(Bloomberg) -- Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison became the first leader to be censured by parliament over his decision to secretly be sworn into five ministries in 2020 and 2021, a move he attributed to the uncertainties of the pandemic.
Australia’s lower house passed the motion Wednesday, with most members of Morrison’s opposition Coalition voting against the censure.
Speaking ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that Morrison’s actions was “an abuse of power and a trashing of our democracy.” Albanese’s center-left Labor government defeated Morrison’s Coalition at a May election.
Defending his actions in a speech to parliament, Morrison said his government had faced an “abyss of uncertainty” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and saw Australia “through the storm.” Dozens of colleagues hugged Morrison and shook his hand after his speech.
No current or former leader of Australia has been officially censured by the House of Representatives, although then-prime minister Malcolm Fraser lost a vote of no-confidence in his leadership in 1975, which led to an election.
Ex-Australia PM’s Secret Appointments Eroded Trust, Report Says
In August it was found that between 2020 and 2021, Morrison had asked to be secretly sworn into five additional ministries including Health, Finance, Home Affairs and the Treasury, mostly without the knowledge of the original minister responsible.
Morrison said he took the additional responsibilities as a precaution during the Covid-19 pandemic, to ensure there was an oversight for ministerial powers. But an official inquiry into Morrison’s secret portfolios by former High Court judge Virginia Bell found the appointments were “unnecessary” and likely designed to strengthen the then-leader’s control over his colleagues’ decisions.
In an upcoming book, Morrison’s deputy and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he only found out the then-prime minister had shadowed his portfolio when it was published in the media.
“I don’t think there was any reason for Scott to take on the additional Treasury portfolio. The fact he did take it, and it was not made transparent to me and others, was wrong and profoundly disappointing,” Frydenberg told the book’s author Niki Savva.
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