Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has chastised his predecessor for making light of secretly taking on five portfolios during the pandemic.
Scott Morrison, who was sworn in to oversee the departments of health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs, went on something of a social media spree on Thursday.
He posted edited images of himself in a host of groups, including as the head of the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks and part of a comedy troupe, while commenting on posts from an array of Australian businesses sending up his multiple jobs.
Mr Albanese expressed his dismay at Mr Morrison’s actions on Friday.
“This undermining of the parliamentary system of government, of the whole Westminster system and our democratic traditions of accountability, are something that aren’t a laughing matter,” he told the ABC.
“I’m surprised at the response of Mr Morrison to this but then again, I frankly was shocked by the revelations.”
“I’m also somewhat surprised that there’s been no concept that there’s a need to say to the Australian people that the wrong thing was done.”
Scott Morrison created and posted his own meme of himself taking a job with comedy troupe Sooshi Mango.
But a spokesperson for Mr Morrison defended the flippancy on Friday, while confirmed the social media photo edit showing the former PM as a member of comedy team Sooshi Mango was his own handiwork.
“He knows the issues are important but at the same time, he was happy to join in on the joke at his own expense. He saw some of the posts and found them amusing. He did all the posts himself,” the spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton took aim at upcoming legal advice from the solicitor-general on Mr Morrison’s extraordinary actions.
As scrutiny of Mr Morrison increases, Mr Dutton said the advice would offer nothing more than a chance for Mr Albanese to criticise his predecessor.
The solicitor-general is expected to advise the government on Monday, following revelations of Mr Morrison’s series of confidential ministerial appointments between March 2020 and May 2021.
Mr Morrison also spent plenty of time commenting on a spree of social media memes from Australian businesses. Photo: TND
In a sometimes bruising press conference this week, Mr Morrison claimed his secret adoption of the portfolios was necessary because of the unprecedented crisis of the COVID. That claim has been roundly rejected, including by many of his Coalition colleagues.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said it was “wrong”. Another former PM, John Howard, said there was no need for it and Mr Morrison’s immediate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, questioned the legality on Friday.
Tweet from @TurnbullMalcolm
Despite that, Mr Dutton said Australians wanted to put the scandal behind them.
Monday’s advice was unlikely to provide “anything further than probably another opportunity for the Prime Minister to have a whack”, he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“I think most people, frankly, want to move on and start dealing with issues that are more important.”
Mr Morrison could also face questions from parliament’s powerful privileges committee over the secret appointments.
Greens leader Adam Bandt has written to House of Representatives Speaker Milton Dick requesting the scandal look at whether Mr Morrison had committed any breaches or been in contempt of parliament.
The former prime minister has apologised personally to former cabinet members he had secretly shared a ministry with – although the apology for former home affairs minister Karen Andrews took some urging from Mr Dutton.
But Mr Albanese said Mr Morrison still owed an apology to Australians, who were “kept completely in the dark with his shadow government operating”.
“It’s the Australian people who have had their democracy undermined,” he said.
Mr Morrison said he kept the roles confidential as he did not want to “undermine the confidence of ministers in the performance of their duties”.
He said he only used the extra powers once, to block a gas drilling project off the NSW coast.
That decision, made in 2021, is the subject of a Federal Court appeal.