Australian inquiry finds ex-PM Morrison's secret ministries corroded trust

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SYDNEY - Australia will introduce rules to increase transparency in ministerial appointments after an inquiry into secret ministerial appointments by then prime minister Scott Morrison found that they corroded public trust in government.

Mr Morrison, who lost power in a general election in May, secretly accumulated five ministerial roles during the Covid-19 pandemic: health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs.

Three ministers later said they did not know they were sharing power with Mr Morrison.

An inquiry led by former High Court judge Virginia Bell found the appointments likely hurt public confidence in government. Echoing comments from the solicitor-general, Ms Bell said in a report issued on Friday that the lack of parliamentary accountability undermined responsible government.

“Once the appointments became known, the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government,” Ms Bell said.

Mr Morrison has said the appointments were necessary during the pandemic to ensure continuity and as a precaution in case a minister was incapacitated.

The report raised doubts on both counts, arguing, for example, that acting ministers could have been quickly appointed if needed.

Ms Bell recommended six changes, including legislation requiring public notice of ministerial appointments.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government would adopt all six of the recommendations.

“We’re shining sunlight on a shadow government that preferred to operate in darkness. A government that operated in a cult of secrecy and a culture of cover-up,” Mr Albanese told a news conference after the release of the report.

Ms Bell noted that because Mr Morrison’s extra powers had only been exercised once, the implications of the appoin...

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