Governor General David Hurley’s busy schedule of public events is on display for all to see.
Most important points:
- The official schedule of the Governor General, as well as the Office of the Administrative Secretary of the Governor General’s annual reports, are publicly available
- The Office of the Administrative Secretary to the Governor General is an independent body
- However, there is no reference to Scott Morrison’s appointments to five ministries in the Governor General’s program or in annual reports.
A quick look through the governor general’s online program reveals a host of public activities — from formal appointments to meetings and phone calls with government officials.
When a minister is appointed to office during a swearing in, virtual or in person, this is usually also stated in his program.
But Scott Morrison’s appointment to five secret ministries is nowhere to be seen.
Retired General Hurley found himself at the center of a political controversy that swept Australia over the past week when it was revealed that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison had secretly sworn in on five separate ministries, in some cases without the colleagues with whom he shared power. to tell.
A spokesman for General Hurley released a statement earlier this week defending the role of his office, stating that “all questions about secrecy after the governor general acted on the advice of the then government, a matter of the previous administration is”.
“It is not the responsibility of the Governor General to advise the wider ministry or parliament (or the public) on such administrative changes,” the statement said.
“The Governor General had no reason to believe that appointments would not be communicated.”
While General Hurley’s office has said it had no reason to believe that Mr Morrison’s appointment would not be communicated by the government, the office of the Secretary of State to the Governor General, an independent body, has already a lot of information free. about the activities of the Governor General — both official and unofficial — in various ways.
The official program details many different types of events, including his attendance at the 175th anniversary of the consecration of St. John’s Anglican Church and his presentation of the Duke of Gloucester Sash at the National Sheepdog Trial Championship.
The program also reveals several times he’s had phone conversations with officials, such as a March 30, 2020 call with the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor.
They also refer to some of the meetings he had with the former Prime Minister, such as four breakfasts with Mr Morrison on July 24, 2019, September 11, 2019, December 4, 2019, and February 12, 2020.
Federal Greens Senator David Shoebridge told 7:30 a.m. that he believed the magnitude of the publication of the Governor General’s activities showed that his office still had questions to answer.
“Some people may be fascinated to hear when the governor general has arranged a dinner, made a phone call, or awarded a dog,” he said.
“I believe the Australian public is more interested in who he has appointed under the Constitution to act as… [a] Secretary of State.”
Constitutional experts have suggested that it appears that the appointments were constitutionally valid, pointing out that there was no clear constitutional requirement for the governor general to make these kinds of administrative appointments public.
But there are other general requirements for all government agencies to disclose certain information about their activities in annual reports.
No mentions in annual reports
7.30, the Office of the Civil Service Secretary reviewed the Governor General’s annual reports, which have been available online since 2014.
Under the heading of Constitutional Activities, the independent entity has systematically published the instruments of appointment issued during swearing-in ceremonies.
The bureau also lists the number of federal board meetings that the governor general attends.
In its 2019-2020 annual report, in its Constitutional Activities section, the agency announced that: “On February 6, 2020, the Governor General held a swearing-in ceremony to issue the instruments of appointment and the oath and confirmation of office to five ministers and a parliamentary secretary at a ceremony at Government House.”
However, the delivery of the deeds of appointment to Scott Morrison to the Department of Health on March 14 and the Treasury Department on March 30 – which were not made during a swearing in ceremony – were not disclosed.
Likewise, in the annual report 2020-2021, in the chapter on State activities, the sworn in on October 30, 2020, December 22, 2020, March 30, 2021 and June 22, 2021 will be announced.
Scott Morrison’s deeds of appointment to the Department of Industry on April 15, 2021 and the Department of the Interior and Finance on May 6, 2021 were also not listed.
The Official does not appear to have any specific obligation to disclose such instruments in these annual reports.
It also appears that he has not done so in the past with other forms of administrative appointments to ministerial posts, and that the annual reports only reveal when the swearing in has taken place.
But Mr Shoebridge believes it raises questions about whether the Secretariat had a general obligation to make this kind of information public, and whether it would make sense going forward from a policy perspective.
“There is little argument that the governor general should include these critical constitutional activities in his annual reports: this is part of the obligations he had under the annual public reporting rules,” he said.
A spokesman for the Office of the Civil Service Secretary to the Governor General told 7:30 a.m., “There is a difference between the Governor General swearing in a minister to hold office and approving an existing minister to form a department.” control … The cases in question are examples of the latter.”
“How these appointments are communicated is the prerogative of the government today.
“The Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is responsible for the process… Questions about the process – including communication within the government or wider – are a matter for the government of the day.”
The Office of the Administrative Secretary to the Governor General, which is independent of the Governor General, must comply with the Federal Government Public Administration, Performance and Accountability Act, which requires government agencies to prepare annual statements of performance.
Those statements impose a vague obligation on agencies to provide information about the entity’s performance in achieving its objectives, but do not tell agencies exactly what to disclose in these reports.
A spokesman for the Office of the Civil Service Secretary to the Governor General told 7:30 am: “The Office of the Civil Service Secretary to the Governor General is not responsible for publishing these types of administrative appointments. As such, they are not included in the annual reports.”
The spokesman also referred to this week’s statement at 7:30 a.m. and said he was pleased with the process the prime minister has set for completion.