Morrison Pushes Back Against Political Censure Motion


Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed back against the federal Labor government’s successful move to censure him in parliament for secretly taking on five ministerial portfolios, calling the move “political intimidation.”

The parliamentary motion of censure for conduct unbecoming of a member of parliament has no legal real-world consequences and serves solely as a way for a parliament to show its disapproval of a member’s actions. It is also used rarely on a non-ministerial member of parliament, also called a backbencher, with the parliamentary website noting it has occurred only twice previously.

Morrison, in his defiant response to the motion in parliament, said that he had no intention of bowing to the motion for censure.

“I have no intention now, Mr. Speaker, of submitting the political intimidation of this government, using its numbers on this place to impose its retribution on a political party,” he said. “I am proud Mr. Speaker; at a time of extreme trial, my government stood up and faced the abyss of uncertainty that our country looked into and the coercion of a regional bully and saw Australia through the storm.”

He also said it was strange to describe his decision to be secretly sworn into a range of ministerial appointments without the knowledge of his fellow ministers or parliamentary and departmental staff as a “power grab.”

“I note again that these authorities were never exercised and, as a result, had no impact on the functions or actions of the government. It is strange to describe such actions as a power grab, as they were never exercised or even used to exercise influence over the relevant ministers,” he said.

“They were simply a dormant redundancy.”

However, Morrison did acknowledge that his decision to secretly be sworn into a range of ministerial appointments without the knowledge of his fellow ministers was unnecessary.

“I now consider that these decisions in hindsight were unnecessary … and that insufficient consideration was given to these decisions at the time, including … disclosure,” he said.

He also said that the Labor government should remember that “grace in victory is a virtue,” but he would take into account his Christian faith and turn the other cheek.

‘Democracy Depends on Self-Discipline’

The comments from Morrison came prior to the motion being passed successfully with the support from the government, cross-benchers, and Nationals MP Bridget Archer. Former Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews abstained from voting, and the Liberal party and National party opposed the vote on grounds that it was a stunt.

Commenting on her decision to cross the floor to censure Morrison, Archer said she believed in Liberal values.

“And our statement of values says this: we believe in the rule of law. Under it, there is freedom for the nation and for all men and women. Democracy depends upon self-discipline. Obedience to the law and the honest administration of the law,” Archer said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (R) poses for a photograph with Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman (L) and candidate for Bass Bridget Archer (C) at Norwood Primary School on May 18, 2019 in Launceston, Australia. (Photo by Mick Tsikas – Pool/Getty Images)

“And it is for this reason that I’m to support this motion.

“I do not accept any of the explanations put forward by the former prime minister for the actions, and I’m deeply disappointed for the lack of apology or, more importantly, the lack of understanding of the impact of the decisions.”

Meanwhile, in moving the motion of censure, the government’s leader in the House of Representatives, Tony Burke, said that Morrison’s actions had eroded public trust in Australia’s democracy.

“The conduct that we now know about was unacceptable, dell below the required standards, and we have no choice but to support a censure,” Burke said.

Inquiry Found Morrison’s Actions Created a Corrosive Distrust in Government

While the Ministries Inquiry led by former High Court Judge Virginia Bell said that there were limited impacts and implications from Morrison’s actions during his term as prime minister, it noted that they “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.

“The principles of responsible government were ‘fundamentally undermined’ because Mr. Morrison was not ‘responsible’ to the Parliament, and through the Parliament to the electors, for the departments, he was appointed to administer,” the report said.

“The lack of disclosure of the appointments to the public was apt to undermine public confidence in government. Once the appointments became known, the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government.”

Victoria Kelly-Clark

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Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.



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