Scott Morrison’s secret appointments are nowhere to be found in the Governor General’s reports

Governor General David Hurley’s busy schedule of public events is on display for all to see.

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.

David Hurley has declined to comment further on Scott Morrison’s ministerial appointments.(AAP: Lukas Cocho)

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.

Governor General David Hurley and Prime Minister Scott Morrison sit opposite each other on large brown benches
The Governor General’s program lists instances of meetings between General Hurley and Scott Morrison. (Supplied: Governor General of Australia)

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.”

a man with glasses talking outside
David Shoebridge says the governor general’s office still has questions to answer. (AAP: Bianca De Marchic)

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.

Morrison mid-shot standing in front of a defocused tree, wearing a blue tie.
Scott Morrison has rejected calls to resign over revelations he has secretly assigned to various government departments.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

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.

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