Mr "That's Not My Job" awarded himself FIVE extra jobs
August 15, 2022 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Australia's former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, famous for saying "that's not my job" about everything that a Prime Minister was supposed to do, and running away to Hawaii for a holiday when Australia was on fire, has just been caught awarding himself FIVE additional portfolios while he was in office. The way in which he did so may have been illegal - portfolios are supposed to be public knowledge, and he kept it secret.
posted by carriage pulled by cassowaries (59 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have been both inwardly and outwardly screaming about this for about 24 hours now. It's just incomprehensible to me that this was even possible! Setting aside Morrison's well-documented character flaws, there's no justification for this being secret. None.

What amazes me about the commentary though is that there are idiots out there who think a presidential republic would some how have prevented this. No it fucking wouldn't - one look at the US, Italy, Hungary, or wherever the fuck should show that. Centralising power in one person is a complete disaster (that includes the parasitic English royal family, they can fuck off and all).

FEDERAL ICAC NOW.
posted by prismatic7 at 8:33 PM on August 15 [19 favorites]


portfolios are supposed to be public knowledge
This is only one of the problems (why on earth didn't they get Gazetted? Was the executive council having a sickie?), to me the far weirder one is the status of the other Minister. How do you have two people sharing accountability for legislation under responsible government? Which decisions get turned into action? Do the public servants just send the other Minister fake briefs, Goodbye Lenin-style, to pretend that they haven't been usurped, and keep them happy signing things?

It's profoundly, profoundly weird.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:44 PM on August 15 [4 favorites]


Here's his shit-eating statement , with the bold claim that this insane power grab was 'done in good faith'. Not a single word on why it was done in secret, from both the public and allegedly his own ministers.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:48 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


Exactly. How the hell did this work on an operational level? Did these ministers not notice things were going above their heads? What was his level of involvement? And how many people would have had to know about this in order to implement it (and didn't say anything)?

Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews said she did not know Mr Morrison had assumed control over her portfolio

[...]The former prime minister said disclosing the moves were a matter between him and the relevant ministers, and not for cabinet.

But he apologised for failing to inform former finance minister Mathias Cormann, saying that was an oversight on his part.


I'm so confused.
posted by trig at 8:51 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


Former LNP Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews is calling for ScoMo's resignation. So clearly she's pissed that he seized her portfolio in secret.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:52 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


Also that he forgot he'd been sworn in as co-Finance and Home Affairs ministers!
As an added administrative precaution, as a “belts and braces” approach, the Departments of Treasury and Home Affairs were added some time after in May 2021 … In hindsight these arrangements were unnecessary and until seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today, I had not recollected these arrangements having been put in place. There was a lot going on at the time.
There was a lot going on at the time, you just weren't doing anything about it, Scott! Nothing except SECRETLY NICKING EVERYONE ELSE'S JOBS
posted by prismatic7 at 8:53 PM on August 15 [8 favorites]


Hard times in the 21st Century, when even the Prime Minister has to have multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Oh lordy, did he get paid extra for all this? Ministers usually get a salary supplement on top of their parliamentary salary.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:55 PM on August 15 [9 favorites]


Oh my goodness I'm so happy there's a mefi thread about this.

(Chants) Federal ICAC!
posted by freethefeet at 8:56 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


FWIW I don't think this would come under the remit of a federal ICAC, as it wouldn't come under the powers of the NSW ICAC—unless/until there's a suggestion he used the powers corruptly, for private benefit, or with a conflict of interest.

What it certainly would come under are the older customs about informing Parliament, since lying there about what the executive arm of Government is doing is *the* one thing you shouldn't do. Much less lie about who the executive arm of Government is in the first place!
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:02 PM on August 15 [1 favorite]


FWIW I don't think this would come under the remit of a federal ICAC, as it wouldn't come under the powers of the NSW ICAC—unless/until there's a suggestion he used the powers corruptly, for private benefit, or with a conflict of interest.

You mean like technically being Home Affairs Minister when Border Force was pressured to announce a boat of asylum seekers on election day?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:05 PM on August 15 [10 favorites]


Schrodinger's Minister - he simultaneously has no memory of doing it and a lengthy justification for doing it. It's a quantum superposition of bullshit.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:23 PM on August 15 [21 favorites]


A Federal ICAC could have whatever powers it was gifted by parliament. But this is more of a breach of parliamentary/cabinet rules than anything to do with corruption, so I doubt such a beast would come into play in this situation.

Now, I'm as far away from being a fan of ScoMo as it's possible to be and I think there are lots of reasons he needs a kick in the arse. However, it's important to criticise him for the right things, or we just give ammunition for him and his supporters to weasel out of taking the blame. The actual appointment of alternative ministers at that time seems perfectly logical to me and is prudent management in the circumstances. In the same way an alternative would be appointed while a minister was on holidays or that an acting PM must be appointed if the PM is out of the country, it's important that a delegated decision-maker is available at all times. Given the increased likelihood of unexpected absences at that time, it makes sense to appoint alternatives and this act itself was wholly unremarkable.

However, I will criticise him for the same things that his colleagues are calling for his resignation over - most importantly that he seems to have kept the appointments a secret not only from the public (via parliament), but from his cabinet colleagues and particularly those whose roles he technically (and on one occasion actually) could override. This is an abject failure on the part of ScoMo, but also on whoever aided and abetted this (maybe someone from P&C?), unless he typed up and printed the relevant documents himself.

To keep this a secret when it would have been easy to explain it in the context of being prudent in a time of heightened risk is baffling to me. I would have put this forward to reassure everyone that, even if critical ministers were suddenly incapacitated, the machinery of government would continue to grind the population to dust without slowing a whit. It's this secret-keeping that needs to continue to be the focus and not the actual appointments, not the least of which is I find it hard to believe at least some cabinet members didn't know what was going on.

I also believe he deserves criticism for having himself appointed to all those roles, because that creates a single failure point where the alternative for a bunch of departmental decision-makers is taken down by a single failure. That is definitely not prudent or good management. I assume the reason he did this is the same as why he kept it a secret in the first place, whatever that is. If it turns out that he was paid the ministerial allowance for all the roles, then there's another point of criticism and also a wedge for investigations into corruption, because he personally would profit from the actions if that were the case. I doubt he was that stupid, but who knows?
posted by dg at 9:26 PM on August 15 [5 favorites]




It's actually SO reasonable for there to have been an extra health minister in the middle of a global health pandemic that there's no reason at all for it to have been secret! The other ones are totally dodgy and I'm so excited to see how many people call for his head but that one has to have been secret just for ... ego?

But to be honest it's the GG that I'm just so angry about him being "eh this is totally normal actually I don't know why people are mad" that I'm like hey mrs queen I don't approve of you, your position, or your control over my country but actually I do want you to do this one thing and fire your representative quickly thank you then I'm hoping my country fires you but that will take longer so if you could just - in a telegram? - I can absolutely work out how to send a telegram - thanks darl
posted by applesauce at 11:18 PM on August 15 [6 favorites]


For the benefit of those who share my deficient knowledge of Commonwealth political acronyms: ICAC in this context = Independent Commission Against Corruption
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:21 PM on August 15 [3 favorites]


he did say he doesn’t trust governments. including his own cabinet it seems.
posted by onya at 11:23 PM on August 15 [2 favorites]


I’m a political historian
posted by mbo at 12:28 AM on August 16


I know there's some sort of dumb-arse "gentleman's agreement" not to go after political opponents after the election, but the time for that has passed. The worst punishment for illegal acts while being an elected representative needs to be more than being voted out of office, maybe.
posted by krisjohn at 12:44 AM on August 16 [8 favorites]


The enormous amount of prerogative powers available to the cabinet as a whole in a Westminster system government (even one which is also federal) is pretty vast which is why this is such a big deal.

Cabinet ministers are much less completely creatures of the PM (who is meant to be first among equals of the cabinet) than say the members of a presidential cabinet and are elected politicians in their own right who often represent a particular faction within the governing party.

Just giving yourself additional major cabinet posts like this is crazy and were it considered necessary under some kind of emergency powers, it should be done openly and temporarily.
posted by atrazine at 1:10 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Yes, yes, it's shocking. And it really is.

But is anybody surprised ?

He is a very dangerous man, hell bent on imposing a fascist theocracy. Always has been.
posted by Pouteria at 1:50 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


But is anybody surprised ?

Yes. I didn’t think the previous government was competent enough to keep something like this a secret.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:08 AM on August 16 [16 favorites]


Fair point.
posted by Pouteria at 2:17 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


They had Murdoch providing covering fire for them. Australians were complaining about Dictator Dan and speculating that he's a Chinese Communist Party asset, while the Rightful Party Of Power were getting away Scott-free (sorry) with stuff like this, as if it were their prerogative.
posted by acb at 2:29 AM on August 16 [7 favorites]


I doubt he was that stupid

Then I doubt that you are in fact as far away from being a fan of ScoMo as it's possible to be. Because I'm clearly further away than you are.

I look at Scott Morrison and I see a man with no redeeming qualities. Not one. Never have done. Not since the advent of "on-water matters".

At least Abbott was entertaining.
posted by flabdablet at 4:22 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


At least Abbott was entertaining.

Yeah, can anyone provide some context for the onion thing? Or is this one of those cases where I should let art just flow over me?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:40 AM on August 16


No, no-one can provide context for the onion thing. Except that he was at an onion farm. That's all.
posted by prismatic7 at 5:00 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Abbott was visiting an onion farm in Tasmania for photo ops. He was given an onion to admire, and he bit into it as if he'd just been given an apple. Later on he told a pointless lie about it having been peeled and ready to eat (warning: Murdoch Death Star link), though all the footage clearly shows otherwise.

Possibly relevant: one of Tasmania's marketing identities is "The Apple Isle".

Possibly also relevant: one of Abbott's press identities is "The Mad Monk".
posted by flabdablet at 5:04 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


I'm stunned by this, really. I'm sure once the whole truth comes out it'll all make sense as part of some kind of religiously-inspired grift or whatever. No-one who knew about it leaked it, or complained about it?

Is it possible that Porter put him up to it for some reason? The fact that it might all be technically legal seems much more like his brand of Lawful Evil than Morrison's self-absorbed clusterfucks. Like I'm sure Morrison would have loved the idea because he's a narcissist, but he doesn't strike me as being the kind of guy who'd care if it was legal or not.
posted by harriet vane at 6:18 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Former PM and desiccated coconut John Howard says Morrison shouldn't resign because that'd mean a by-election and that would be bad for the party. I know he never cared about ethics but I think he's forgotten that the Coalition isn't clinging to a one-seat majority anymore.

Professor of Constitutional Law, Anne Twomey, says there is conflicting information about how the swearing-in was done. This will affect whether it was legal or not. She also covers what the usual arrangements are if a minister can't do their job (say if they were in the ICU with Covid for example). TL,DR: there's no legit reason to secretly appoint a second minister.
posted by harriet vane at 6:36 AM on August 16 [5 favorites]


I mostly find this amusing. I mean, of course this is absolutely terrible, but the likely consequences would be that the man is removed from power - which has happened! An absolutely bruising rebuke of Exactly This Sort of Bullshit, one strong enough to send his party into the political wilderness for likely five years. It is a terrible look for the Governor General, who should not be assisting the Prime Minister in subverting democratic accountability. (The government already had plenty of ministers for that.)

It's not even entirely clear that a rule has been broken. I think the rule of Come Off It probably applies here, so that even though there many be no actual rule against it, it whiffs so much of bullshit that people will make up some consequences so that future generations don't think to try this on. Or maybe there will be, and there'll be a by-election. Satisfying, but not exactly politically relevant given how fucked he left the party.

But in terms of the broader issues, man, I don't know. Dude was a terrible decision maker, but we know that, given he managed to lose an election on national security and the economy, and everything fell over the minute they stopped holding up the curtains. Is it a way to dodge accountability? Yep! But again, not a surprise, he's been doing that shit for years. Did he do something with these powers he shouldn't have? Probably! The only example we've actually got so far is vetoing an unpopular fossil fuel exploration permit, and I cannot find it in me to condemn him for that.

I think maybe the only actual fallout of this is going to be making Dutton's job as opposition leader, as sort of a known fresh (?) face that's Not Morrison But Is Still Kind Of What He Stood For, basically untenable. It doesn't seem like News Corp will receive a reckoning for helping to cover this up, but that's not the way this seems to be breaking. I'd love to think that this will fully discredit conservatism in Australia for a generation, but with News Corp still operating in the country that seems unlikely.

The memes are good, though.
posted by Merus at 6:53 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


one strong enough to send his party into the political wilderness for likely five years

Federal political terms in Australia being 3-4 years, that is an odd number. Are you suggesting that Dutton will go down like a lead balloon as expected but the Tories will claw their way back to power when Albo's second term is cut short by a constitutional crisis of some sort?

Dramatic scenarios aside, I expect Albo to be a 2-term PM at least, mostly because the conservatives are still in denial about what happened and think that the people are still behind them but didn't vote hard enough or something. The teals having taken their heartland seats is not a good sign for them, for one.
posted by acb at 7:05 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


Are you suggesting that Dutton will go down like a lead balloon as expected but the Tories will claw their way back to power when Albo's second term is cut short by a constitutional crisis of some sort?

I'm suggesting that they'll only be a credible political force again - they probably will still lose the 2028 election, but I imagine that they could make it a contest, especially with the media support they tend to enjoy. I cannot see a single scenario where Albo loses the 2025 election barring some major fuckup.
posted by Merus at 7:09 AM on August 16


That's 7+ years in the wilderness then. Add a third Labor term and it's a solid decade.
posted by acb at 7:10 AM on August 16


I somehow dislike the framing of going into opposition as "the political wilderness", mostly because it makes it difficult to talk about situations like this or NSW Labor in the 2010s, where there was no chance in hell they'd form government after how the last time ended. (NSW Labor is also why I'm thinking that the federal Coalition are only going to be considered as a potential alternative government by 2028 at the earliest.)
posted by Merus at 7:15 AM on August 16


As someone from the US who’s only passingly familiar with Australian political structures, I want to say thanks so much for this post! I worked at a job where the boss was continually reassigning responsibility without telling everyone; I can’t imagine this working for a National administration, regardless of legality….
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:59 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


I'm not upset by him blocking the Pep-11 gas drilling as such, but I don't for a second believe he did it to help rescue LNP seats from the teals. Or at least, not as his primary goal. It was going to be run by competitors to his own friends/donors in the gas industry.

And so now I reckon we need to check every single decision made within those ministries for evidence of corruption, because Morrison is a born-again grifter. A federal ICAC would make that easier, of course.
posted by harriet vane at 8:06 AM on August 16 [9 favorites]


The Governor General got $18 million in government funding for his pet charity shortly after the first secret ministerial appointment. As of this year the charity seems to have no staff, no office, and hasn't run any public activities at all.
posted by harriet vane at 8:19 AM on August 16 [14 favorites]




The Shovel: Scott Morrison denies he secretly took on role of Prime Minister during pandemic. “If I had held the Prime Minister position, you would have expected to see me leading the nation, solving problems, constructively working with my peers. But none of that happened."
posted by harriet vane at 8:45 AM on August 16 [10 favorites]




The Shovel is in a hole and won't stop digging.

Barilaro withdrew from NY position because Scott Morrison was already in the role

That's some quality dirt right there.
posted by flabdablet at 12:25 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]




Then I doubt that you are in fact as far away from being a fan of ScoMo as it's possible to be. Because I'm clearly further away than you are.
I look at Scott Morrison and I see a man with no redeeming qualities. Not one. Never have done.


Oh, I'm with you there. I just don't see him being stupid enough to accept payment for something he tried to hide, given the payments would be a matter of public record. He may have done so if he actually believed what he was doing was OK, but he clearly knew it wasn't or he would have taken the chance to blow his own trumpet about how hard he worked and how much responsibility he took on 'for the sake of the country'.
posted by dg at 2:15 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


The NSW Labor of the 2010s comparison is interesting. Two former Ministers of that government are in prison now for acting corruptly; for decisions taken in secret, as all Cabinet decisions are, but put on paper under their names, as they have to be to actually be enacted. Nobody argues Ian Macdonald wasn’t actually the Minister for Mineral Resources.

The absolute perversity of this (and the reason I think Morrison has no understanding of the seriousness of what he was doing, or indeed of what a Minister is) is that shared secret Ministries would also share that ultimate accountability to the law. The point of Ministerial accountability is that yes, you can be held responsible for things you only presided over, not that you did. Why would anyone want that?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:21 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


What a fuckin' weirdo.
posted by pompomtom at 5:38 PM on August 16 [8 favorites]


I just don't see him being stupid enough to accept payment for something he tried to hide, given the payments would be a matter of public record.

There's a tacit assumption underneath that position that the man has any understanding of the requirements or implications of any role he's ever sought beyond the raw political calculation of who needs to be ratfucked in order for him to have it and what their political vulnerabilities are.
posted by flabdablet at 8:54 PM on August 16 [4 favorites]


Yes, yes, it's shocking. And it really is.

But is anybody surprised ?


I am, it's more jobs. The man hates jobs, unless they're ones he in which he gets to wear a fun costume.
posted by Jilder at 9:31 PM on August 16 [3 favorites]


Preferably hi-vis.

Because when it comes right down to it, all of it has always been about Scott Morrison wanting people to look at Scott Morrison, and be seen to be doing so approvingly. That's why Grace Tame copped so much stick for refusing to simper at the prick. But she knows what he is. I wouldn't be surprised if she could smell it on him.
posted by flabdablet at 8:49 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


So today Morrison held a press conference where he blamed everyone except himself, contradicted himself within minutes, and generally pissed everybody off: Ten glaring inconsistencies in Scott Morrison’s bamboozling press conference.

For all of his whining about how unprecedented his job was in 2020, Billy Hughes was PM during World War One and the Spanish Influenza. Maybe he was just better at the secrecy part of secret ministries.

Some of these have been linked already, but it's a quality round-up: 28 memes about Scott Morrison and his 28 secret ministerial positions.
posted by harriet vane at 8:49 AM on August 17 [4 favorites]


Has anyone read the book excerpt from Plagued that revealed this info? I assumed it was paywalled in a Murdoch rag but if it's available somewhere I'd love to see how the authors framed it.
posted by harriet vane at 8:55 AM on August 17 [1 favorite]


Scott Morrison – Minister for Everything and Nothing and There Was a Lot Going On
First Dog on the Moon:
Everyone is freaking out about Scott’s secret extra ministries. Are you new here?
posted by flabdablet at 7:35 AM on August 18


Someone somewhere else pointed out that the ministers who were not displaced by Morrison were specifically his Pentecostal coreligionists, and that this policy lines up with the evangelical “Seven Mountains” strategy for cultural and political dominance.
posted by acb at 1:25 AM on August 19 [4 favorites]


well that would at least be a more coherent motive than any of the excuses he's offered so far
posted by harriet vane at 7:09 AM on August 19


Discussion of the legal implications.
posted by Coaticass at 3:45 PM on August 19


A Twitter thread from Ronni Salt about the Senate Estimates investigation into the $18 million in funding for the Governor General's pet charity. The GG's secretary claims the GG didn't know Chris Hartley, the founder of the Australian Future Leaders Program. The thread then shows evidence of the two of them together at several events over several years. Then the secretary himself knowing Hartley through some other jobs-for-the-boys style foundation. Meanwhile, Hartley is using Yarraluma (the GG's taxpayer-funded residence) as the mailing address for a different charity to do with the Kings Cup rowing thingy.

This may or may not have anything to do with Morrison's secret ministries, but Hurley needs to answer some more questions.
posted by harriet vane at 3:30 AM on August 26


Some updates and links:
The Solicitor-General's report into Morrison's ministerial appointments (PDF). TLDR: the appointments were legal but breached the principle of "responsible government", and the Solicitor General recommends fixing the loopholes immediately.

Responsible government means the cabinet and ministers are responsible to the elected parliament, not a monarch or president (apparently chapter 2 of the Australian constitution is an outline of how it is supposed to work). Since Morrison kept the appointments secret, there was no accountability to the electorate.

Albanese has appointed former High Court Justice Virginia Bell to investigate further, with her report due on November 25th.

And former Tourism Minister for Howard's government, Fran Bailey, says she always knew Morrison was sneaky and irresponsible and he should resign from parliament. But she (along with everyone else involved) still won't give any details of why she got him sacked from his role as managing director of Tourism Australia.
posted by harriet vane at 9:15 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Loyalty to party over loyalty to public duty is a truly corrosive disease that I can't see how any amount of integrity commissions are ever going to correct, and I maintain a very intense and very specific type of visceral loathing for the kind of scum who trades in exploiting it.

I have always seen Morrison's behaviour revealing him as exactly that kind of scum, and seeing Bailey confirm it is completely unsurprising to me.
posted by flabdablet at 3:15 AM on August 28


Loyalty to party over loyalty to public duty is a truly corrosive disease ...
This is exactly what I see when I look at politics in the US and, as has happened for so long, we seem to be following their lead, so this would be unsurprising to anyone that's paying any attention at all to what's going on. I hope we are smart enough to see the disasters that result from this shit and do something about it. Hoping without any real expectation, of course.
posted by dg at 7:05 PM on August 28


A Dossier of Lies and Falsehoods (Crikey)
posted by flabdablet at 4:48 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


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