What we learned: Wednesday, 17 August
And with that, we will close the blog for the day. Here’s what happened today:
Former prime minister Scott Morrison has remained defiant, refusing to resign after his five secret ministry self-appointments were revealed, defending his secrecy because he says he never exercised the powers he had.
Current prime minister Anthony Albanese blasted Morrison, saying he was being “evasive” and “self-serving” over secret ministries.
The governor general, David Hurley, said he did not have a reason to believe the appointments would not be communicated in a statement this afternoon.
Various MPs past and present have continued to criticise Morrison for his actions, including Clare O’Neil, Jacqui Lambie, Stuart Robert, Matthew Thistlethwaite, Adam Bandt and Jason Clare.
Former prime minister John Howard said Morrison’s actions were “unusual” and it was “unwise to have kept it secret” but echoed Barnaby Joyce’s defence that what Morrison did was not illegal.
The NSW government has accepted every recommendation from the flood report by former chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller.
The planning authority in Canberra’s parliamentary triangle has terminated the Russian government’s lease for a planned new embassy and ordered it to get off the site within three weeks.
The wage price index for the June quarter rose 2.6%.
Victoria’s opposition pledged to scrap the suburban rail loop, described as the biggest transport project in the state’s history, with “every cent” of the $34.5bn saved to be invested in the health system if elected in November.
Victor Dominello announced he has “made the difficult decision to retire from politics” after 14 years and four elections. The customer service minister has told the premier, Dominic Perrottet, he won’t contest the March election.
The high court has given judgment in favour of Google in an important test case about the search engine’s liability for hyperlinks to defamatory articles.
Across the country today, 67 deaths from Covid were recorded.
ARLC delays decision on NRL grand final location
In breaking news this evening, the battle for the NRL grand final will continue until at least Thursday, after the ARL commission again delayed a decision at a meeting tonight.
Both NSW and Queensland are in contention for the grand final, after the Queensland government campaigned hard to have the showpiece moved from its traditional Sydney location.
We’ll have to wait until Thursday for a final decision though:
‘John Curtin didn’t do this’ in wartime, says education minister Jason Clare of Morrison’s secret ministries
Education minister, Jason Clare, also weighed into the debate surrounding Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial portfolio, telling Sky News it was “dodgy as buggery,” and rejecting Morrison’s explanations:
The fact that they kept this secret from their own members of parliament, from the whole parliament, and from the Australian people, tells you that they thought this was dodgy as buggery.
Well, we’ve been to war before. When war broke out in Europe, Menzies didn’t do this. When the Japanese were on the march over the Kokoda track, John Curtin didn’t do this.
There’s no good reason for the former prime minister to have done this at all, and it’s made worse by the fact that he decided to conceal this and cover it up, and it was only exposed now by the Australian newspaper.
Tony Abbott says Scott Morrison’s secret appointments ‘unorthodox’ and ‘unusual’
Former liberal prime minister Tony Abbott has labelled Scott Morrison’s actions in taking on ministerial portfolios in secret “unorthodox” and “unusual”, adding that it was “strange” some ministers didn’t know what was going on.
Abbott was speaking at Henry Jackson Society in London when he was asked about Morrison, and although he said it was all strange, he added that he was “reluctant to condemn” what happened:
The pandemic was a completely unprecedented situation, and a whole lot of things that normally would never have been done, were done, and without knowing a lot more than I have currently read in the newspapers, I would be reluctant to condemn what seems to have happened.
It does seem unusual, it seems unorthodox; and it does seem strange that at least some ministers didn’t know about it.
Sarah Martin was never going to miss with her column on Morrison today, and as always, it’s a must-read:
Sophie Scamps to introduce private member’s bill on political appointments process in light of Scott Morrison revelations
Rewinding for a moment, teal independent MP for Mackellar, Sophie Scamps, was on the ABC this afternoon, calling for a parliamentary inquiry into Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial portfolios.
She said lots of people are “shocked and surprised” by the revelations, and that it was important to restore trust in Australian democracy:
There has been a lack of trust in our democracy [and] my main motivation for calling for an inquiry, a parliamentary inquiry is to find out where we go forward from here.
I do think it’s important we have an investigation and an inquiry because the lack of transparency and the secrecy that happened here is the real problem and that’s the disturbing element.
We need the parliamentary inquiry, the privileges inquiry, just to look at – just to see what happened, who knew what when?
I’ll be introducing a private member’s bill around the political appointments process as well. I do think transparency and openness is the absolute crux of our democracy. And I think the reason people are so disturbed and so surprised at what happened was the level of secrecy and the unilateral nature of what happened as well.
‘No reason to believe’ secret ministries would not be made public, governor general says
The governor general, David Hurley, has released a statement this afternoon on Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial portfolios, saying he did not have a reason to believe the appointments would not be communicated.
He says it is not the responsibility of the governor general to advise the ministry or the parliament (or the public) on “administrative changes of this nature”:
The Governor-General is content for the process that the Prime Minister has put in place to be completed and will not comment further. The Governor-General acted on the advice of the government of the day, consistent with the principle of responsible government (in which Ministers are responsible to the parliament, and through them to the Australian people, for the advice that they provide to the Governor-General).
In relation to questions around secrecy: any questions around secrecy after the Governor-General had acted on the advice of the government of the day are a matter for the previous government. It is not the responsibility of the Governor-General to advise the broader Ministry or parliament (or public) of administrative changes of this nature. The Governor-General had no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated.
In terms of questions around the process by which advice is provided to the Governor-General: recommendations relating to appointments of Ministers of State, or to appoint a Minister to have administrative responsibilities over another department, are not, by convention, considered by Federal Executive Council. They are recommendations made, in writing, by the Prime Minister to the Governor-General. The Governor-General signs an instrument to act on the advice of the government of the day. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for that process.
Australians’ alcohol consumption falls from pandemic high
The number of Australians who drink alcohol has dropped since 2021, a report by research firm Roy Morgan has found.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Australians’ alcohol consumption had been slowly declining for over a decade; but in 2020 and 2021 this trend reversed, with alcohol consumption increasing across most categories. This increase in alcohol consumption prompted concern from public health experts.
The Roy Morgan CEO, Michele Levine, described the increase in drinking as a “short-term pandemic related trend” and said it “has now come to an end” but also noted that “the consumption of wine and spirits is still well above pre-pandemic levels”.
One year ago 69.7% of Australian adults drank alcohol, with the figure declining 1.8% to to 67.9% in figures from June 2022.
The Roy Morgan Alcohol Consumption report tracks regularity of drinking across different alcohol categories, and is not focused on public health outcomes.
It found that in 2022, Australians are drinking wine, beer and spirits less frequently than in 2021. The one exception to the decline is the ready-to-drink (RTD) category, which takes in pre-mixed drinks like alcopops and hard seltzers, but also batch-made, bottled cocktails.
“A deeper look into the RTDs market shows the increasing popularity of seltzers over the last few years is continuing to drive the increasing consumption of RTDs generally,” Levine said.
Hard seltzers began to hit the Australian market in significant numbers in 2019, just before the pandemic struck, and these newer alcoholic products are still attracting an increasing array of customers.
The emerging trends suggest consumption of wine and spirits looks set to return to pre-pandemic levels while … beer consumption continues its long-term decline.
Adam Bandt calls Morrison’s secret ministries an assault on democracy
Greens leader Adam Bandt was also on the ABC this afternoon, and he compared Scott Morrison’s actions in taking on these ministries to something “you’d expect from Donald Trump”:
This is the kind of act you’d expect from Donald Trump. It’s a major assault on one of the fundamentals of our democracy. Ministers have enormous power and get to make decisions that affect people’s lives and get to spend money. Many of those decisions are made behind closed doors. We are entitled as the public and as parliamentarians to know who the ministers are who are making decisions that affect us.
And we’re trying to hold these ministers to account, asking them questions in question time, holding them to count for decisions they’ve made. I find the mental principle behind that is you’ve got to know who the minister is. Who is making the decision? That is why prime ministers stand up in parliament and table lists of who the ministers are.
It turns out what Scott Morrison was telling us in parliament about who was responsible was wrong. He knew things he knew were wrong. He was telling the parliament something completely different and telling the public something completely different. If this was such a great idea of his, why didn’t he make it public?
I think the issue should concern people right across the country, and concern people across the political spectrum in parliament, because you have someone making an unprecedented decision, coming up with all the justifications in the world for it, but keeping it secret and he was the prime minister.
Clare O’Neil unconvinced by Scott Morrison’s explanations
Minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, says she is “absolutely not” convinced by Scott Morrison’s explanation for his secret portfolios.
Speaking on the ABC earlier, O’Neil first criticised Morrison’s performance at his press conference:
This was vintage Scott Morrison. Abrasive, rude, megalomaniac who does not want to be held responsible for decisions that he took simply because he was in the role of prime minister. And the fact that he gave explanations that don’t stack up against even a modicum of pressure tells us everything we need to know.
O’Neil went on to question Morrison’s excuse that he would have undermined his ministers if he had told the public he held those ministries:
It makes no sense what Scott Morrison has said. He said at the same time this was fully justified but if he made it transparent then it would be a vote of no confidence in his ministers. Both can’t be true at once. I don’t think we need to get into that. It doesn’t matter if minister for home affairs at the time would have been offended or not. We had a fundamental corrosion of our democracy because we had one person responsibility for our portfolio and we didn’t know about that.
Scott Morrison’s appointments wouldn’t have been secret in a republic, says Thistlethwaite
Assistant Minister for the republic, Matthew Thistlethwaite, told reporters earlier today that if Australia was a republic, that none of Scott Morrison’s secret appointments would have been hidden.
Thistlethwaite declined to criticise governor general David Hurley for his actions, but said it highlights the need for a discussion on a future Australian head of state:
The role of the governor general is to accept the advice of the prime minister, and there’ll no doubt be further discussion about that role, and what the governor general knew and whether or not he should have told the Australian people about that.
But in my view, it highlights the importance of us having a discussion in the future about having an Australian as our head of state, and someone who acts on behalf of the Australian people.
Maybe then we can get more transparency and accountability in decisions such as this.
Deputy NSW Labor leader Prue Car says she is recovering after surgery for cancer
Car announced via Twitter that she has had a successful major surgery to remove a large tumour on her kidney.
Car, who is the member for Londonderry, says she is currently at home recovering, and said her recovery will guide when she returns from leave:
Australia’s Covid vaccine rollout only ‘partly effective’, report finds
The Australian National Audit Office has released a report into Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination rollout, finding it was only “partly effective” and failed to meet targets for vulnerable populations.
While 90% of the eligible Australian population was vaccinated by the end of 2021, the planning and implementation of the vaccine rollout to priority groups was not as effective.
Initial planning was not timely, with detailed planning with states and territories not completed before the rollout commenced, and Health underestimated the complexity of administering in-reach services to the aged care and disability sectors. Further, it did not incorporate the government’s targets for the rollout into its planning until a later stage.
While vaccines were delivered with minimal wastage, Health’s administration of vaccines to priority populations and the general population has not met targets. The vaccine rollout to residential aged care and residential disability were both slower than planned, and the vaccination rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has remained lower than for the Australian population.
The ANAO recommended the department undertake a comprehensive review of the vaccine rollout. In its response, the health department “notes that such a review would logically form part of an expected broader review into the Covid-19 pandemic with the timing still to be agreed by government”.
'Unwise': Stuart Robert criticises Morrison secret ministries
The shadow assistant treasurer, Stuart Robert, who is one of Scott Morrison’s closest allies in the Liberal party, has criticised his handling of the secret ministries.
Robert told Sky News it was “unwise” for Morrison to be appointed to administer departments without informing his ministerial colleagues.
No one needs to step down from anything. We seek to be transparent. Scott Morrison has apologised for the lack of judgment, not bringing it to full cabinet, not seeking the counsel of his colleagues – that’s why cabinet government is so good.
Robert said he would’ve advised Morrison to “take it to full cabinet”:
I think cabinet would’ve said: ‘There’s no need for this – we understand the challenges we’ve got. If it does get really out of control, the governor general can swear ministers in very fast.’
Let’s take everyone along and keep everyone informed.
Russian embassy must vacate Canberra site in three weeks after lease on new site terminated
The planning authority in Canberra’s parliamentary triangle has terminated the Russian government’s lease for a planned new embassy and ordered it to get off the site within three weeks.
The National Capital Authority has grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress on the construction of Russia’s new embassy, which occupies prime real estate in Yarralumla, a wealthy lakeside suburb in Canberra. Russia bought the lease way back in 2008 and had plans approved for its new embassy in 2011.
The NCA, a federal authority that oversees planning and development in some parts of the capital, says the Russian government said the work would be finished within three years. The building still isn’t completed.
The NCA says the unfinished works are now an eyesore in Canberra’s diplomatic precinct. NCA chief executive, Sally Barnes, said:
Ongoing unfinished works detract from the overall aesthetic, importance and dignity of the area reserved for diplomatic missions and foreign representation in the national capital.
Barnes said land for diplomatic missions was limited. She said the NCA had a policy of “use it or lose it”.
The NCA has ordered president Vladimir Putin’s government to get off the site within 20 days.
The Russian embassy is expected to continue to operate from its current location in Canberra.
Good afternoon, Mostafa Rachwani with you this afternoon, and a quick thanks to Natasha May for expertly steering us through another hectic day.
Thanks to everyone who followed along what was a big day of press conferences. I am off but leaving you in the very excellent hands of Mostafa Rachwani!
Major flood warning for Gippsland
Heavy rainfall has led to rising rivers and a major flood warning in Victoria’s Gippsland region, AAP reports.
Up to 70mm of rain has been recorded in the Latrobe River catchment in the 24 hours to 10am on Monday, with another 5mm to 10mm forecast across the area for the rest of the day.
The Bureau of Meteorology issued a warning for the Moe River at Darnum, east of Warragul, after it exceeded the major flood level early on Monday morning.
The river level is currently at 4.65 metres and falling, the bureau says.
Minor flooding has eased in the Morwell River catchment but it could develop along the Latrobe River at Rosedale on Tuesday.
Other minor flood warnings are active for the nearby Traralgon Creek, and parts of the Murray and Kiewa rivers to the north of the state.
The Bunyip River catchment recorded rainfall averaging 30mm.
Meanwhile, a gale wind warning was also issued for the Central Gippsland Coast and East Gippsland Coast.
National Covid summary: 67 deaths reported
Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 67 deaths from Covid-19:
In hospital: 136 (with 2 people in ICU)
In hospital: 2,115 (with 52 people in ICU)
In hospital: 40 (with 2 people in ICU)
In hospital: 439 (with 19 people in ICU)
In hospital: 210 (with 7 people in ICU)
In hospital: 66 (with 4 people in ICU)
In hospital: 518 (with 29 people in ICU)
In hospital: 283 (with 8 people in ICU)
South Australia records two Covid deaths and 210 people in hospital
There were 1,458 new cases in the last reporting period, and seven people are in intensive care.
Raising foreign worker pay floor would ‘kill immigration overnight’: business chamber
The head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andrew McKellar, has spoken to the National Press Club about the upcoming jobs and skills summit.
Unions have given conditional support on increasing migration to 200,000, but warned employers must first lift pay before seeking foreign workers. They want the salary floor for temporary skilled migrants lifted to average full time weekly (about $91K), and indexed to the wage price index.
McKellar said wages should be “a question for the marketplace” and “many businesses” are lifting wages to attract workers. McKellar said the wage price index only measures the “standard remuneration employees are getting” and did not show that employees are getting pay rises through “changes between jobs”.
The idea here we need some sort of artificial mechanism or checkpoint before we start responding to the crisis that we have is not the right notion ... The threshold, the income threshold, before a business can access the immigration [system] – [unions] want to increase that from the current level of $53,000 a year to $90,000 a year. This would kill many areas of the immigration program overnight.
McKellar said some increase could be contemplated, up to $59K or 60K which would be “more realistic”.
Fire at bread factory could lead to shortages in NSW
A fire at a bread factory in western Sydney could cause a bread shortage in NSW over the coming days.
Goodman Fielder, the company that owns Helga’s and WonderWhite, confirmed that customers may face a “shortage of products” over the next week, but added that they are working to ensure disruptions will be minimal.
In a statement, they said the fire, which broke out last week, did not harm anyone but did damage their bakery production line. They are working with authorities to determine the cause of the blaze.
We are doing everything we can to minimise disruption to our customers and consumers.
We are scaling up our baking capacity at our other plants around the country and utilising line haul into NSW. We are also working with third party bakeries for additional support.
There will be some shortage of our products on shelf over the next few days, however by the end of next week we expect the supply disruption will be minimal, albeit with a reduced range.
A spokesperson for Coles confirmed there would be a shortage of “several bread products” in the coming days, and asked customers to be “flexible”:
Due to a fire at a supplier’s factory in New South Wales, we have been experiencing shortages in several bread products at some of our stores.
We are working with suppliers to minimise the impacts, and while we expect shortages to ease over the coming week, we ask customers to be flexible if their regular brand of bread isn’t available in the meantime.
Wage growth to be a ‘key focus’ of jobs summit, treasurer says as he releases issues paper
It’s been a hectic morning of press conferences, but I’d like to take you back to what the treasurer Jim Chalmers had to say at his media conference just before Scott Morrison took to the microphone.
Data out today showed wages rose well below inflation, which Chalmers said meant “real wages are still going backwards substantially”.
He said getting wages growing at a sustainable rate so Australians weren’t falling behind would be a “key focus” of the upcoming jobs and skills summit, but not the only concern.
We want to make sure that we’re getting productivity growth, we want to make sure that we’re filling labour and skills shortages around the country. We want to make sure that we’re investing in the industries which will create more of those secure, well-paying jobs into the future, and so today we are releasing … the issues paper which will inform the discussion at the jobs and skills summit.
The jobs and skills summit is all about bringing people together around our bill, economic challenges, and we’re looking forward to bringing people together here at the beginning of September so that we can work together to deal with some of these big, economic challenges, bring the country together.
Severe weather warning issued for southern NSW tomorrow
PM to travel to Torres Strait to ‘engage with Australians’ on voice to parliament
So questions have shifted slightly from discussion of Morrison’s secret portfolios, with Anthony Albanese announcing he will be travelling to the Torres Strait this week to engage with people on the voice to parliament:
We’ll go to Thursday Island tomorrow and we’ll also have a ‘come one, come all’ forum in the afternoon. I want to engage with Australians, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, to consult with them. I gave a substantial speech in Garma.
I’m very pleased – I thank Premier Palaszczuk for her support – I think … all the premiers across the political spectrum, have indicated their support for recognising Indigenous Australians in our constitution and having an enshrined voice to the parliament.
Now it’s time to have those consultation mechanisms. Linda Burney is meeting with Aboriginal affairs state ministers, and she’ll be travelling with us tomorrow up to the Torres Strait.
Albanese is asked whether Morrison should resign, and he references voters in the former PM’s seat of Cook:
I think – if I was a voter in Cronulla, or Caringbah, and I heard my local member say he didn’t follow day to day politics, then I think … I would want something a bit better than that.
Albanese: ‘It’s not my position’ to criticise governor general for his actions
Albanese next refused to criticise the governor general for his actions, after being asked if he thinks he should resign.
It’s not my position as prime minister. I have no intention of undertaking any criticism of the governor general. The governor general acted in accordance with the recommendations of the government of the day. The government of the day has to accept responsibility for this.
And the people who were involved in it directly have to accept responsibility. If there’s any changes that are required or recommended for any future examination of this, and quite clearly it does need to be examined, it’s not in spite of what Peter Dutton thinks is appropriate, it’s not just going to move on. This is fundamentally a trashing of our democratic system.
Morrison went down 'slippery slope' with secret ministries: PM
The PM has continued laying into Morrison, adding the current opposition leader Peter Dutton to his sights, saying Dutton wants to avoid scrutiny on the situation, and that the former PM was on a “slippery slope”:
Peter Dutton said very clearly that he basically - everybody should just move on. It was nothing to see here. We just had a shadow government operate, but ask me questions about something else, please.
He sat there in the cabinet as well when Scott Morrison appointed himself as the sole member of a cabinet committee simply so that he could avoid scrutiny in any meetings that he had with other ministers, he could say they were co-opted onto that committee of one. It’s a farce.
This was a slippery slope that Scott Morrison went down, that Peter Dutton and the rest of his cabinet went along with, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, for four years.
For four years this guy stood at press conferences and said for example, in the United States, the issue of invites to the White House was just gossip, when he knew it wasn’t gossip, it was fact.
Next up, Albanese is asked whether or not he thought the appointments were really made in the national interest, and whether they were legal.
The PM reiterates that he is waiting on formal legal advice, to arrive on Monday, and “decisions will be made based on that.” He refers to the former PM’s upcoming biography, and his 2GB interview yesterday morning:
We will receive that advice, I’m advised, on Monday. That will be considered advice from the Solicitor-General and that is appropriate. Because there are reasons why there’s checks and balances in our democratic system.
The reason why you have one minister who is responsible for making decisions about resources, or about environment, or about immigration, and by being sworn in, of course, to the home affairs portfolio, it also confuses that role, potentially, as well. The legal implications for this will be considered by the Solicitor-General.
That advice will come to the government and we’ll make decisions about a way forward based upon that. But this only came about, be very clear, this came about, be very clear, this came about because Scott Morrison was getting a biography written of him, with a couple of journalists who published this on Saturday, and then bit by bit, information came out. And yesterday morning, yesterday morning, Scott Morrison on 2GB said he couldn’t recall any additionals appointments beyond the 3 that have been released.
He couldn’t remember the fact he had been appointed to administer the treasury portfolio? And the home affairs portfolio? I mean, give me a break.
Albanese continues, saying it was “incomprehensible” to him that the documentation signed by the governor-general to appoint Morrison to his secret portfolios were kept in the dark.
The PM says Morrison was running a “shadow government,” and refers to the boat arrival on election day as an example of the former PM acting in his ministerial roles:
The fact is, there was at least three documents provided, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, I wrote to them today, asking in the public interest, after questions have been raised with the department, and with myself at yesterday’s press conference, that it be released.
The documentation of appointment, signed by the Governor-General. Those documents have now been released. Why there wasn’t any statement made at the time is incomprehensible to me. It is a government not being transparent. And this was a shadow government.
It’s one thing to have a shadow ministry. This was a shadow government, so that Josh Frydenberg, and Mathias Cormann, and Karen Andrews and others, weren’t even told, nor were the secretaries of departments like treasury and home affairs. So when the incident occurred on May 21, where you had that release of the text messages about - about the arrival of a boat, Karen Andrews, who had got the phone call, according to her, from Scott Morrison, asking for a release to be made in breach of what had been the government policy, including under minister Morrison when he had responsibility for that, at no stage did we know that minister Morrison had in fact been appointed as Minister for Home Affairs as well.
Now, it’s one thing for his ministerial colleagues to not be told, and I noticed in in the part of the press conference I watched, and I watched most of it, Mr Morrison spoke about apologising to his ministerial colleagues for how they felt, no that he had done anything wrong, he had accepted no responsibility.
Morrison 'evasive' and 'self-serving' over secret ministries: PM
First question up for the PM is of course about Morrison, and Albanese does not hold back, beginning with a reference to a 90s film:
The first rule of power grab club is don’t talk about power grab club, and Scott Morrison broke that rule today. Scott Morrison was evasive, he was defensive, he was passive aggressive, and of course he was self-serving.
What we saw was all of his characters on full display. Blaming everybody else, not accepting any responsibility, saying, for example, that somehow when he said he was taking the decision on the resources as resources minister, when he said “I’m making this decision as Prime Minister” everyone should have known at that point in time, somehow that he had sworn himself in as the resources minister, in order to make that decision.
His extraordinary comments that he said, where he gave a press conference and said that he made the conscious decision to not tell his cabinet colleagues that he had also occupied their space as Treasurer, as finance minister, as industry, science, energy and resources minister, as Home Affairs Minister, that somehow he didn’t want it to be misinterpreted.
Which is why he didn’t tell anyone.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has stepped up in Queensland, alongside premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, to (initially) discuss infrastructure projects in the state. I’m sure he will soon turn his attention to the former prime minister, and we’ll bring you the details when he does.
So, a quick breather while we wait for the current prime minister to step up for a presser (due soon), but I thought its a good opportunity to discuss the instruments used by Morrison to appoint himself to various portfolios.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has released the instruments used by Morrison to appoint himself minister for Health (14 March 2020), Finance (30 March 2020), Industry (15 April 2021), Treasury and Home Affairs (6 May 2021).
Of note is the language used, which includes a note that these documents “direct and appoint [Morrison] to administer” the departments, which is interesting, in contrast to his repeated insistence just now that he wasn’t administering the departments.
Another interesting tidbit here is that Morrison took over the Home Affairs portfolio when Peter Dutton moved from the role into Defence, in May 2021.
Victorian Trades Hall Council on Suburban Rail Loop decision
Victoria’s peak union body says the state opposition’s plan to shelve the Rail Loop will hurt workers and families across Melbourne by slashing construction jobs.
Victoria’s opposition has pledged to shelve the $34.5bn first stage of the project in order to divert additional money into Victoria’s battered health care sector. Opposition leader Matthew Guy made the announcement on Wednesday morning, setting up a pre-election showdown over transport infrastructure before the state heads to the polls in November.
Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary, Luke Hilakari, said the decision showed opposition leader Matthew Guy was focused on “getting himself through the next 100 days”:
The suggestion that he would redirect these funds into health would be laughable if the record on Liberals and health in Victoria wasn’t so serious.
This is the same party that sells off our hospitals, goes to war with our nurses and undermines public health experts at every turn. You can’t trust this Guy with Victoria’s health system.
“I intend to go on being a quiet Australian in the shire”: Morrison wraps up
Morrison ends the press conference on a note asking media again not to photograph his family as he continues to withdraw from the “day-to-day commentary” of politics:
I simply ask something of you and your colleagues in the gallery. As I said at the end of my statement at the start of this press conference - having come here today and having answered your questions to the best of my ability, I would ask that if you wish to be taking photos of me or why you’d want to see my driving around the shire, I don’t know, I don’t know if that’s terribly fascinating to the Australian public. But I would ask that you would not film my family, that you would not be standing on my driveway each morning as they go to school, I’d ask you to respect the privacy of my kids and my wife. We’re moving on with our life.
I’m serving as the member for Cook. Since stepping down as prime minister after being defeated at the last election, you have not heard me engage in the day-to-day commentary and the political to and fro. I sought to respect the decision of the Australian people. I made no statements critical of the government.
This government was elected and they should get on with the job with what they were elected to do. And as I said on election night, I wish them well with that task because Australia faces many challenges. I said the same thing to the leadership of my own party and I wish Peter and Suzanne and all the team all the best as they do their job. But as a former prime minister, I intend to go on being a quiet Australian in the shire and in St George doing my job as a local member and I would ask you to respect the privacy of my family and when we’re out and about doing things as a family, or down at the Sharkies seeing make them the semi-finals
Morrison is wrapping up the presser:
All I’m saying is they were contemporaneous interviews that were done over the course of the pandemic and that’s why I think it makes an interesting read, frankly, because it pretty much tells the story of what was an extraordinarily torrid time for the entire country and as governments at federal and state level sought to do everything they could to protect the Australian public.
And so I’m asked about what the Australian people think. I think they’re a bit, frankly, over this, going: “What is that all about? What has it got to do with me?”
There are important points here about, you know, I exercise powers lawfully, I exercised them as an elected member of the House of Representatives and an elected member as party leader that I went to an election over, and I was responsible, as you all reminded me everyday, and the opposition did, that I was responsible for all of it, and that I sought to exercise those responsibilities as best I could in the circumstances I faced and as a result, Australia came through and is seen around the world as one of the best-performing countries through the course of the pandemic from a health and an economic point of view and that is something I’m extremely proud of and I want to thank you all for your attendance today.
We had a quite robust and extensive conversation about the list and I thank you for your attendance and I just ask again - excuse me, excuse me! No, the press conference I’m about to conclude and I would - we had a lot of questions and I have been very happy to take them and I think we covered this material in a lot of detail.
Morrison finds the situation ironic:
No, what I find ironic about this is that is I disclosed it and what I find interesting about the book that has been written, which, you know, I have no interest in the book, I have no commercial interest in it whatsoever, but I cooperated with interviews that were done contemporaneously, contemporaneously because a lot of political books are written and a lot of things are written after the event where people fit events to the narrative they want to tell. That book was written based on interviews that were conducted at the time, in the middle of the tempest.
I do know a number of things and I go back to the most common response I have had to people as I moved around the country and that is they know this was a tough gig and a tough time and that we had to make some hard calls. And we had to get the country through a very difficult period and we did that. People’s lives were saved, people’s livelihoods were saved, businesses that would otherwise have been destroyed, that had been working for 30, 40 years to establish, and they have come to me and simply said, “Look, quietly I know there’s a lot of people giving you a lot of flack about a lot of stuff, but thanks for what you did because my business is still here.” I think Australians, you know, yes, this is not an unimportant issue, and I wouldn’t want to give that impression, and I think there are lessons out of all of this, but, you know, right now, Australians are very focused on what’s affecting them. This decision I took didn’t impact one Australian other than those who wanted to preserve the environment of the New South Wales coast. The other measures were put in place simply to try to protect them if I had to – and thankfully I didn’t have to.
Q: Is it true you had Christian Porter assure you this move was legal in the first place …several other portfolios, including portfolios that have little to do with Covid emergency management and you did that without telling any of your colleagues because you knew it would make it look like you didn’t trust them, that’s how this plays out, isn’t it?
That’s your narrative and I don’t accept it. You know, commonly, narratives are put forward around politics and some may try to suit - fit events to those, to support those narratives, but that’s not my practice.
What I’m simply saying is that the authorities that were established were done so lawfully in each case. They were done with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, working with the office of the governor general, and were done lawfully. They were done lawfully. And those reserve powers were in place, those emergency powers were in place if they were needed. Thankfully, they were not.
No ministers were interfered with in the conduct of their ministerial responsibilities other than in the express case which I have been very clear about, which I have also said had nothing to do with the pandemic. It had to do with ensuring that a full consideration was done on that matter by the prime minister which I did and which I suspect the people living on the New South Wales central coast and hunter coast and the northern beaches of New South Wales will be forever grateful for. That is why these things were done.
I mean, there was no personal advantage to me as prime minister in doing any of these things other than to ensure that should I be in a position that I confronted a set of circumstances that no one could foreknow, that I would be able to take a decision that was in the national interest and would save lives and livelihoods.
Morrison on resources portfolio:
I had no intention of exercising any powers or authorities in his department. I had no intention. There was no intention on my part in that portfolio to do anything other than to consider from first principles the matter in relation to PEP-11 and once I had put those authorities in place, I met with the Minister, with minister Pitt, and I informed him of that and I proceeded to consider the matter from first principles. And that is what I would have done in every other circumstance.
Question: Just on the Biosecurity Act, do you think there should be reform of that act? And also do you think it confers too much power in the Health Minister?
Well, the answer to that, I think, is in what we did and the health - former health minister [Greg Hunt] – would explain to you the many key processes that we put in place as a government for the exercise of these authorities under the Biosecurity Act which included the ones of me taking on authority in the department if that should be necessary. So in that way, for quite significant decisions like that, under the Biosecurity Act, it was like a two-key process and that provided a safeguard and I think that was sensible. I think the question highlights what is we were trying to do in many different areas of government as we navigated our way through the crisis. And that was to deal with some of these - these problems of lack of back-up powers or reserve powers or emergency powers if circumstances required it and we sought to make do and do the workarounds that enabled us to put those things in way. In the Biosecurity Act, I think it’s worthwhile for departments and the government to look at what we did and see whether that is something they think they should be put in place in the future and I think all of these processes hopefully will help inform should, God forbid, the country be put in this sort of situation again.
Q: Did anyone in your cabinet know that you were home affairs and treasury minister?
Morrison: “That’s already been answered. No.”
Q: No one? Why did you take over the portfolio when Peter Dutton had Covid, you’d already taken over two portfolios, why did you not do that when Peter Dutton was sick with Covid?
That’s a reasonable question. And at that point, we were dealing with the issues in health and finance. Now, we hadn’t been moving on to some of the other issues and that’s why it was added later as a precaution.
It might be puzzling but that maybe as a result of not having walked in my shoes… and understood the urgency and the nature of the circumstances at the time. You’re standing on the shore after the fact. I was steering the ship in the middle of the tempest.
Morrison says “I’m sorry, I got to pull you up. You used the statement phrase. I was not co-administering any of these departments.”
Reporter: You could have.
I was sworn-in authority to take decisions in a department if I believed that was necessary and if that was the case, then I would have sat down with the minister … and I would have dealt with it in that time. So the suggestion of co-administration of departments is 100% false.
Morrison denies lying yesterday
Question: Did you lie yesterday?
No, I did not. I didn’t recall. Before I insured my statement yesterday, I took the time to make a formal request through the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to get the facts about if there were any other portfolios that administratively I was sworn to ensure I could answer these exact questions which I have done and I did in the statement yesterday. But it would be wrong to characterise it, as you have, that I was taking over the portfolio because my actions demonstrate that I did no such thing. I didn’t intervene in one decision of the treasurer. I didn’t ask for briefs that came from the Department of Treasury to be co-sent to my office as well as to the treasurer and require there to be cosignatories as a co-minister. That did not take place. That is not what happened.
Let me explain what I said. I did not take over the treasury portfolio. I did not take over the home affairs portfolio. I did not take over the health portfolio.
I was administratively sworn in, which gave me authority, like many other ministers had, to exercise decisions in an emergency situation. It was something that was done on an order of many other issues we were dealing with at the time.
Question: why couldn’t you remember yesterday swearing yourself in as treasurer?
I mean, ‘you’re swearing - you’re taking over the Treasury Department and you couldn’t remember it yesterday?’ Yeah, but that’s a very cliche way to put it, Andrew, but it doesn’t reflect what I have told you.
“I didn’t need to trouble any of those ministers”: Morrison
Question: You had your time again and would you do it again?
It’s a good question and it’s one that I think particularly those going forward will need to reflect on because I don’t intend to be in a position where I will be doing it again. Because I don’t intend - or have any expectation of being in that situation. But I think as I said at the outset, I’m very happy to cooperate with any sort of genuine or positive process which is seeking to understand the lessons of the pandemic and how these issues can be better managed in the future. But your question sort of highlight a good point: There was no guide book for a global pandemic of this nation and the recession it caused. We had to make many decisions that were unusual and many decisions which you were simply trying to make as - on the percentages as many good ones as you possibly could and you were making hundreds of them a day. And these fell into that. But the context is what I’m trying to convey to you. They were put in there as a safeguard, as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency and as a result - and as a result, thankfully, we didn’t need to break the glass and as a result I didn’t need to trouble any of those ministers.
Morrison won't resign
Morrison is asked if he will resign:
I’m only aware of the member for McPherson [Karen Andrews] asking me to do that who served in my cabinet. But these are actions and decisions I took as the prime minister. I’m no longer the prime minister. There is another prime minister who has a series of priorities that he must address and I’m sure he will.
But I didn’t take these decisions as the member for Cook. These issues don’t relate to my role as the member for Cook and I will continue to serve the member - as the member for Cook for the people of Cook with the best of my ability which I continue to do today.
I don’t think those two issues - they didn’t relate to decisions I took as a member of parliament. They took to my - they went to my decisions as a member of the executive and, in fact, the head of the executive, as the prime minister.
After we’d gone through the initial phase and the pandemic was continuing, we took the precaution to put those in place in these other important portfolios where there were unilateral decision-making powers of ministers that were not subject to cabinet.
I only did it in particular portfolios of significant areas of importance, ie Treasury and Home Affairs, because they were unilateral decision-making powers of ministers.
Reports have earlier today said that former treasurer Josh Frydenberg was “livid” over not knowing Morrison had sworn himself responsible for treasury. Morrison refutes this, saying:
I have had a wonderful conversation with Josh. We had one yesterday and we are the best of friends and he is like - he has my total regard as both a friend and colleague and that will forever remain.
Morrison reminds the media they have not had the experience of being prime minister:
I didn’t disclose it to [my colleagues] because I didn’t think it was for the best operation of the government during a crisis for which I am responsible. I appreciate, Andrew, you mightn’t understand it because you haven’t been a prime minister in the middle of a worst crisis since the second world war.
The powers were put in place by an elected prime minister in accordance with the laws and constitution of this country, and for - if you have a different suggestion, then you need to substantiate that, and you haven’t done so. But my point about it is this. The fact that they were not enacted meant unforeseen events, and that’s the nature of those events, they’re unforeseen, unforeseen, which could have been anything from the station of a minister for any number of purposes or some threat to the national interest as a result of unilateral action by an individual, then in those circumstances the prime minister had to take responsibility and to taking action. Now, I’m very, very pleased that that was not necessary.
Morrison defends taking over portfolios in pandemic as responsible:
I believed it was a prudent and responsible action in the middle of a crisis to have those emergency powers in place to ensure that I could exercise the expectations of my responsibilities.
The non-exercising of these powers proves that they were handled responsibly, that they were not abused, that they were there in a reserve capacity to ensure the prime minister could act if that was necessary. I respected them because I understood they were important about it.
“I believe it was the right decision”: Morrison on resources portfolio
Morrison reiterates a distinction he is drawing between taking over the resources portfolio and the other portfolios taken over in response of the pandemic:
I’m saying they were two different sets of circumstances. There was emergency powers which I had put in place that were dealing with pandemic arrangements. The resources portfolio decision was not one of those. That was a separate issue that I determined to consider directly myself. I’ve been very open about it. That’s what I have done. I took that decision, I took it lawfully. … I believe it was the right decision.
Morrison refuses to go into details of conversations between himself and governor general
Morrison is asked again if the governor general ever raised any questions about his taking over the portfolios. He responds:
I will follow the practice that all prime ministers have in the past. Ex-prime ministers, I don’t go into private discussions with the governor general. I don’t do that and I don’t believe ...
Again I had numerous conversations with the governor general over many topics over many years, as you would expect me to do, but those conversations with between us and are private conversations and I don’t intend …
You’re asking me to go into conversations between me and the governor general, which I am not going to do.
I made the announcement on that project as the prime minister and I said I did that with the authority that I need today to do the project.
It’s about the prime minister making a decision in the national interest and protecting our environment.
I made it very clear about the two different types of circumstances in which I’d established these powers.
I said there was the pandemic-related portfolios and I’ve been clear about that, and in my statement yesterday I was very clear there was a different set of circumstances in relation to that project. Now, I don’t regret that for a second, and I don’t think anyone who went surfing off the New South Wales coast this week up around Newcastle or the central coast or off the northern beaches would take any issue with a prime minister who lived up to his word and considered this matter from first principles as I was required to do under the act, which I did … and made a decision that did not see that project or that lease to be extended. Now, I think that was the right decision.
Morrison: “There was no such swearing in.”
Q: Mr Morrison, there seems to be a bit of heat on the governor general today … When you spoke with the governor general swearing you into these extra portfolios and giving you these extra responsibilities did he at any stage ask you to make it public?
I think the criticisms of the governor general are egregious. I think the governor general acted with absolute propriety and did everything that was expected of him in these arrangements and he would have taken the necessary advice from his own office and the suitable engagement was undertaken between my department and the office of the governor general. Now, these - there was no swearing-in ceremonies. That is the point. These things were done administratively, so there was no such interaction like the one you’re describing because that’s not how it was done.
That’s the only way I could have exercised those powers. I mean, anyone familiar with that issue would have understood that those powers could only have been exercised by someone who had authority under that department. The applicant certainly understood that. The applicant certainly understood that.
The advice that I received is a matter between me and the department and the department advised me those matters, and implemented and ministers -- administered these decisions and did so in consequence with the office of the governor general.
I said I sought advice from my department which is the standard process.
Again, I don’t go into - as prime ministers and ministers don’t, because the advice that is provided is a matter between ministers and their departments. And the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet advised me on these matters and I understand these matters to be entirely lawful.
Morrison says he kept powers secret to avoid them being 'misinterpreted'
These were emergency effectively reserve powers.
I think there was a great risk that in the midst of that crisis those powers could be misinterpreted and misunderstood, which would have caused unnecessary angst in the middle of a pandemic and could have impacted on the day-to-day functioning of the government.
I said there was a possibility of this being misinterpreted … I think the events of the last few days have highlighted how this could have happened.
Morrison is asked if he is maintaining that he did nothing wrong.
Of course I regret that offence and I apologise for that offence, but I am pleased that through the course of the pandemic my confidence was in them [his ministers] to keep just doing their job. Now, the fact that I didn’t interfere in doing their job shows the confidence I had in them. Now, there were many issues that arose over that period of time where if I had wished to I could have exercised the authorities given to me in their portfolios but I did not do that, and I did not do that because I did not consider that they were consistent with the emergency New South Wales - situations and emergency services minister powers that I had sought. So, I respected the additional authorities that were presented and that is proved by the fact that I exercised them not at all except in the one case in relation to resources, which was a completely different set of circumstances.
I did what I thought was necessary in the national interests to ensure the government continued to perform well – which it did.
He is asked if there was a special issue that prompted him to take over Treasury?
He responds: “The answer to that is no.”
Question: Why not simply advise your cabinet colleagues that you were doing this? You said you had an expectation on you that you were responsible for everything. This looks like an extraordinary consolidation of power. Why not even just let your cabinet colleagues know – if not the broader Australian public?
Well, as I said, I apologise for any concern this has caused about those issues and I understand that concern and that’s why I’m standing here today. But at the same time I did not want any of my ministers to be going about their daily business any different to what they were doing before. I was concerned that these issues could have been misconstrued and misunderstood and undermine the confidence of ministers in the performance of their duties at that time, and I did not consider that to be in the country’s interest.
What we did was in that particular instance we were dealing with extra powers, new powers enlivened under the biosecurity act and talking with [then health minister] Greg [Hunt] and how we would be mapping that new set of powers, then we had that discussion. My honest recollection was that there’d been a communication between offices in relation to the Minister for Finance, that didn’t take place. I accept that, and I have apologised to then [finance] minister Cormann before that, but equally that also related to additional spending powers that were delegated to the finance minister at that time. The later ones were added in May to 21 as the pandemic was continuing because in all the portfolios that I sought to have these authorities put in place they were portfolio areas where ministers could exercise unilateral decisions without reference to cabinet. So that is a very different thing from portfolios where the decisions minister makes are implementing the decisions of cabinet. Now, we were in a rather extreme situation over a protracted period of time. Those safeguards were put in place for precautionary, for prudent, responsible reasons, and I didn’t consider it at the time, given everything else that was going on and the other priorities we were dealing with, that it was a matter that needed to be raised at that point because if I needed to use the powers then I would have disclosed them with the minister.
Morrison is now taking questions from the media.
I was swearing in to have authorities under the portfolio. As I have made very clear and the then Minister for Health will tell you, did I exercise any powers in that portfolio under that? No, I didn’t. He continued to be the Health Minister. This was the first of these things that we first addressed and it arose because of the rather unusual nay of the biosecurity powers which were unprecedented
As a member of parliament of course I’m accountable and I’m happy to be here today. But members of my family have nothing to do with this. I would very much like that the cameras that sit outside my house each day and film my wife and my daughters going to school or going for a coffee or if they would like to have friends around, or tradespeople coming, they have nothing to do with this, and so out of respect by all means sit outside my electoral office, there’s great coffee in Cronulla, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, but I would ask that you not invade the privacy of my family. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.
As prime minister, only I could really understand the weight of responsibility that was on my shoulders and on no one else, and as a result I took the decisions that I thought I needed to take. I took the calls that I thought were necessary and over the course of my time as prime minister I sought to pursue the national interest on that basis, not for any personal advancement, but to get Australia through one of the worst crises we have faced since the second world war, and the good news is Australia, we got through it.
In taking on these authorities from the governor general, I did not instruct any department that I was to have duties for carriage of any of the issues that the ministers were dealing with on a day-to-day basis. They continued to exercise their powers as ministers, fully and wholly, except in the one instance in relation to the decision that I referred to in my statement. I did not exercise those powers. And I had the power, though, to act if that was necessary. The powers that I was exercising and been sworn in administratively to those roles were lawful based on the advice and working through those issues, as was done by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the officer of the governor general, my own office. Those are obvious issues that were being addressed at the time, and we understood to be acting completely lawfully. But the point here is that at no time – because the accusation has been made that somehow this was seeking these additional powers for what purpose personally, I cannot understand. I didn’t exercise them because, thankfully, the extreme circumstances in which I had established these powers to act in, thankfully, did not arise. The fact that ministers were unaware of these things is actually proof of my lack of interference or intervention in any of their activities and that I honoured the basis upon which I sought those powers because I was only ever going to use them in an emergency situation that would require that. Now, I understand the offence that some of my colleagues particularly have felt about this. I understand that and I have apologised to them.
I want to stress with the five departments in which I was sworn to administratively by the governor general, at no time – except in the one instance that I have made reference to in relation to resources and Department of Industry – did I interfere in any of the decisions or exercise those powers in those departments. Secondly, I did not act as minister. There were not two ministers doing the same job - me as prime minister or the minister. You may not be aware - and I think these events have highlighted perhaps some unawareness of these types of arrangements. For example, Ben Morton was the minister assisting the prime minister and cabinet. He was also the minister for public service. That did not make him the prime minister despite the fact that he was sworn to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It didn’t make Ken Wyatt the prime minister. It didn’t make Michael Sukkar, who was the assistant treasurer, the treasurer. It didn’t make Jason Wood, who was sworn to the Department of Home Affairs, the minister for home affairs.
So, together with my colleagues, we did save lives, we did save livelihoods and we did so in a way that, as I’ve moved around the world since the election, is recognised. And there will come a time here, I suppose, where it will be maybe recognised also. But that is not my purpose today.
“I’d rather have this discussion about what I did do rather than what I didn’t do”: Morrison
Morrison goes on to say:
With an understanding of the expectation of public responsibility singularly directed at the prime minister, I believed it was necessary to have authority – to have what were effectively emergency powers, to exercise in extreme situations that would be unforeseen – that would enable me to act in the national interests. And that is what I did in a crisis. Because, frankly, I’d rather be having this conversation about what I did do to try and protect the Australian people - and if there are views that that overstepped the mark, [I’m] happy to have that conversation, because what was focusing my mind was not having the conversation that perhaps I could have put powers in place if situations had arisen that I hadn’t been in a position to address because I hadn’t done the things that have been set out in recent days. So I’d rather have this discussion about what I did do rather than what I didn’t do to ensure that I was exercising those responsibilities.
Morrison says he was responsible for “every drop of rain, every strain of the virus” during pandemic
Morrison says his responsibilities were extensive during the pandemic which was “not a two-month thing.”
The situation was highly uncertain, as I’ve said, and dynamic. And I’d make this point - there was a clear expectation established in the public’s mind, certainly in the media’s mind, and absolutely certainly in the mind of the opposition, as I would walk into question time every day, that I, as prime minister, was responsible pretty much for every single thing that was going on - every drop of rain, every strain of the virus, everything that occurred over that period of time.
Morrison begins the presser by rehashing pandemic circumstances
Morrison has begun the media conference telling of the difficult circumstances of the pandemic and the praise he constantly receives for its handling:
I start by referring to you the statement that I issued yesterday and I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity to read that and if you have questions on that, I’m happy to address. But let me just add a couple of things first and then we can go from there. These were extraordinary times in which I had the great honour and privilege to serve as prime minister. No prime minister, I think, has faced the same combination of circumstances, be it the pandemic or indeed the drought, the global recession and the Australian recession caused by the pandemic and the many other natural disasters that befell the country over that period of time. It was a very difficult time. It was a very unusual time. It was a very extraordinary time that tested every sinew and fabric of government, not just at a federal level but at a state level as well and indeed tested the very fabric and sinew of Australian society.
The good news is that Australia emerged well, that Australia emerged strongly, that Australia’s economy, Australia’s health performance, Australia’s, I believe, democracy and the way we went about things emerged, frankly, as an example to every other developed country around the world. The facts of that, I think, are not in dispute. 40,000 lives saved, tens of thousands of businesses that would not be here today. One of the most common things people come and say to me after the election is people from small business - it happens everywhere I go. And they say ‘thank you’. Their business is still there today and their employees still have a job and now there are better times and they are doing better.
Morrison presser begins in Sydney
Scott Morrison has taken to the microphone for his first media conference since revelations emerged of his secret ministerial appointments.
Chalmers says Liberals would have known about Morrison’s behaviour and should have done something about it
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and employment minister Tony Burke just gave a press conference in Canberra following the release of wages data, as well as an issues paper in preparation for the Jobs and Skills Summit.
But of course, the Scott Morrison saga comes up. Chalmers called Morrison’s behaviour “dictatorial” and criticised opposition leader Peter Dutton for his response to revelations of the former prime minister’s secret appointment to several ministries:
We know from his commentary in the last couple of days, emerging as a chief apologist, the chief defender of the dictatorial behaviour is that Peter Dutton would be absolutely no better than Scott Morrison when it comes to what’s been revealed in the last couple of days. Now, the Morrison government is just as guilty as Scott Morrison himself. They have emboldened, they have empowered, they have encouraged this kind of behaviour. The idea that they didn’t know that Scott Morrison had these dictatorial tendencies is absolutely ridiculous and absolutely laughable.
Whether it’s Josh Frydenberg or Peter Dutton or any of these characters, they must have known that Scott Morrison was wandering down this dictatorial path. The idea that they didn’t is laughable. They should have stood up and done something about it. They had an opportunity to stand up to Scott Morrison. Instead they sucked-up to Scott Morrison and that’s how we find ourselves in this situation.
Morrison to front media shortly
Scott Morrison is scheduled to stand up in five minutes for the media conference that is his first since the revelations about the secret ministerial appointments.
Governor general says he’s content to allow PM’s process to run
Governor general David Hurley, who has been at the centre of the Morrison secret ministerial appointments, has fronted reporters after opening a new autism school in Canberra’s south this morning.
The Canberra Times is reporting: “General Hurley refused to respond when asked if he was concerned his office had been compromised during the saga, or whether he had legal doubts in making the secret appointments.”
I’ve released a statement about my role in this, my responsibilities under the principles of responsible government by which we run our country.
I’m content, at the moment, to allow the process the prime minister has put in place to run through till next week. In the meantime, I’ll do my job as I’ve done it in the past.
Department of finance did not know about Morrison’s secret appointment
More revelations about Scott Morrison’s secrecy have just landed, with confirmation that neither the Department of Finance nor its secretary knew he covertly had himself sworn in to administer the finance portfolio in early 2020.
The Department of Finance has told Guardian Australia it was not aware of that development, which was only revealed publicly over the weekend.
A Department of Finance spokesperson told Guardian Australia:
Secretary Huxtable and staff in the Department of Finance were not aware the former prime minister had been sworn-in to administer the Department of Finance.
That follows the Department of Home Affairs saying its secretary, Mike Pezzullo, didn’t know about Morrison’s appointment to that portfolio either.
Guardian Australia has contacted the departments of health, industry and treasury for their responses too.
Labor releases issues paper on employment, skills and wages
After news of the record cut to real wages, the treasurer Jim Chalmers and employment minister Tony Burke have released an issues paper ahead of the jobs and skills summit.
The issues paper explains the economic situation:
While the unemployment rate is at historic lows, a tight labour market has also brought challenges including widespread and acute skill shortages. Even before COVID-19, nominal wage growth had been weak and real wages had not risen significantly for around a decade. The ongoing effects of COVID-19, high inflation, rising interest rates, global economic uncertainty and disrupted supply chains further compound these challenges, which are holding back the potential of our economy and country.
The paper notes the labour shortage is particularly acute “with only one unemployed person per job vacancy, compared to three unemployed people per vacancy pre-COVID-19”.
On wages, it notes:
Many Australians have not experienced real wage gains in recent years. Real wages have grown by only 0.1 per cent per year over the past decade and have declined substantially over the past year.
The summit will aim to do five things:
Maintain full employment and growing productivity
Boost job security and wages
Lift participation and reducing barriers to employment
Deliver a high-quality labour force through skills, training and migration
Maximise opportunities in the industries of the future.
Other important long-term themes to be discussed include: the importance of the care economy; impacts of climate change and the transition to clean technology; and increasing digitalisation.
The paper notes the number of employees covered by workplace pay deals has slumped from 43.4% in 2010 to 35.1% in 2021. It said:
Australia needs an inclusive and balanced workplace relations system that can support parties reaching agreement on workplace conditions, adapt to new forms of work, and enable employers and workers to share the gains from productivity improvements. More also needs to be done to address pay inequality and promote safe workplaces.
This is just the start of a process: next comes the summit (1-2 September), the October budget (likely to boost migration), an industrial relations bill this year, then a white paper on employment next year.
Australia’s wages rise of 2.6% in June quarter is still less than half the inflation rate
Australia’s wages rose at the fastest rate in almost eight years but still less than half the headline inflation rate, a gap likely to fuel calls at next month’s jobs summit for more steps to halt the decline in household’s real incomes.
The wage price index rose 2.6% in the June quarter from a year ago, seasonally adjusted, and 0.7% from previous three months, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday. Economists had predicted the WPI would rise about 2.7% on an annual basis, and 0.8% in the quarter.
Authors of report reflect on climate and key recommendations
The authors of the report former chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller are at the press conference and have also taken to the microphone.
O’Kane urges everyone to read the report, paying attention to the climate portion.
We don’t know enough how much of this was climate change. We do know the storms were not particularly unusual. They’re well within the historic record. We know from round here in the 1890s, there were several east coast lows, one after the another, but what was unusual was the intensity of the rain and the rain stalled, unfortunately right over Lismore. We saw this in the more recent floods over the Hawkesbury-Nepean. There’s more work to be done, climate change, but certainly something that we’ve got to be on the lookout for.
O’Kane also says warnings need to be improved:
One of the important things about this inquiry is we emphasise the importance of community being prepared, community knowing what to look for. That we need better warning of things like flash flooding.
“We need to rethink the way in which we respond to natural disasters”: Toole
Back to the floods presser.
Deputy premier of NSW Paul Toole has followed the premier to take the microphone.
We have only got to have a look at the northern rivers, and we saw those floods, and we know that emergency services, we know the community, they tried their best. But we need to rethink the way in which we respond to natural disasters.
And that’s why this report is making a number of recommendations that can better support communities and better support our response … And it’s a model that can be used not only for natural disasters like bushfires and floods, but it also can be used for biosecurity threats like foot-and-mouth disease that could actually potentially get into this country, and into this state.
I also want to make the point I welcome the news of a fifth deputy commissioner of police. I think this is a vote of confidence in the incredible work our police do on the ground.
Wage price index for June quarter rises 2.6%
At the same time as this floods presser is happening, the wage price index (WPI) has been released.
The wage price index for the June quarter has just landed from the ABS, giving us a better fix on how much pay packets were failing to keep up with inflation.
In the June quarter, wages rose 0.7% in the three months and 2.6% in the year to June. Economists had been expecting about 0.8% and 2.7%, respectively.
More to come
Community members to be trained for disasters without having to formally join the SES
NSW state reporter Tamsin Rose is in Lismore as the government is releasing its response to the flood report and is sharing some key details emerging from this press conference.
Perrottet announces buyback scheme
Perrottet outlines the government response to the second aspect of the report dealing with emergency planning moving forward.
We will establish a permanent reconstruction body. It will be a legislative body with legislative powers, very much based on the Queensland reconstruction authority. These disaster adaptation plans which will be in place and this is about making sure we have local and regional solutions. It is raised in areas of a buyback and land swap, that is something the government is committed to. We are committed to ensuring that as we have future development that it doesn’t occur in areas which are subject to significant flooding.
In addition to that, those people who have lost their homes, who are in dire circumstances, we will work as a result of this report to implement a buyback scheme that will be targeted in specific areas. I know for many people that will provide uncertainty today in terms of eligibility but that is something we need to work through. I can say, as premier, that is something we are going to do and through the reconstruction authority, led by David Witherton that by the end of August, we will open expressions of interest for land holders and also looking at public land which can be made available for land swaps or that buyback scheme.
Emergency management recommendations – including merging RFS and SES
In relation to the future of emergency management, Perrottet says the recommendations the government will support are as follows:
We will establish a permanent state emergency operation centre. That will be a permanent centre and it will be led by a new deputy police commissioner here in New South Wales.
We will reshape Resilience NSW and transform it into a leaner, nimble agency, known as Recovery NSW that will focus on the first 100 days post event. Those types of - that type of work will obviously include coordination of cleanup and the like.
Three, we will establish a new cabinet committee, which will be known as Taskforce Hawk, a committee that will have senior cabinet ministers as well as senior public servants that will be a permanent committee ready to respond at any moment, at any time there is a major natural disaster.
We will be merging the back office of the RFS and the SES to focus on enhancing of - less focus on administration and more focus on frontline response and that transition will take some time. I do want to reiterate, there will be no change to front-office, community-facing RFS and SES and I will have more to say about that soon.
The final key part in terms of emergency response is in relation to community training. It is very clear the time that we spent up in the northern rivers, the importance of the community and I spoke about the spirit of service of community but the lack of coordination from government in relation to that but also in addition, I would say training.
Recommendations in two parts: firstly, evolving emergency management and secondly, preparing and recovering from events
Dominic Perrottet says the recommendations are “generally in two parts”:
The two major sections of the review refer to how we evolve emergency management in our state firstly, and I will address that and, secondly, how we prepare and recover from events of this scale.
NSW government accepts every recommendation from flood report
Dominic Perrottet has announced that his government is accepting every recommendation from the report by former chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller.
The power of nature to swamp the beautiful northern rivers was devastating and that will be matched by our commitment and our dedication to rebuild and recreate our communities for the future. That will not happen overnight. I particularly want to thank Mary O’Kane and Mick Fuller for the work they have put in in relation to this flood report.
Today, the government releases that report and also responds. We have accepted every recommendation, some will take longer to implement than others, but the focus of the Government will be to implement these recommendations as quickly as possible.
Morrison and Albanese both to speak at lunchtime today
Scott Morrison has called a snap press conference in Sydney for 12.15pm. Before you ask, no word on what he’ll say.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is set to hold his own press conference around 1pm in Brisbane, but depending how long Morrison goes for, don’t be surprised if that is pushed back slightly. We imagine Albanese may have some things to say following his predecessor’s appearance.
NSW Premier releases full flood report and stands up in Lismore to give his response
Perrottet has released the full report by former chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has taken to the microphone in Lismore to reveal his government’s response to the report.
There has been leaked information that a new reconstruction authority will be established to replace part of Resilience NSW.
The government is also expected to propose a land buy-back scheme for severely flood affected areas including low-lying parts of Lismore where hundreds of homes were inundated and people were rescued from off their roofs.
My colleague Tamsin Rose is in Lismore today listening to Perrottet’s response.
Scott Morrison to speak this afternoon
Scott Morrison will be giving a press conference at 12.15pm today.
It will be the first time he has held a media conference since the story broke about his secret appointment to five additional ministries.
He did an interview with 2GB radio station yesterday, before prime minister Anthony Albanese revealed the full extent of the ministries he was sworn into. After Albanese’s press conference, which prompted Scott Morrison’s Liberal colleague Karen Andrews to call for him to resign, he released a Facebook post apologising to his colleagues.
Santos triples half year profits
Santos has posted bumper half-year results, including a tripling of its underlying profit to $US1.267bn, or $1.8bn in Australian dollars.
Powering the earnings leap, of course, were higher global energy prices that had been climbing prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but rose further after it. (Oil prices, at least, have lately dropped back below pre-war levels.
Santos, which generated free cash flow at the rate of $A2.4bn for the half year alone, lifted the interim dividend by a relatively miserly 38% to 7.6 US cents a share (or 10.8 Aussie cents). (It increased the size of its share buyback by $US100m.)
Even so, Santos’s share price fell in morning trading, losing 1.5% in early trading - suggesting investors were hoping for more lucre.
Santos Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Gallagher said:
Demand for our products has remained strong in both Australia and internationally, due to increased demand and shortages of supply from producing nations due global underinvestment in new supply,.
We are seeing these issues play out in the significant shift in global energy policy towards energy security as a key priority.
That line about “energy security” seems to be one the Albanese government has taken on board as a reason not to impose some sort of windfall profit on energy firms.
That’s unlike the UK or Norway, say, that recognise the energy giants haven’t done a lot extra but reap record results. (Saudi Arabia’s Aramco posted a profit of $US48bn in the most recent quarter, perhaps the most by any company in history as far as we know.)
Anyway, Santos told a few other things, such as plans to proceed with the Pikka Phase 1 oil project in Alaska. That would be a “net-zero project” from first oil production, at least in terms of extracting and transporting the fossil fuel. (Opponents are doubtful about the carbon credentials.)
First oil from Pikka is expected in 2026, the same year, as it happens that Santos is projecting to start supplying gas from its Narrabri gasfield in northern NSW. That project is yet to have a final investment decision by Santos and a reminder that gas from that field is still a long way off (assuming it ever gets going.)
NSW premier to speak soon responding to flood inquiry
Guardian Australia reporter Tamsin Rose is in Lismore today to cover the government’s long-awaited response to the flood inquiry.
She’s at Lismore’s Southern Cross University campus now waiting for the premier Dominic Perrottet to begin speaking.
War memorial reveals greater Indigenous service in Australia’s wars
New research from the Australian War Memorial has identified more than 250 Indigenous men and women who served for Australia during the Vietnam war. Many who served in the conflict hadn’t previously been recognised as Indigenous.
Michael Bell, the Indigenous liaison officer at the Australian War Memorial, spoke to ABC News just a little while ago about the project:
What we have been doing is on an ongoing basis we have reviewed the service and sacrifice and contribution of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have served Australia.
We have concentrated on the first world war. What we found in that research is that the family tends to serve in subsequent conflicts and we have got men from the first world war with descendants in the Vietnam war. It has been a case of following of ancestries down to subsequent service and we found the non-Indigenous veterans from Vietnam have been happy to share they served with Aboriginal men and they have identified other Aboriginal veterans we weren’t aware of …
It is important because of the lack of recognition, especially due to the political atmosphere and social atmosphere of the day, with our veterans not being accepted on their return from Vietnam. The delay that the recognition that the country gave to our veterans who fought in that war for quite a long time but now we are not only recognising their recognition of service and the important job that they did for us during that conflict, it is also reporting the Indigenous component of that service.
Governor general urged to explain role in Morrison saga
Governor general David Hurley’s role in Scott Morrison’s secret ministry appointments is being questioned by sitting parliamentarians, AAP reports.
Independent senator Jacqui Lambie has called on the governor general to explain the legal advice he received in order to appoint Morrison to five additional portfolios in 2020 and 2021. She told ABC Radio this morning:
He needs to come out and tell us where he got his advice from, he’s going to have to run through and explain it.
If there’s been no legal breach here, then obviously he’s done nothing wrong.
Meanwhile, Labor backbencher Julian Hill suggested Hurley’s position could be untenable and called on him to explain his role in the appointments. He told Nine newspapers:
The governor general seems to have effectively participated in a scheme that misled the cabinet, the parliament and the public as to the allocation of ministerial power.
But education minister Jason Clare said Morrison was the only person to blame for the secret appointments.
This week a spokesperson for the governor general said Hurley had followed processes consistent with the constitution when he appointed Morrison to the portfolios, upon government advice.
Google was not publisher of hyperlinked material, court rules
The judgment summary for the Google decision explains the court’s thinking:
The High Court, by majority, found that the appellant was not a publisher of the defamatory matter [because] the appellant did not lend assistance to The Age in communicating the defamatory matter contained in the Underworld article to the third party users. The provision of a hyperlink in the search result merely facilitated access to the Underworld article and was not an act of participation in the bilateral process of communicating the contents of that article to a third party. There was no other basis for finding publication because the appellant had not participated in the writing or disseminating of the defamatory matter.
Basically, hyperlinking doesn’t make you a publisher of the linked material – a commonsense decision that will have social media users everywhere breathing a sigh of relief.
Hemsworths back Tasmanian tiger project
Hollywood stars Chris and Luke Hemsworth have thrown their money behind a Melbourne project to bring the extinct Tasmanian tiger back to life, AAP reports.
The University of Melbourne this year launched a research lab to “de-extinct” the thylacine (to give the marsupial its official name) after a $5m philanthropic donation.
Its goal moved one step closer after the university today partnered with the US-based genetic engineering company Colossal Biosciences.
The partnership will allow the Melbourne research team to access more DNA-editing technology and a group of world-leading scientists, research leader Dr Andrew Pask said.
The Hemsworths are among the investors backing the project.
Thor star Chris Hemsworth said:
Our family remains dedicated to supporting conservationist efforts around the world, and protecting Australia’s biodiversity is a high priority.
The Tassie Tiger’s extinction had a devastating effect on our ecosystem and we are thrilled to support the revolutionary conservation efforts that are being made by Dr Pask and the entire Colossal team.
You can read the full story about the de-extinction project from Guardian Australia’s climate and environment editor Adam Morton:
Google wins hyperlink defamation high court appeal
The high court has given judgment in favour of Google in an important test case about the search engine’s liability for hyperlinks to defamatory articles.
Google had warned it would be forced to “censor” its search results if a $40,000 defamation damages award to George Defteros, a solicitor who represented Melbourne gangland figures, were allowed to stand.
On Wednesday chief justice Susan Kiefel, justices Jacqueline Gleeson, Stephen Gageler, James Edelman and Simon Steward allowed the appeal (in three separate judgments).
Weak wage rises forecast
Today’s stat-du-jour from the ABS is the wages price index for the June quarter.
As flagged this week, the last time this number landed was during the federal election campaign, and the WPI’s 2.4% annual increase reminded many that wages were more likely going backwards given that March quarter consumer prices had risen a surprising 5.1%.
Three months on, we have a new government and a looming jobs and skills summit at the start of September – and today’s wages number will no doubt feature in the debate.
The median forecast is the quarterly WPI will have risen to 0.8% from 0.7% in the previous three months (CBA notes that latter figure was rounded up from 0.65%). On an annual basis, the number will likely land at about 2.7%. Even with a bit of movement either way, the increase will be well shy of the 6.1% inflation increase in the quarter.
Now the WPI doesn’t capture all of the movements in salaries, such as bonuses. Still, the Reserve Bank of Australia expects real incomes to continue to shrink for most. Its liaison service has found more than 60% of private sector firms say they expect to lift wages “by more than 3% over the year ahead”, the RBA said in minutes from the August board meeting released yesterday.
Markets and economists have been tipping another 50 basis point (half percentage point) increase in the RBA’s cash rate when the bank’s board next meets on 6 September.
One other note about the WPI: its quarterly increase is a bit tardy, as is the CPI’s. The ABS will move to formal monthly CPI releases from October but it might be handy to have a monthly WPI too.
For what it’s worth, the 6.1% June quarter CPI was made up from a rising rate through the quarter, the ABS said yesterday. April was 5.5%, May 6.2% and June 6.8%.
Victorian government responds to opposition plan to scrap suburban rail loop
Victoria’s transport infrastructure minister Jacinta Allan has lashed the state opposition’s pre-election pledge to shelve the first stage of the suburban rail loop project, saying it would result in thousands of lost construction jobs.
The state opposition has vowed to shelve the $34.5bn first stage of the project and divert the money into Victoria’s battered health sector.
Speaking to reporters, Allan said the announcement would cut vital connections between suburbs for Victorians in the state’s south-east:
By cutting the suburban rail loop you are cutting thousands and thousands of jobs across the Victorian community.
We’ve spent the last four years working hard to deliver on the commitment we made to the Victorian community and that Victorians voted for.
But Allan would not say how much halting the project would cost taxpayers.
Asked if the funding could be diverted to the health sector, she said it was a “matter for Matthew Guy and the Liberal party to explain”.
Lambie condemns ‘Liberal men’ for not backing Karen Andrews’ call for Morrison to resign
Senator Jacqui Lambie appeared on ABC Radio this morning, speaking about Scott Morrison’s appointment to additional ministries when prime minister.
Lambie has criticised Liberal party men for not coming out in support of former home affairs Karen Andrews in her calls for Morrison to resign, and gave a warning to Peter Dutton about his leadership:
It’s disgraceful what he’s done. Honestly, what I find even more disgusting this morning, PK, is Karen Andrews … stuck her neck out and called for what happened, to get him to resign, and once again Liberal men are standing there on the other side not supporting her. I find it disgusting.
I say this to Peter Dutton – if you think you’re going to exist in three years’ time, and you think this is acceptable behaviour, mate, you really need to go and have a good look at your leadership because this is not acceptable behaviour.
Coming in over the top, not running this stuff through cabinet, I mean, this bloke is a control freak.
Updating parliament about ministerial changes not a hard rule, clerk says
This morning we’ve reported that the Greens and some crossbench MPs are pushing for Scott Morrison to be referred to the privileges committee over his multiple ministries, over what Anthony Albanese described as a “misleading” of parliament.
Despite the House practice book noting that “the allocation of portfolios and any ministerial and departmental change is notified publicly and announced in the House”, we’ve heard from the clerk this is not a hard rule.
Claressa Surtees told Guardian Australia:
[This] is a description of what occurs under Australia’s system of parliamentary government, in accordance with established precedent and practice. There are no standing or other orders of the House which require an announcement of the ministry, or ministerial changes, in the House.
It’s a small wrinkle in the case against Morrison. It’s arguable that tabling a list of the “full ministry” without disclosing Morrison’s extra portfolios was misleading parliament but there is no obligation to report changes in the standing orders.
NSW Liberal minister announces retirement from parliament
Victor Dominello has today announced he has “made the difficult decision to retire from politics” after 14 years and four elections.
The customer service minister has told premier Dominic Perrottet he won’t contest the March election.
The Liberal MP said:
A family health issue emerged in mid-2019 which has since deteriorated. Accordingly, I will not contest the next election in March 2023.
He said he initially wanted to leave last year when former premier Gladys Berejiklian and former deputy premier John Barilaro resigned but Perrottet convinced him to stay.
He told Sydney radio 2GB:
It’s like any team – you need to have renewal ... no one is irreplaceable.
The Ryde MP has served as a minister since 2011 without becoming embroiled in any scandals and has kept four of his staff for 10 years.
He offered his “heartfelt thanks to the premier for his leadership, strong vision and reform zeal for the people of our great state”.
Perrottet paid tribute to his departing minister, saying he had helped lead the government into the digital age, “making it easier for people to access government services, as well as delivering nation-leading initiatives such as the Digital Driver Licence”.
– with AAP
Sydney commuters hit with delays as rail workers strike
New South Wales commuters are experiencing delays on Sydney’s rail network this morning as industrial action impacts services again.
Today’s strike includes the Bankstown, East Hills and Southern lines in south-western Sydney, but Transport for NSW said other lines would also be affected:
A heavily reduced service will run on the T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T8 Airport & South, and the Southern Highlands lines as a result of industrial action by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union.
The T4 Eastern and Illawarra line was impacted by a similar strike last week.
Workers are going on six-hour strikes based on the area where they typically work, but the union is allowing the government to take workers from other areas to run a reduced-capacity service.
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been taking escalating industrial action throughout this month in response to their safety concerns about a new intercity fleet.
The union says the design means that train drivers will not be able to adequately monitor safety on platforms. The NSW government offered to spend more than $260m to address those safety concerns in June but the agreement between the union and the state government is the point of contention.
Alex Claassens, the NSW secretary of the Rail, Tain and Bus Union, told ABC Breakfast News:
Unless they sign a deed that does what we needed to do, that is fix the unsafe train, then industrial action will continue through to the end of the month. We have notified actions on our website for the world to see and next week there will be two days, Tuesday and Thursday, where we take different sections of the network out.
– with AAP
NSW records 26 Covid deaths
New South Wales has recorded 26 Covid deaths and 8,064 new cases in the latest reporting period, with 2,115 people in hospital and 52 in intensive care.
Fog ‘as thick as pea soup’ around the Riverina
Or at least that’s the forecast from local member Michael McCormack in southern NSW.
Howard maintains praise for Morrison’s leadership
Patricia Karvelas has now turned to John Howard’s new book, A Sense of Balance, which was of course written before the revelations about Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial appointments.
In the book, Howard praises Morrison for holding the Liberal party together after the turbulence of the Abbott/Turnbull years.
When Karvelas asks if his assessment of Morrison’s leadership still holds in light of the revelations, Howard says:
What matters is how policies of Morrison government protected the Australian people.
Howard says he has not spoken to Morrison this week – the last time they met was for lunch “a couple weeks ago”.
The former PM says his talk with Josh Frydenberg yesterday did reveal that the former treasurer was interested in returning to politics, although he was enjoying his new role at Goldman Sachs.
Howard would not comment whether it would be appropriate for Frydenberg to contest the seat of Cook in a byelection if Morrison were to resign.
John Howard says Morrison's secret portfolios 'unusual' but calls response 'over the top'
The former prime minister John Howard is appearing on ABC Radio to promote his new book, A Sense of Balance. But of course he is first asked about the revelations of Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to five additional ministries.
Howard spoke to the former treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday and said he believes it’s an exaggeration to say Frydenberg is livid.
He said Morrison’s actions were “unusual” and it was “unwise to have kept it secret” but echoed Barnaby Joyce’s defence that what Morrison did was not illegal.
Howard can’t help but spruik his book, saying some of the responses have been “over the top” and there is a need to keep “a sense of balance in our responses”.
He says the actions are “not some kind of constitutional crisis”.
Victoria records 15 Covid deaths
Victoria has recorded 15 Covid deaths and 4,732 new cases in the latest reporting period, with 518 people in hospital and 29 in intensive care.
20,000 new university places to target skills shortages
An additional 20,000 university places will target areas of skills shortage such as education, health, engineering and technology. The places will also give more students from under-represented backgrounds the chance to go to university.
The Albanese government has revealed how it will deliver on its election commitment – the extra will be allocated over two years from the start of 2023, with an investment of up to $485.5m over the next four years.
Higher education providers will competitively bid for allocations of places, and application processes will open this month for both the 2023 and 2024 academic years.
Providers will also be required to allocate them to people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and from rural and remote areas, First Nations people, first-in-family and people with a disability.
The treasurer Jim Chalmers said the policy would make the economy more productive:
Australia needs more skilled workers. How we prepare Australians for the jobs our economy needs will be a focus at the Jobs and Skills Summit next month.
Investing in more university places in industries where we need skilled workers will help to make our economy more productive. This policy will also ensure more Australians have the skills they need to get sustainable, well-paid jobs into the future.
Asio chief did not know of Morrison’s home affairs powers, O'Neil says
The former prime minister Scott Morrison has insisted that he didn’t use his secret powers as home affairs minister to overrule Karen Andrews.
But when the current home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, was asked on ABC Radio if she was confident the PM didn’t make any decisions as home affairs minister, she responded:
I do not know the answer to that question.
O’Neil says the secretary of the home affairs department and the chief of Asio did not know Morrison was the minister for home affairs at the time. She implied the gravity of this means Morrison should resign:
If you don’t understand how vulnerable that made us, you should not be in parliament.
There is a reason we have accountable government because we need Australians to be able to point to the person who exercises power on their behalf and hold them responsible for decisions they make.
Asked if she was investigating if any decisions were made with the ministerial power, O’Neil says the government is constrained “because it’s the convention that the former government’s decisions aren’t meant to be examined by the new government”:
This is very complicated, very difficult and it is far from apparent that no one has broken the law here.
Whatever happens with Scott Morrison, we need to understand how this occurred so it can’t happened again.
Joyce compares Morrison’s secret appointments to Albanese’s trip to Quad meeting
Also in his interview with ABC radio, Barnaby Joyce tried to compare Scott Morrison secretly swearing himself in to five different portfolios to Anthony Albanese wanting to leave for the Japan Quad meeting after the election and potentially leaving Australia without a prime minister. Which is something that didn’t happen. But Joyce tries to draw the line that didn’t happen and something that did happen are the same.
He also doesn’t think Morrison should be scrutinised by the parliamentary privileges committee because – well, it’s best to let him explain why:
On what basis? You know and remember whatever the Labor party does here, things go around, whatever they do here is the rule that they will be judged by themselves.
So if it’s wrong, it’s illegal, sure, but he’s gonna say, well, this is politically opportunistic. Well, you’re opening a real can of worms because the time inevitably comes – and I’ve been around this game a long time. So be very, very careful with what you are saying in government, because it will happen to you in opposition …
What I’m saying is, if your concern is something that you find uncomfortable, or you find that is, other people might say is improper, but it’s not illegal. You say this is now the mark. I feel uncomfortable about it. If I feel it is grating, then that is an issue that it moves towards [censuring] someone in the parliament. That is another thing I don’t agree with.
Victorian opposition will scrap the suburban rail loop if elected
Victoria’s opposition has pledged to scrap the suburban rail loop, described as the biggest transport project in the state’s history, with “every cent” of the $34.5bn saved to be invested in the health system if elected in November.
The commitment, made 101 days before voters go to the polls, sets the stage for another election turned referendum on infrastructure.
The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said:
This November, Victorians face a clear choice. A choice between immediately rebuilding Victoria’s broken health system, or a train line in 13 years’ time.
As premier, my first priority will be to fix the health crisis.
Our plan is about returning confidence for Victorians. Confidence that an ambulance will arrive, an emergency call will be answered and critical healthcare will be available when needed.
‘It’s not illegal’: Joyce compares Morrison’s actions to painting a car pink with green spots
Circling back to that Barnaby Joyce interview …
The former deputy PM doubled down on how what Scott Morrison did was not illegal and therefore “insert the verbal equivalent of a shrug here”:
So I think he himself, in reflecting on it, he has to come to the opinion that it probably wasn’t a good move. And, and on that issue, I agree with him.
But Joyce does not believe Morrison should have to quit:
If he did do something illegal, if he received some form of pecuniary benefit, if someone closely related to you get some for of pecuniary benefit, they failed to disclose, then yeah, you can pack up your bongos and get out of there.
But if something is legal, and you complied with the law even though people might not agree with that mightn’t be basically customary, or, as you would say, something you’ve done it in a way that’s annoying, you’ve done it in a way that has got people off side, but it’s not illegal. It’s not illegal.
That’s why we have laws, that’s why we have laws. We don’t arrest people on the road because they’re annoying, we arrest them if they break the law.
If someone says I am going to paint my car pink with lime green spots, it’s very annoying, but it’s not against the law.
‘Dangerous for the country’: O’Neil on two home affairs ministers
The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said the fact that the head of Asio didn’t know there were two ministers for home affairs was “dangerous for the country”.
O’Neill cites the example this weekend that the shooting at Canberra airport required the minister to make a decision, and if there had been two home affairs ministers they could have had two different views on what action should have been taken.
She says there are issues of who would own legal responsibility for decisions made if there were two people sworn into the ministry.
She likens Morrison to a “despot” accumulating the additional ministries.
‘Stop playing this down,’ home affairs minister chides Dutton and Joyce
Clare O’Neil, the home affairs minister, has followed Barnaby Joyce on ABC Radio.
She’s come out guns blazing, calling the previous interview with Joyce “unbelievable”.
“Stop playing this down,” is her message to Peter Dutton and Barnaby Joyce.
She says this is not a “run-of-the-mill scandal … That is not what has happened here.” It is, she says, an “unprecedented violation of our democracy”.
What did Barnaby Joyce know as Morrison’s deputy?
Barnaby Joyce is speaking to ABC Radio National host Patricia Karvelas about what he knew and when about Scott Morrison’s extra roles, given that he was deputy prime minister (for a while at least) in the Morrison government.
Joyce is trying to both sides it. He didn’t know, he says – other than resources – but it wasn’t illegal, so he doesn’t believe Morrison should have to resign from parliament.
“And it was in a form of, you know, he has the authority,” Joyce says of knowing about Morrison and resources:
But once more I’d say to you and your listeners, there’s nothing illegal about it. Improper. Well, that’s a question take up with Mr Morrison. But illegal, no.
‘Remarkable’ Morrison didn’t tell Frydenberg he’d sworn himself into Treasury, PM says
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has been on Brisbane’s 4BC radio this morning. No new massive revelations about additional secret ministries Scott Morrison may have assumed (yet), but Albanese did talk about his record collection and rugby league preferences. (It wasn’t exactly a news-breaking, hard-hitting interview.)
Right towards the end of the five-minute chat, after discussing his mid-election Covid diagnosis and describing watching the Newtown Jets at Henson Park, Albanese was asked a question or two about Morrison.
He said it was “beyond my comprehension” why the former PM had sworn himself into five extra portfolios, claiming Morrison had tried “to centralise power”:
I just find it bizarre. Democracy relies on people being honest and transparent about what’s going on and people being accountable. That’s why this is such a shocking series of revelations.
Albanese said it was “remarkable” that Morrison didn’t tell then treasurer Josh Frydenberg that he’d sworn himself into the Treasury portfolio.
Indigenous leaders to meet today working towards voice to parliament
The minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney will meet with her state and territory counterparts today, with a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament at the top of the agenda.
Burney says she is keen to discuss ways of working with state and territory ministers in support of a voice, and to fully implement the Uluru statement from the heart:
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an issue that is above politics.
I want to work cooperatively with the states and territories to make this nation-building project a reality.
At national cabinet earlier this year, state and territory leaders all gave in-principle support for a First Nations voice to parliament enshrined in the constitution.
Burney said the voice was “a simple proposition” based on governments listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and taking into account their lived experience to develop policies and programs that are more effective.
The meeting would also be an opportunity for states and territories to share progress they are making towards treaties and truth-telling processes. Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory are all engaged in processes, at different stages of development.
NSW premier to respond to landmark floods report
New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet will be in Lismore today to release the findings of a long-awaited report into this year’s devastating floods.
He will announce a reconstruction authority to be established to replace part of Resilience NSW in an overhaul of the state’s emergency management.
That, and other announcements, will be detailed when he formally responds to the recommendations made by NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller after their investigation into the February and March disasters.
The body – a key recommendation of the inquiry – will become the state’s lead agency responsible for disaster prevention and recovery will be similar to the one established in Queensland after its deadly 2010-11 floods.
More than two dozen recommendations were handed to the government as part of the mammoth report just over a fortnight ago, and all have been supported in part or full.
'An amazing, skilled workforce': people with a disability to be key focus of jobs summit
The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, says she will bring a major focus on boosting employment opportunities for people with a disability to the government’s upcoming jobs summit:
There is an amazing, skilled workforce that is sadly underutilised. Hiring a person with disability makes good business sense and is good for the nation.
The minister will convene a roundtable meeting next week with executives from Australia Post, Crown Resorts, the Technology Council, the Council of Small Business, and the wheelchair tennis champion and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott among more than 20 attendees.
Nearly 10% of young Australians have a disability, with some 2.1 million Australians with a disability being of working age. Rishworth will look to address unemployment and underemployment among people with a disability who want to access work, with discussions on how employers can better support workers, particularly in sectors like technology and tourism.
Through my experience as a local member and as a clinical psychologist, I am aware of issues people with disability face in gaining employment and how detrimental unemployment can be for physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Hiring someone with disability should not be seen as an optional or charitable act. People with disability bring diverse skills and experiences and make significant contributions to the workplace.
She said employers could start “thinking outside the box” on how to employ people with disability, including providing more flexibility for employees and workplaces – such as work from home arrangements.
Jordan O’Reilly, CEO of disability support network Hireup, said “mundane practicalities” like travelling to an office, or navigating an office environment, were among barriers preventing people with a disability being able to access more work.
O’Reilly said flexibility provided by technology was one way of getting more people into the workforce.
Australians should be prepared for more rain as the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting La Niña conditions to return for a rare third consecutive year.
In more wet weather news, the New South Wales government will today hand down findings into the catastrophic February and March floods , responding to the recommendations made by NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller.
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet will announce a new reconstruction authority to replace part of Resilience NSW. This is a key recommendation of the report and the body will become the state’s lead agency responsible for disaster prevention.
Federal and state Indigenous affairs ministers are also meeting today for the first time to discuss the Indigenous voice to parliament and various stages of state treaty and truth-telling processes.
Meanwhile, reactions continue to roll in to the revelations that have come through that the former prime minister Scott Morrison held an additional five ministries in secret.
The host of ABC Radio Patricia Karvelas has tweeted that Josh Frydenberg is “livid”:
Scott Morrison called Josh Frydenberg to apologise for secretly becoming Treasurer. The former treasurer has told people he is “livid”.
We’ll bring you more reactions as they come.
Let’s kick off.