The internet has run wild after it was revealed former PM Scott Morrison had secretly sworn himself into multiple additional portfolios at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, surprising even those in his own party.
Beyond handling Australia’s top job, ScoMo also held home affairs, treasury, health, finance, and the entire department of industry, science, energy and resources between March 2020 and May 2021.
He has defended the move as a precaution taken during the pandemic and argued he would have made the news public had he needed to use the powers involved.
“Sometimes we forget what was happening two years ago and the situation we were dealing with; it was an unconventional time and an unprecedented time,” he told Sydney radio on Tuesday.
“Boris Johnson almost died one night. We had ministers go down with COVID.”
Many of Mr Morrison’s cabinet colleagues were blindsided by the unprecedented arrangements until they were reported in the media, learning of them alongside the Australian public.
Social media lit up over the news, with shocked Australians sharing their surprise and frustration at what had unfolded behind the scenes.
“Was Scott Morrison the worst PM, Finance and Health minister in Australia’s political history,” one person pondered on Twitter.
Another offered this takedown: “It is some feat that Scott Morrison has become an even worse Prime Minister after ceasing to hold office.”
Meanwhile there was plenty to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to the news.
Fox reporter Cath Durkin joked she had heard “Scott Morrison has appointed himself coach of Essendon”, with the struggling AFL club facing an uncertain future after a dismal 2022 on the field.
A third said in jest that beyond his political duties he couldn’t “believe Scott Morrison was even coaching the Perth Wildcats at the same time”, referring to how Perth’s NBL side was formerly coached by a Canadian who shared the PM’s name.
Current Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described Mr Morrison as the “world’s first stealth bulldozer” following a briefing in Canberra on Tuesday.
Mr Albanese said the revelations were of an “extraordinary and unprecedented trashing of our democracy” and accused the Morrison government of operating in secret.
Mr Albanese said he would receive advice from the Solicitor-General next Monday.
He said he was open to administrative reforms to ensure MPs are obligated to publicly reveal who is sworn into a portfolio at any given time.
“I am open to a change of reforms or suggestions but let’s be clear here – this isn’t business-as-usual,” Mr Albanese said.
“Conventions apply to the way that our democracy functions. It also is the case that the prime minister of the day tables information saying who is responsible for what.”
He defended Governor-General David Hurley’s part in the scandal, saying it was his role to act on advice from the then-government of the day.
“I think it’s very clear, here, that the responsibility for this undermining of our parliamentary democracy rests with those people in the Morrison government, including the former prime minister, who were a party to this ,” he said.
Asked if Mr Morrison should reconsider his position as an MP, Mr Albanese said: “I think the people of Cook deserve to be represented by someone who is interested in our parliamentary democracy and in day-to-day politics.”