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Australian Parliament condemns former Prime Minister Scott Morrison

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CANBERRA, Australia — Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday listed his achievements in government, including standing up to “bullying” China as he unsuccessfully challenged parliament to punish him for secretly hoarding several ministerial powers.

The centre-left Labor government has tabled a rare vote of no confidence in the House of Representatives against Morrison, who has taken unprecedented steps as a Conservative prime minister by appointing himself to five ministerial posts between March 2020 and May 2021, usually without the president’s knowledge. an existing minister.

The House passed the motion by 86 to 50. It was passed by a margin because Labor has a majority in the House of Representatives, while most opposition lawmakers dismissed it as “political payback”. Morrison became the first former prime minister to be convicted.

Convicting Morrison, who remains an opposition MP, has no effect other than tarnishing his political legacy.

Morrison publicly commented on the controversy on Wednesday – the first since his power grab was exposed in August through interviews he gave to two journalists about his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has since given two written statements through lawyers.

Morrison said he had given himself the extra ministerial powers at a time when Australia was “facing extreme uncertainty and unpredictability”.

The criticism was “made from the safety and relative calm of hindsight,” he said.

“I am proud … in a time of extraordinary test, my government has stood up and faced the abyss of uncertainty that our country has plunged into and the coercion of a regional bully, and led Australia through the storm,” Morrison said in the House of Representatives, referring to China. .

“Our country is facing the greatest challenges we’ve faced since World War II: drought, natural disasters, global pandemic, global and domestic recession, the cause of the pandemic and the rise and assertiveness of China, which seeks to force Australia into submission,” Morrison said. added.

The motion of no confidence said that by failing to inform the Cabinet, Parliament and the Australian people of his additional ministerial powers, Morrison had undermined responsible government and undermined public confidence in democracy in Australia.

The government, elected in May, cited the findings of an inquiry into Morrison’s extraordinary power grab.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Virginia Bell, in her inquiry last week, recommended laws that would require public notices of ministerial appointments and the distribution of ministerial responsibilities. The government submitted such laws to the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Morrison said he welcomed Bell’s recommendations, saying his office had never issued instructions prohibiting his extra ministerial powers from being made public.

Morrison gave himself the portfolios of health, finance, treasury, home affairs and resources. But he used that power just once, when he overturned a decision by former resources minister Keith Pitt to approve a controversial gas drilling project off Sydney’s north coast that would have hurt his government’s re-election chances.

Asset Energy, the company behind the project, is fighting Morrison’s decision in the Federal Court to block development of the 4,576 square kilometer (1,767 square mile) offshore basin known as PEP-11.

Asset accuses Morrison of bias and failure to ensure procedural fairness when he blocked the project in March.

Morrison said he was duplicating Pitt’s authority to overturn that particular decision.

“The decision I made regarding PEP-11 was the right one,” Morrison said.

Sydney independent Sophie Scamps, who campaigned against PEP-11 before May’s election and supported the no-confidence motion, described Morrison’s power grab as a “deeply disturbing tilt towards authoritarianism”.

Independent peer Kate Cheney, who also backed the motion of no confidence, said Australia under Morrison was “dipping its feet into the pool of autocracy”.

Morrison said he thought his office had told former finance minister Simon Birmingham that the prime minister had also taken over the finance portfolio. Birmingham was not informed.

“I acknowledge that the non-disclosure of the arrangements caused unintended offence, and I apologize to those who were offended,” Morrison said.

“I make no apologies for taking action, especially for the sensible reduction (of ministerial powers) in a national crisis to save lives and preserve livelihoods,” he added.

Morrison cited confronting China as one of his greatest achievements during his tenure from August 2018 to May this year.

“We stood up to a Chinese regime that sought to coerce and impose itself on democracy through threats, sanctions and intimidation,” Morrison said.

Australia’s troubled relationship with China shows signs of improvement under the Labor government.

Morrison’s successor as prime minister, Anthony Albanese, this month held Australia’s first official bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since Morrison’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2016.

Calling for Morrison’s conviction, Albanese said the former prime minister had shown arrogance, hubris and denial, but no remorse.

“He must apologize to the Australian people for undermining democracy and that is why this motion must be supported by every member of the House of Representatives,” Albanese said.

Morrison became the first lawmaker to be censured by parliament since former Conservative minister Bruce Bilson in 2018. Bilson was unanimously condemned for failing to declare that he was receiving a salary in the private sector before resigning from parliament.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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