Liberal MP may support Labor censure of Scott Morrison over secret ministries scandal

Bridget Archer says she is considering her position regarding the censure, reiterates her dismay at the previous prime minister’s actions

Liberal MP Bridget Archer has indicated she may join a Labor government censure motion of former prime minister Scott Morrison over his multiple secret ministries scandal.

On Monday Anthony Albanese’s cabinet endorsed all the recommendations of Virginia Bell’s inquiry and agreed to introduce legislation to formalise the publication of ministerial arrangements this week.

“The house will be moving a censure motion in the member for Cook as a result of the findings of Virginia Bell and the inquiry, which found that the actions of the former prime minister fundamentally undermined the principles of responsible government,” Albanese told a press conference on Monday.

“Because the former prime minister wasn’t responsible to the parliament, and through the parliament to the electors, to the departments that he was appointed to administer.”

With Labor’s majority in the House of Representatives and Greens support the motion is expected to pass, in the first censure of an MP since former Liberal minister Bruce Billson in 2018 for failing to declare he had taken a paid lobbying job while he was still an MP.

Archer told Guardian Australia: “I have previously indicated my dismay about the previous PM’s actions and am considering my position in regard to the censure.”

In August Archer said that Morrison should “reflect” on his position, warning that “Australians expect the traditional conventions of our parliament and our Westminster systems be upheld.” At that time, the shadow home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, also called on Morrison to resign.

On Friday the government released Bell’s report into Morrison’s secret appointments to administer the departments of health, industry, treasury, home affairs and finance in 2020 and 2021.

On Sunday Albanese suggested Morrison was likely to be censured for “usurping” the Australian parliament, revealing he had been contacted by parliamentarians across the political spectrum wanting parliament to “express a view”.

Confirming on Monday that Labor would push for censure, Albanese said either the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, or the leader of the house, Tony Burke, would move the motion this week.

Albanese cited the central findings of the Bell report that Morrison’s secret appointments had “real consequences of acting it to undermine public confidence in government and were corrosive of trust in government”.

Earlier on Monday the manager of opposition business, Paul Fletcher, indicated the Coalition will oppose the censure because neither Bell nor the solicitor general had found any “illegality or unconstitutionality” in what Morrison had done.

Fletcher told Sky News changes to require disclosure of ministerial appointments were “perfectly sensible” and the Coalition is “likely to support that”.

But he argued the censure motion was “purely about political payback”, labelling it a “political stunt”.

“If they do decide to proceed with the censure motion, bear in mind it’s very, very unusual to bring a censure motion against a backbencher as Scott Morrison now is.”

“The issue of the relationship between the then prime minister and his then ministers, that’s a matter for the prime minister and each of those ministers.”

Albanese labelled that remark “extraordinary”, arguing the issue is “not a personal relationship between two mates over what happened down at the pub”.

“This is about the accountability of our democratic system, and whether the parliament was functioning properly. And about the relationship between the prime minister and the people of Australia, who expect to be held to account through our parliamentary processes.”

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, told reporters in Canberra that his party supports “action being taken in the parliament against Scott Morrison”.

“What we want to see is real, meaningful action taken,” he said, noting that the Greens had attempted to refer Morrison to the privileges committee for investigation.

Albanese has previously accused Morrison of misleading parliament, while the deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, has said there should be “severe political consequences” for the member for Cook.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Morrison said he had acted to “best advance and protect Australia’s national interests”, explaining that the decisions to take on extra powers “were taken during an extremely challenging period, where there was a need for considerable urgency”.

“I am pleased that this matter has now concluded and I can continue, as I have since the last election, to serve the people of Cook as their federal member of parliament.”


Paul Karp and Josh Butler

The GuardianTramp

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