Hardly a word has been spoken by his coalition colleagues against former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s covert ministerial coup, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson.
LAST WEEK we read of former treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s shock and grief upon learning that his boss and friend, former Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had cheated him.
Unknown to Josh, Morrison had been secretly sworn in as Treasurer, presumably to ensure he had the power to override Frydenberg should the need arise, as observed by the Prime Minister.
Finance was one of five ministries that Morrison secretly acquired, ostensibly as an extra precaution during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This justification is dismissed with some contempt by former Supreme Court Justice Virginia Bell in her report on Morrison’s alarmingly sinister move from democracy to autocratic control.
There was, as Justice Bell points out, no incentive whatsoever for Morrison to acquire these portfolios, much less secretly. Should a minister fall ill or otherwise be unable to perform his duties, the prime minister may be sworn in at that time. The move was a power grab by Morrison, no doubt supported, encouraged and enabled by those closest to him.
What apparently hurt Mr. Frydenberg to the hilt is the stark knowledge that he was not a member of that inner circle, despite his close friendship with Scott, who has so far, we are told, made no apology for his gross betrayal .
According to journalist Niki Savva, to whom Frydenberg spoke about his grief and anger:
What really stuck with Frydenberg, and his jitters, was Morrison’s reaction in that first conversation when a deeply disappointed Frydenberg said to him, “You wouldn’t do it again if you had your time!” Morrison replied, “Yes, I would.”‘
Please get out your smallest violin.
Frydenberg is not the only former minister shocked by Morrison’s perfidious behaviour. The only person to communicate at the time that his authority had been taken over by his leader was former Health Secretary Greg Hunt. In this case, the COVID-19 justification made sense.
However, in the span of a year, Morrison appointed himself to four other ministries and considered acquiring a sixth, as reported in The protector:
“…Morrison sought advice on appointment to a sixth ministry, the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, to be given powers under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but chose not to proceed.”
That all ministers involved saw it coming is an opinion the general public can be forgiven for. Their leader screwed them as he screwed the whole country during his years in government, as Immigration Secretary, Social Security Secretary, Treasurer and finally, the biggest fuck of all, as Prime Minister.
Tellingly, none of the offended ministers have so far been able to look much beyond their personal grievances. The truth is that Morrison has done much more damage to the people of Australia and our democracy than to the individual ministers whose authority he gave himself the means to usurp. Yet the ministers remain curiously silent about this much bigger crime.
The truth is that Morrison has given himself the power to overturn all decisions of the apparent ministers in critical portfolios, without their knowledge or consultation of any kind and without the knowledge of the electorate.
The truth is that Morrison and a very small circle of facilitators launched a serious assault on our democracy and its institutions, successfully orchestrating the means to concentrate power in the hands of the then Prime Minister.
That apparently no one in the L-NP has thought it appropriate to do anything about this deliberate erosion of the democratic principles that serve to maintain some order in our administration should alarm everyone. If they can’t handle this, they’re not fit for purpose. If they can’t see beyond their personal insult, they’ll do it again, as long as they’re involved next time.
Morrison not only seized ministerial powers in five portfolios. As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has pointed out, there was a culture that allowed him to do this. The former prime minister misled parliament about his roles and the authority of the ministers who were ostensibly solely responsible for the portfolios he had secretly acquired. A culture of deep secrecy enabled him to do this.
The ministers involved undoubtedly feel betrayed, but their personal feelings are hardly discussed here. The biggest betrayal is our democracy, which, while far from perfect, is the only system we currently have that tinkers our society together. Replacing it with an autocracy is not in our interest. The Federal Labor Government must take immediate steps to ensure that such a situation never happens again.
Dr. Jennifer Wilson is an IA columnist, psychotherapist, and academic. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.
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