The revelation of former prime Minister Scott Morrison’s secret multiple ministerial roles is attracting a lot of attention. Most of it is negative. So it should be. He stabbed his own minister in the back. Worse still, he deceived Australia.
Most of the flack coming through the media is towards the way Morrison did what he did. There is much less attention on why the cabinet and government went along with it. Most importantly, why Morrison acted the way he did is ignored.
And the legal experts are saying that the conduct is within the frameworks of the Australian constitution and legal. If it is wrong, this suggests something about the inadequacy of this constitution.
We know now that Morrison took up the positions of ministers of defence, finance, health, and industry and Science behind the publicly appointed ministers, with the aid of the subsequently disgraced Attorney General Christian Porter and involvement of the Governor General. We know that he overrode departmental advice and the publicly appointed ministers.
Morrison’s style of preferring to operate with a lack of transparency and his attraction to big a brother style of operating are givens. But he would not have been able to carry out either so easily, unless the political environment and the character of the hole government, and ultimately the law and the parliament facilitated it.
Another factor is that this was a government riddled with internal tensions and division, all the way up to the Cabinet. Morrison’s dictatorial style imposed some order for a time.
The problem lies in the reality that it is all in the service of government mostly in the service of private interests. This was taken to a new level under Scott Morrison, and this left a trail of sweetheart contracts, without proper tendering processes, disregard for environmental standards, and the redirection of billions of dollars of public money into the hands of friendly corporations. The ministries in which he interfered offered opportunities to do all of this.
Those who received favours where were donors and had other connections to the Coalition parties. The problem is corrupt government, extending from an ideology that glorifies personal gain and the entitlements of privilege to payment for favours.
There are questions over the handling of Covid vaccination contracts, the generous donations to the gas industry, awarding of Great Barrier Reef protection contracts, and of course, Morrison’s close connection to the coal industry.
This is the stuff that’s being swept under the carpet in the present media debate.
Anthony Albanese’s promise of a probe on Morrison’s behaviour is justified and deserves to be supported. The former Prime Minister should be held to account for his own actions. The only rider is that this must not be used to whitewash the problem of corrupt government. This goes further than the wrong actions of an individual. A probe should take Australia one step further along the road towards a constitution and practices that truly stand against the rise of corrupt government and ensures government for the people.