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Seven Sunrise – Natalie Barr

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP


Subjects: Solicitor General’s Advice regarding Scott Morrison’s Ministerial Appointments

NATALIE BARR: The Albanese Government will order an independent inquiry into how ministerial positions are appointed following legal advice on Scott Morrison's actions. The Solicitor-General found that while the former Prime Minister had broken no laws, the secret appointments were inconsistent with convention and quote, "fundamentally undermined responsible government". Joining me now is the highest legal officer in this land, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Good morning to you.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Good morning, good to be with you.

BARR: So, he didn't break any laws, do we need to change the law?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This was a really alarming advice from the second law officer, the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, saying, as you've just said in your intro, that this was fundamentally undermining our system of responsible government for the Prime Minister to appoint himself to five ministries. And the Prime Minister announced yesterday we've taken the steps that we can make straight away, which is to make sure that every single appointment to the ministry is published. But now we're going to have an inquiry that will look at what we need to do to make sure this never happens again.

BARR: Okay. So he says, we're in the middle of the pandemic, I just did it because in case anyone got sick I could jump straight in and run the government responsibly and the Opposition saying, okay, we've looked at it, it's legal, jog on everybody.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And of course they would, but his explanation does not stack up. These appointments to these five ministries stretched on right into May of 2021. Hiding behind the pandemic doesn't cut it. We've got established processes for people to step in when a minister is on leave, when a minister is sick. Any of those could have been used. What we had is something quite different and if it was all above board why did he keep it secret? That's the key to this. He kept it secret because he was ashamed of what he did and he should now actually be apologising.

BARR: So do you think there's more to this if we have an investigation? He blocked the oil and gas project, he approved $800 million of industry grants, Christine Holgate was sacked when he was in charge of the finance portfolio. Do you think things will come out if there's an investigation?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's quite a list Nat. It shows that we know the basics. We know that Mr Morrison appointed himself to five ministries. We know he kept it secret. There's other things that need to be examined and we need to make sure it doesn't happen again, because obviously, this is fundamentally undermining of trust and integrity in government. We can't have that. We've got to look into this. It's very important, and that's what the inquiry is about.

BARR: Okay, Mark Dreyfus. Thanks for your time.