responsibility.

The gravity of what we are dealing with today is a censure motion beyond what the parliament has previously dealt with. Previously what we have dealt with is the conduct of one member being sufficiently bad that we needed to defend the House as a whole to say, 'That is not allowed to happen.' On this occasion, the conduct of one member prevented the House from doing its job. The conduct of one member prevented the House from knowing who was responsible for what. The fact that that one member was also the Prime Minister of Australia means that what we are dealing with now isn't just unprecedented, could not have been predicted, but is so completely unacceptable.

For members today I say to those opposite: there will be some thinking, yes; they oppose it but their party's made a decision. They've got to lock in; they've got to follow what their leader wants, and that's just where they're at. I'd just remind those members opposite of this: that is exactly what happened for the whole of the last term. It is exactly how every precedent was trashed. It is exactly how the principles of responsible government ended up being attacked in ways that hadn't happened before.

There is no previous Liberal Prime Minister where this sort of motion would ever have been moved. But the conduct that happened in the last term, that we now know about, was unacceptable, fell below the required standards and we have no choice but to support a censure.


It is noted that 21 MPs rose to their feet to debate the censure motion:

Mr Morrison 9:21:46 AM. Mr Dreyfus 9:45:46 AM. Mr Fletcher 9:56:40 AM. Ms C King 10:06:44 AM. Mr Katter 10:16:30 AM. Ms M. M. H. King 10:27:59 AM. Mr Leeser 10:38:05 AM. Ms O’Neil 10:47:30 AM. Mrs Archer 10:52:47 AM. Mr Albanese 10:56:44 AM. Mr McCormack 11:16:08 AM. Mr Bandt 11:29:29 AM. Dr Haines 11:38:37 AM. Dr M Ryan 11:41:49 AM. Ms Chaney 11:47:27 AM. Dr Scamps 11:49:02 AM. Ms Spender 11:53:13 AM. Ms Daniel 11:55:30 AM. Ms Steggall 11:57:43 AM. Ms Tink 11:59:57 AM.


Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Australian Government in the House of Representatives to move a censure motion today on the person of former prime minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott John Morrison

 

This morning. Wednesday 30 November 2022, Trump-lite is to get some of the comeuppance he deserves.....


Go to House of Representatives live at:

https://www.aph.gov.au/Watch_Read_Listen 

30/11/2022 9:00AM - 8:00PM AEDT


The censure motion will be put to the Parliament by Leader of the House, Tony Burke, MP for Watson, Minister for Employment and workplace Relations, Minister for the Arts.


Note:


A motion in the form of a censure of a Member of Parliament, not being a member of the Executive Government, is not consistent with the parliamentary convention that the traditional purpose of a vote of censure is to question or bring to account a Minister’s responsibility to the House. 
However, it is acknowledged that ultimately the House may hold any Member accountable for his or her actions. 
Under the rules of procedure for the House of Representatives as at 2 August 2022, a notice of motion which expresses censure of or no confidence in the Government, or a censure of any Member, must be reported to the House by the Clerk at the first convenient opportunity

Motions of censure have been successfully moved against two private Members of Parliament in the past.



BACKGROUND



ABC News, 28 November 2022:




The federal government will move a censure motion against former prime minister Scott Morrison over his decision to secretly appoint himself to a number of extra ministries.


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced today that cabinet had agreed to move the motion this week, the final sitting week for the year.


As Labor has a majority in the House of Representatives, the motion will pass.


Mr Morrison secretly appointed himself to administer several ministries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including to the treasury and home affairs portfolios.


Late last week, a report into his actions found they were "corrosive" to trust in government.


Mr Albanese said cabinet had agreed to implement all six recommendations from the report.


"We will introduce legislation later this week to make sure that this can never, ever happen again," he said.


"And this week, as well, the house will be moving a censure motion [against] the member for Cook as a result of the findings of Virginia Bell and the inquiry.


"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, who expect [elected officials] to be held to account through our parliamentary processes."


One question remains: What was Morrison thinking?

Bell's report shreds any last remnants of credibility the former prime minister might have in regards to his disdain for proper process and in the way he treated his colleagues and the public.


Censure motions allow MPs to express their disapproval of their colleagues but do not have any direct legal consequences.


They are uncommon and it is very rare for a former prime minister to face one…..



Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Climate Change State of Play 2022: These days living in Yamba NSW is like existing within many confusing layers of altered reality


These days living in Yamba NSW, situated on a 500 sq km coastal floodplain at a point where the 'Mighty' Clarence River meets the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, is like existing within many confusing layers of altered reality.


In the local paper on 23 November 2022 the front page led with an article titled "Stop Building On Floodplains" in which both the Prime Minister, Federal Minister for Emergency Management, and even NSW Premier Perrottet expressed concerns about continuing to expand the urban footprint on floodplains. 


Prime Minister Albanese and Minister Watt came out strongly on the "need to stop development on floodplains". Though in all honesty Mr. Perrottet's statement had all the slippery characteristics of a political bet each way, only wanting to "learn from past mistakes" given his government is currently attempting to concrete over and garden gnome infest many of the state's floodplains between the mountains and the sea.


Clarence Valley Independent, 23 November 2021, Page One














On page 8 of the same issue there was another article accompanied by a colourful graphic (left) reciting the progress being made with the infilling of most of Yamba's remaining natural flood storage area in order to build up to another 1,528 dwellings to house what could be as many as est. 3,800 men, women and children on 127 ha of urban release land approved by the NSW Government as part of its planning policy for residential growth.


Thus growing the permanent resident population to well over 10,000 people just in time for the full brunt of climate change to zero in on the New South Wales coastal zone.


At this point North Coast Voices readers may feel a hint of the cognitive dissonance many local residents are experiencing.


For with landfill yet to be completed, Carrs Drive still raddled by the effects of both flooding & continuous heavy vehicle movements and stormwater/floodwater drainage issues not yet resolved, the rapacious developers are beginning to sell 'off the plan' house and land packages such as these "California dreaming" lifestyle packages on 18.2ha of Carrs Drive land that is historically prone to 1 in 5, 1 in 20, 1 in 50, 1 in 100 flood events  any of which statistically could happen in any given year.


Artist's rendition of yet to be built "Clifton" retirement living
IMAGE: realestate.com.au, retrieved 28 November 2022


So here we sit in Yamba  watching Coalition politicians accompanied by a bevy of developers and real estate agents sell a future that is already gone forever  knowing full well that the Australian Government, CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and independent climate scientists are all telling us that in eight years time the subregion which we inhabit will be entering a climate where nothing is certain except the fact that we will be living through never ending, erratic cycles of unnatural disasters until the river and ocean reclaim Yamba as their own. 

 

Monday, 28 November 2022

The man who told the world God had called him to be Prime Minister of Australia is revealed for what he is - just another power hungry politician scheming to become a tinpot dictator**


Current Backbench Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison
IMAGE: James Brickwood, Financial Review, 9 November 2022


Bottom line taken from Hon Virginia Bell’s Report of the Inquiry into the Appointment of the Former Prime Minister to Administer Multiple Departments:


From 14 March 2020 then Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott John Morrison possibly acting on the Pentecostal/Evangelical belief that it was a Christian’s duty to actively bring government under the dominion of God began to ensure only his own wishes, wants & orders would be those governing the Commonwealth of Australia.


By 15 March 2021 he secretly controlled 5 of the 6 key government portfolios covering treasury, finance, national security, federal law enforcement, emergency management, natural resources, energy, industry, health, food production and water.


On 16 December 2021 he began to use those new powers.


It was not until News Corp journalists Benson & Chambers released their post-federal election book “Plagued” on 15 August 2022 that the Australian electorate became aware of this secret power grab.


Inquiry into the Appointment of Former Prime Minister to Administer Multiple Departments, Report, 25 November 2022:


Executive Summary


1. On 16 August 2022, following revelations in the media a few days earlier, the Prime Minister the Hon Anthony Albanese MP announced that the Hon Scott Morrison MP had been appointed to administer five departments of State in addition to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (“PM&C”) during his term as Prime Minister. Mr Morrison had been appointed to administer the Department of Health on 14 March 2020, the Department of Finance on 30 March 2020, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (“DISER”) on 15 April 2021, and the Departments of the Treasury and Home Affairs on 6 May 2021. In other words, Mr Morrison had been appointed to administer six of the 14 departments of State. These appointments had not previously been disclosed to the Parliament or to the public.


2. I was appointed to conduct an Inquiry into the appointments. The Terms of Reference require the Inquiry to examine and report on: the facts and circumstances surrounding the appointments; the implications arising from the appointments; and the practices and processes that apply to the appointment of ministers to administer departments under section 64 of the Constitution and directions that ministers hold certain offices under section 65 of the Constitution. I am also asked to recommend any procedural or legislative changes which would provide greater transparency and accountability. I summarise my key findings below. A list of recommendations is at pages 7 and 8.


3. The Terms of Reference require me to have regard to the Solicitor-General’s Opinion dated 22 August 2022 (SG No 12 of 2022). In that Opinion, the Solicitor-General concluded that the appointment of Mr Morrison to administer DISER was constitutionally valid. The reasoning applies with equal force to each of the appointments. I approach my task upon acceptance of the Solicitor-General’s analysis and conclusions.


Facts and circumstances surrounding the appointments

4. The appointments to administer the Departments of Health and Finance in March 2020 were made under the extreme pressure of responding to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The then Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter MP, proposed Mr Morrison’s appointment to administer the Department of Health as a check on the exercise of the Health Minister’s extraordinary powers that are enlivened by the declaration of a “human biosecurity emergency” under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth). Other senior ministers recalled that the justification for the appointment was a concern that, if the Hon Greg Hunt MP, the then Minister for Health, should become incapacitated, a senior minister should be seen to be responsible for the exercise of these powers. Mr Morrison’s reason for taking the appointment appears to have been this latter concern.


5. The context for the appointment to administer the Department of Finance included the financial measures enacted in March 2020 to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, the $2 billion Advance to the Finance Minister. The Department of Finance had only one Cabinet Minister administering it. Mr Morrison advised the Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Rtd), that the appointment would enable him to exercise the Finance Minister’s significant powers were Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, the then Minister for Finance, unavailable to do so. Mr Morrison also wished to have the capacity to make decisions about financial support for the States and Territories in “real time” in the context of meetings of the National Cabinet.


6. The appointments, however, were unnecessary. If Mr Hunt or Mr Cormann had become incapacitated and it was desired to have a senior minister exercise the Health Minister’s expansive human biosecurity emergency powers or the Finance Minister’s significant financial authorities, Mr Morrison could have been authorised to act as Minister for Health or Minister for Finance in a matter of minutes.


7. The appointments to DISER, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs are in a different category to the appointments to the Departments of Health and Finance. These appointments had little if any connection to the pandemic. Rather, Mr Morrison was appointed to administer these departments to give himself the capacity to exercise particular statutory powers. In addition to these three departments, the Prime Minister’s Office (“PMO”) also instructed PM&C to prepare a brief for his appointment to administer the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (“DAWE”). Subsequently, Mr Morrison decided not to proceed with the appointment to administer DAWE.


8. Mr Morrison only exercised a statutory power that he enjoyed by reason of the appointments on one occasion. This was the decision to refuse the applications concerning Petroleum Export Permit 11 (known as PEP-11). Mr Morrison had himself appointed to administer DISER to enable him to decide the PEP-11 applications. In relation to the other two appointments, Mr Morrison, through his legal representative, informed me that he “considered it necessary, in the national interest, to lawfully ensure that there would be no gap in the exercise of [powers related to ongoing matters of national security] if required, so as to guarantee the continuity and effective operation of Government”. This concern is not easy to understand. There were ministers, other than the then Treasurer and Minister for Home Affairs, who were appointed to administer those departments. In the event either senior minister were unavailable, there would be no “gap” in the exercise of their ministerial powers. And, as noted, Mr Morrison could readily have been appointed as acting Minister for Home Affairs or acting Treasurer in the event that either Minister was incapacitated.


9. The then Secretary of PM&C, Mr Phil Gaetjens, viewed the appointments to the Departments of Health and Finance as an appropriate safeguard should Mr Hunt or Mr Cormann have become incapacitated. In relation to the other three appointments, the covering briefs prepared by PM&C noted that it was “somewhat unusual” for the Prime Minister to be appointed to administer a department other than PM&C. In relation to the appointment to administer DISER, Mr Gaetjens considered that Mr Morrison had been made aware of the risk of successful legal challenge, in light of his public statements, before he determined the PEP-11 applications. Mr Gaetjens did not seek to speak with Mr Morrison and to advise him in stronger terms than those used in the brief against being appointed to administer DISER in order to make the PEP-11 decision.


10. The proposal to appoint Mr Morrison to administer the Department of Health was known to some senior ministers (including Mr Hunt), as well as some senior public servants (including the then Chief Medical Officer and the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs). The appointment was not disclosed to the Department of Health. The fact of the appointments to administer the Departments of Finance, the Treasury and Home Affairs was not disclosed to anyone other than some members of the PMO and officers in PM&C involved in arranging the appointments. In particular, the appointments were not disclosed to the other ministers appointed to administer those departments or the departments themselves. The former Minister for Resources, the Hon Keith Pitt MP, learned of the appointment to administer DISER on 21 April 2021, however it was not until December 2021 that DISER itself was formally advised of the appointment.


11. In a public statement delivered on 17 August 2022, Mr Morrison justified the secrecy surrounding the appointments on two grounds. In relation to the failure to inform his ministers, Mr Morrison said that he “did not wish Ministers to be second guessing themselves or for there to be the appearance [of] a right of appeal or any diminishing of their authority to exercise their responsibilities”. In relation to the failure to inform the public, Mr Morrison said that “these were emergency, effectively reserve powers”, and there was a risk that the disclosure of the appointments “could be misinterpreted and misunderstood”.


12. However, in the context of my Inquiry, Mr Morrison informed me, again through his legal representative, that “neither [he] nor his office instructed PM&C not to gazette the appointments”, and that he “assumed the usual practice would apply following the relevant Ministerial appointments”. He subsequently explained that he understood the “usual practice” to be that the appointments would be gazetted. This understanding was not consistent with what I was told by PM&C, which is that the announcement of ministerial appointments is the prerogative of the Prime Minister.


13. It is difficult to reconcile Mr Morrison’s choice not to inform his ministers of the appointments out of his wish not to be thought to be second guessing them, with his belief that the appointments had been notified in the Commonwealth Gazette (the “Gazette”). While few members of the public may read the Gazette, any idea that the gazettal of the Prime Minister’s appointment to administer the Treasury (or any of the other appointments) would not be picked up and quickly circulated within the public service and the Parliament strikes me as improbable in the extreme. One might have expected Mr Morrison to inform the affected ministers of the appointments had it been his belief at the time that they were being notified in the Gazette. Finally, there is the circumstance that Mr Morrison was repeatedly pressed at his press conference on 17 August 2022 about his failure not only to inform his ministers but also to inform the public of the appointments. The omission to state that he had acted at all times on the assumption that each appointment had been notified to the public in the Gazette is striking.


14. While it is troubling that by the time of the 2021 appointments, Mr Gaetjens did not take up the issue of the secrecy surrounding them with Mr Morrison and firmly argue for their disclosure, the responsibility for that secrecy must reside with Mr Morrison.


15. Each of the appointments was made by the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, consistently with well settled constitutional convention. Some commentators argued that the Governor-General should have warned Mr Morrison that the appointments were unorthodox and encouraged him to make them public. I consider the criticism of the Governor-General to be unwarranted. Until recently, it was not the practice for Government House to arrange for notification in the Gazette of the appointment of an existing minister to administer a department of State when the appointment was made “on the papers” and not in association with a public swearing-in ceremony.


Implications of the appointments


16. Given the appointments were not disclosed to the Parliament or to the public, and that Mr Morrison did not exercise any of the powers he enjoyed by reason of his appointments apart from making the PEP-11 decision, the implications of the appointments are limited.


17. Mr Morrison does not appear to have attached any significance to the fact that, from the time of its making, each appointment operated in law to charge him with responsibility for the administration of the whole department. There was no delineation of responsibilities between Mr Morrison and the other minister or ministers appointed to administer the department. In the absence of such delineation, there was a risk of conflict had Mr Morrison decided to exercise a statutory power inconsistently with the exercise of the power by another minister administering the department. The 2021 appointments were not taken with a view to Mr Morrison having any active part in the administration of the department but rather to give Mr Morrison the capacity to exercise particular statutory power should the minister charged with responsibility for the exercise of that power propose to do so in a manner with which Mr Morrison disagreed, or fail to make a decision that Mr Morrison wanted to be made. In terms of the functioning of the departments this was as Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM, Secretary for Public Sector Reform, observes “extremely irregular”.


18. As long as the appointments remained secret and Mr Morrison elected not to exercise his powers as the minister administering a department, it is not apparent that there was any impact on the structure of the ministry. Nevertheless, recourse to being appointed to administer multiple departments seems an exorbitant means of addressing Mr Morrison’s concern about his ministers’ exercise of statutory power in cases that were not subject to Cabinet oversight. Ultimately, he had the power to dismiss a minister if he considered the minister might exercise a power in a way that he, Mr Morrison, considered not to be conducive to the national interest.


19. Given that the Parliament was not informed of any of the appointments, it was unable to hold Mr Morrison to account in his capacity as minister administering any of these five departments. As the Solicitor-General concluded, the principles of responsible government were “fundamentally undermined” because Mr Morrison was not “responsible” to the Parliament, and through the Parliament to the electors, for the departments he was appointed to administer.


20. Finally, 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.


Process of appointments under sections 64 and 65 of the Constitution


21. Appointments of ministers to administer departments of State under section 64 of the Constitution, and directions that a minister hold a particular office under section 65 of the Constitution, are made by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister.


22. Since Federation, Government House has arranged for notification in the Gazette of the names of the ministers who have been “sworn in” as members of a ministry at a public ceremony. In recent years, the notification in the Gazette has included the name of the minister and the office the minister has been directed to hold. While the office may serve to indicate the department the minister has been appointed to administer, the fact of the appointment to administer a department of State has not formed part of the notice. Following the “swearing in” ceremony, the Prime Minister will often issue a media release containing the names and offices of the ministers.


23. In some cases, where an existing minister is to be appointed to administer an additional department of State, the appointment will be made “on the papers”. Publication of the appointment in such cases is dependent on the issue of a media release by the Prime Minister.


24. Following the disclosure of Mr Morrison’s appointment to administer additional departments of State, at the direction of the Prime Minister, PM&C and the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General have agreed on a new protocol for the publication in the Gazette of all ministerial appointments and directions to hold office.

[my yellow and orange highlighting]


List of Recommendations


Recommendation 1


Legislation should be enacted to require publication in the Commonwealth Gazette or in a notifiable instrument registered on the Federal Register of Legislation as soon as reasonably practicable following the fact of:


i. the swearing of an Executive Councillor under section 62 of the Constitution;

ii. the appointment of an officer to administer a department of State under section 64 of the Constitution;

iii. the direction to a Minister of State to hold an office under section 65 of the Constitution; and

iv. the revocation of membership of the Federal Executive Council, an appointment to administer a department, and a direction to hold an office, when effected by an instrument executed by the Governor-General.


The notice or notifiable instrument should include the name of the person and the date that he or she was sworn, appointed and/or directed, or the date that such membership, appointment and/or direction was revoked. It may also be convenient for a copy of the instrument to be included in the notification.


Recommendation 2


The authorisation of an acting minister for a period of two weeks or more should be published as soon as reasonably practicable in the Commonwealth Gazette or in a notifiable instrument on the Federal Register of Legislation.


Recommendation 3


A list of all acting arrangements should be published periodically on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's or each department's website.


Recommendation 4


A document identifying:


i. the ministers appointed to administer each department of State;

ii. the offices the ministers are directed to hold; and

iii.in the case of two or more ministers administering the one department, an outline of the division of responsibilities between the ministers


should be published on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's website.


Recommendation 5


A website concerning ministerial appointments should be established which contains explanatory materials and current and past records to enable the public to readily ascertain which minister is responsible for which particular matters.


Recommendation 6


All departments should publish a list of the ministers appointed to administer them on their website, and include in their annual report the name of all ministers appointed to administer the department in the reporting period.


Note:

** tinpot dictator - term of contempt -  an autocratic ruler with little political credibility, typically having delusions of grandeur. [Wiktionary, May 2016]