Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced the Government will move a motion in the House of Representatives to ‘censure’ Scott Morrison over his multiple ministerial appointments when Prime Minister.
What does that mean?
The House of Reps and the Senate both have the power to move ‘censure’ motions against individual members of Parliament.
The measures are treated as ‘expressions of opinion’ by the Parliament. They do not have any substantive effect – that is, they don’t impose any penalty or seek to remove the MP.
Scott Morrison remains in Parliament as the Member for the seat of Cook.
Censure motions are rare. The last time an MP was censured was in 2018, when Labor (in Opposition) moved a motion to censure former Small Business Minister Bruce Billson.
The censure was for taking up a lobbying job while he was still a Member of Parliament and failing to declare the income he received from this job.
What Morrison did
While he was Prime Minister, Morrison appointed himself to multiple other ministerial positions, giving himself the powers of those ministers. In all but one case, he did not tell the ministers, and in all cases Parliament and the public were not informed.
In an investigation published last week, former High Court Justice The Hon Virginia Bell found the appointments were lawful but “unnecessary” and the failure to publicise them was “corrosive” of public trust. “The public did not know something that it was entitled to know,” Bell said.
What has Morrison said?
In a Facebook post last week, Morrison said “at all times as Prime Minister I sought to exercise my responsibilities in a manner that would best advance and protect Australia’s national interests and the welfare of the Australian people…”
“These decisions were taken during an extremely challenging period, where there was a need for considerable urgency. I note that the criticisms of my decisions have been made after the event and with the benefit of this perspective.”
What has the PM said?
At a press conference today, Albanese said Morrison had “fundamentally undermined the principles of responsible Government… this is about accountability of our democratic system, and whether the Parliament was functioning properly.”
The motion is expected to be moved this week.
Coalition to oppose
In an interview on Sky News this morning, Paul Fletcher, the Opposition’s Manager of Business in the House of Reps, said the Coalition would vote against the motion.
“This is a political stunt by the Albanese Government… [A censure motion] is not to be used as some kind of political payback exercise.” He noted the Bell report “didn’t find a breach of the Constitution or illegality, notwithstanding some of the hyperventilating comments from Labor ministers.”