The censure motion against former Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his secret ministries is an opportunity to reflect on the vigilance required to uphold democracy and good government, according to leading public policy think-tank the Australia Institute.
The Hon Virginia Bell AC’s Ministries inquiry report found that the lack of disclosure of the appointments “was apt to undermine public confidence in government” and that their secrecy was “corrosive of trust in government”.
“Scott Morrison’s decision to acquire additional ministries in secret was a serious breach of Westminster conventions and our system of responsible government,” said Bill Browne, Director of the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.
“Australians are rightly horrified that government by Cabinet was undermined by an unjustified power grab.
“Virginia Bell has made six well-considered recommendations for codifying the process of announcing ministerial appointments and acting ministers. Requiring the government to say how responsibilities are divided between ministers will make ministerial responsibility easier to ascertain.
“The Australian Government has been trusted with vast and to some extent unwritten powers, which makes it particularly important that our leaders are honest and respect convention.
“The UK Parliament is exercising more scrutiny and control over the exercise of executive prerogative powers, something the Australian Parliament should consider as well.”