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Liberal MP supports Morrison censure

A Liberal backbencher says she is ‘deeply disappointed’ by the lack of apology from former prime minister Scott Morrison about his secret ministry appointments.

November 30, 2022
By Maeve Bannister, Tess Ikonomou and Andrew Brown
30 November 2022

Liberal MP Bridget Archer has urged her party to draw a line in the sand when it comes to the secret ministerial appointments made by their former leader. 

Former prime minister Scott Morrison is facing a rare censure motion in the House of Representatives for his decision to take on additional ministerial portfolios during the pandemic. 

It is the first time the House has taken such action against a former prime minister.

Ms Archer said while the coalition government had made many good decisions to protect the nation during the pandemic, Mr Morrison’s actions were “entirely unnecessary”.

“I do not accept any of the explanations put forward by the former prime minister … and I’m deeply disappointed by the lack of a genuine apology or, importantly, understanding of the impact of his decisions,” Ms Archer said.

While senior Liberal MPs dismissed the motion as a political stunt, the backbencher said it would be hypocritical for her not to support it because of her advocacy for integrity. 

“This issue sits at the heart of the ability of our party to move forward (and) this is a clear opportunity for a line to be drawn and to move in the right direction,” Ms Archer said. 

Earlier, Mr Morrison defended his decision and described the powers as a “dormant redundancy”.

The former Liberal leader said the motion amounted to “political intimidation” by the Albanese government.

“I note the criticisms made of my decisions to be authorised to administer a series of departments have been made from the safety and relative calm of hindsight,” he said.

“The government’s response to censure and prosecute this motion is to engage in the politics of retribution and nothing less.”

Mr Morrison said if he had been asked about the appointments at press conferences, he would have responded truthfully. 

He also offered a qualified apology “to those who were offended”.

“I acknowledge that non-disclosure of arrangements has caused unintentional offence and extend an apology to those who were offended,” he said.

“But I do not apologise for taking action … in a national crisis in order to save lives and to save livelihoods.”

When he had finished, opposition MPs shook hands with Mr Morrison. Ms Archer remained seated.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he had expected the parliament to see “some semblance of contrition” from his predecessor.

“We got none of that. Instead, we got hubris, arrogance (and) denial,” he said.

Mr Albanese said Australia’s democracy was precious and there was no room for complacency. 

“The former prime minister owes an apology … to the Australian people for his undermining of democracy,” he added.

House leader Tony Burke, who moved the motion, said the censure motion goes to the core of the Westminster principle of responsible government.

Mr Burke said Mr Morrison had undermined, rejected, attacked and abused the standards expected of parliamentarians. 

He said Mr Morrison’s conduct had prevented the House of Representatives from doing its job and it was “so completely unacceptable”. 

Censure motions do not have any legal consequences, but they are rare and give parliamentarians the chance to formally disapprove of their colleagues.

Mr Morrison appointed himself minister of health, finance, industry, science, energy and resources, treasury and home affairs between 2020 and 2021, without the knowledge of most of his coalition colleagues.

The government agreed to implement all six recommendations from former High Court judge Virginia Bell’s report into Mr Morrison’s conduct, to improve the transparency of ministerial appointments.

Law changes to improve transparency are expected to get the coalition’s backing.

Mr Morrison said he supported the changes recommended in the Bell report.

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