Former prime minister Scott Morrison conducts morning television interviews on election day in the seat of McEwen on May 21 in Melbourne. (Photo by Mick Tsikas-Pool/Getty Images)
Former prime minister Scott Morrison conducts morning television interviews on election day in the seat of McEwen on May 21 in Melbourne. (Photo by Mick Tsikas-Pool/Getty Images)

Everything We Know About Scott Morrison’s Secret Ministerial Appointments

The former prime minister secretly appointed himself to at least five additional jobs while in office.

During his time in office, former prime minister Scott Morrison was reliably guilty of turning familiar refrains into hackneyed clichés. He frequently returned to one more than others: handling the issue of the day was never his job.

But that didn’t stop him from taking on at least five others. 

When he appeared on 2GB Radio on Tuesday morning, it was known that Morrison had held three jobs during his time as prime minister that were not prime minister. Shortly after he got off air, though, it was revealed there were at least five.


It all started over the weekend, after a book excerpt published in The Australian revealed that Morrison had sworn himself in as joint health minister in March 2020. According to the report, Morrison did so for fears new powers afforded to the former health minister, Greg Hunt, by an emergency trigger in the Biosecurity Act, would effectively give Hunt control over the whole country.

The changes meant that Hunt could issue orders at odds with “any other law”, and couldn’t be stopped by parliament. Morrison wasn’t satisfied, according to the reporting. He wanted more “checks and balances”, and believed that one minister shouldn’t be able to wield that much power. 

So he grabbed a share in it, and kept the rest of the country in the dark.

Morrison then hatched a radical and until now secret plan with [former Attorney-General Christian] Porter’s approval. He would swear himself in as health minister alongside Hunt. Such a move was without precedent, let alone being done in secret, but the trio saw it as an elegant solution to the problem they were trying to solve—safeguarding government against any one minister having absolute power.

Porter advised that it could be done through an administrative instrument and didn’t need appointment by the Governor-General, with no constitutional barrier to having two ministers appointed to administer the same portfolio.

“I trust you, mate,” Morrison told Hunt, “but I’m swearing myself in as health minister, too.”


In the same story, it was reported that Morrison had sworn himself in as joint finance minister alongside Mathias Cormann in March 2020. Unlike his move for Hunt’s portfolio, Cormann had no idea that Morrison had sworn himself in at all. Cormann wasn’t the only Coalition MP in the partyroom that had no idea what was happening. 

The revelations made in The Australian, which were saved for a book by two of the paper’s political reporters released Tuesday, opened the floodgates to a swath of others.

Not long after the book excerpt was published, it was revealed by that Morrison had also sworn himself in as resources minister, as part of a move to “roll his own frontbencher”—former resources minister, Keith Pitt—and take steps to kill a “controversial” oil and gas project off the New South Wales coast. Details of the third job were confirmed by former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, who told the site on Monday that he didn’t approve of Morrison’s behaviour.

“I do believe in a cabinet form of government, which means cabinet ministers have responsibility for their portfolio,” Joyce said. “I don’t believe in a presidential form of government. If you don’t like cabinet ministers, there’s a simple solution: you sack them.”


Until Tuesday, Morrison kept largely quiet on the saga, before taking what he might have hoped would be a softball interview with Ben Fordham on 2GB Radio. He was asked by Fordham whether he took more jobs than the three revealed to the Australian public over the two days previous. 

“Not to my recollection, Ben,” Morrison answered. 

Less than two hours later, the Australian Associated Press reported documents showing the former prime minister had been sworn in to oversee parts of the social services portfolio in June last year. When asked about it on radio, Morrison said he did what he did to see to it that the “buck stopped with the prime minister”. From where he was sitting, he had no choice but to commandeer portfolios because he couldn’t order ministers to do what he wanted, but refused to sack them.

Appearing before reporters on Tuesday, prime minister Anthony Albanese said he couldn’t “conceive of the mindset that has created this”, after revealing that Morrison had, in fact, sworn himself into two additional positions that were not his job. 

Per new advice, Morrison swore himself in to oversee both the department of Home Affairs, and department of Treasury on May 6 last year, Albanese said.


“I cannot conceive of how a cabinet allows that to happen. I also cannot conceive of how a cabinet committee of one is established. And that’s an issue that we’ve been raising for a period of time. I also cannot conceive of the way that this Prime Minister, when he was in charge, consistently avoided scrutiny,” Albanese said.

“These are serious issues. Serious issues, and the fact that Scott Morrison spent a considerable period of time dismissing things that were fact, as gossip. The fact that he dealt with publicly, what should be publicly available information in the way that he did, and his cabinet colleagues supported this operating odd as the government for four years.”

After the first three of Morrison’s sideshows were revealed on Monday, Albanese said he would look to investigate the legality of Morrison’s secret, self-appointments while in government, even though he isn’t thought to have used the ministerial powers afforded to him during his time overseeing the health or finance portfolios.

Albanese wouldn’t be drawn on whether he thinks Morrison should resign, but said voters in his seat of Cook, in Sydney’s south, “deserve” better. Opposition leader Peter Dutton came to Morrison’s defence during a press conference, not long after.


Fronting reporters, Dutton said Morrison made the calls that he did in “war-like” conditions, and reduced Albanese’s comments on the fallout as nothing more than “head-kicker” Labor politics. He said he wouldn’t back calls for Morrison’s resignation.

Morrison’s Liberal party colleagues, though, have been less sympathetic. Former home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, came out to call for Morrison’s resignation, after it was revealed that he made himself a joint minister of her department. She said she had no idea, and that the move “undermines the integrity of government”. 

The sentiment was shared by the Greens, who said Morrison’s secret appointments show the “urgent need” for a fully-resourced and independent federal corruption commission. Greens senator and justice spokesperson, David Shoebridge, said in a statement that Morrison’s actions made for a “seriously corruption-prone environment”. 

“If you wanted a rolled-gold reason for why the parliament must urgently establish a Federal Independent Commission Against Corruption, then Scott Morrison has just given us five of them,” Shoebridge said. 

“Right now we can’t let this be investigated only by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. PM&C is the very same department that advised the former PM when he established the secret Ministries,” he said. 

“Secret Ministries are an attack on the fundamentals of parliamentary accountability. To put it simply, Parliament can’t do its job and hold a Minister to account if we don’t know the Minister even exists.”


In a statement of his own, released Tuesday afternoon, Morrison said he has no intention to step down, but apologised for any “offence” he caused his colleagues.

“It is important to note that throughout this time ministers in all departments, where I was provided with authority to act, exercised full control of their departments and portfolios without intervention,” Morrison said.

“The use of the powers by a Prime Minister to exercise authority to administer Departments has clearly caused concern. I regret this, but acted in good faith in a crisis.”

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