Thursday, September 29

Australia news live: Scott Morrison says at press conference he didn’t reveal secret powers over concerns they would be ‘misinterpreted’ | Australia news


Morrison presser begins in Sydney

Scott Morrison has taken to the microphone for his first media conference since revelations emerged of his secret ministerial appointments.

After news of the record cut to real wages, the treasurer Jim Chalmers and employment minister Tony Burke have released an issues paper ahead of the jobs and skills summit.

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The issues paper explains the economic situation:

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While the unemployment rate is at historic lows, a tight labour market has also brought challenges including widespread and acute skill shortages. Even before COVID-19, nominal wage growth had been weak and real wages had not risen significantly for around a decade. The ongoing effects of COVID-19, high inflation, rising interest rates, global economic uncertainty and disrupted supply chains further compound these challenges, which are holding back the potential of our economy and country.

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The paper notes the labour shortage is particularly acute “with only one unemployed person per job vacancy, compared to three unemployed people per vacancy pre-COVID-19”.

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On wages, it notes:

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Many Australians have not experienced real wage gains in recent years. Real wages have grown by only 0.1 per cent per year over the past decade and have declined substantially over the past year.

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The summit will aim to do five things:

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  • Maintain full employment and growing productivity

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  • Boost job security and wages

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  • Lift participation and reducing barriers to employment

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  • Deliver a high-quality labour force through skills, training and migration

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  • Maximise opportunities in the industries of the future.

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Other important long-term themes to be discussed include: the importance of the care economy; impacts of climate change and the transition to clean technology; and increasing digitalisation.

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The paper notes the number of employees covered by workplace pay deals has slumped from 43.4% in 2010 to 35.1% in 2021. It said:

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Australia needs an inclusive and balanced workplace relations system that can support parties reaching agreement on workplace conditions, adapt to new forms of work, and enable employers and workers to share the gains from productivity improvements. More also needs to be done to address pay inequality and promote safe workplaces.

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This is just the start of a process: next comes the summit (1-2 September), the October budget (likely to boost migration), an industrial relations bill this year, then a white paper on employment next year.

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At the same time as this floods presser is happening, the wage price index (WPI) has been released.

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The wage price index for the June quarter has just landed from the ABS, giving us a better fix on how much pay packets were failing to keep up with inflation.

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In the June quarter, wages rose 0.7% in the three months and 2.6% in the year to June. Economists had been expecting about 0.8% and 2.7%, respectively.

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More to come

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Dominic Perrottet has announced that his government is accepting every recommendation from the report by former chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller.

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The power of nature to swamp the beautiful northern rivers was devastating and that will be matched by our commitment and our dedication to rebuild and recreate our communities for the future. That will not happen overnight. I particularly want to thank Mary O’Kane and Mick Fuller for the work they have put in in relation to this flood report.

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Today, the government releases that report and also responds. We have accepted every recommendation, some will take longer to implement than others, but the focus of the Government will be to implement these recommendations as quickly as possible.

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The high court has given judgment in favour of Google in an important test case about the search engine’s liability for hyperlinks to defamatory articles.

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Google had warned it would be forced to “censor” its search results if a $40,000 defamation damages award to George Defteros, a solicitor who represented Melbourne gangland figures, were allowed to stand.

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On Wednesday chief justice Susan Kiefel, justices Jacqueline Gleeson, Stephen Gageler, James Edelman and Simon Steward allowed the appeal (in three separate judgments).

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This morning we’ve reported that the Greens and some crossbench MPs are pushing for Scott Morrison to be referred to the privileges committee over his multiple ministries, over what Anthony Albanese described as a “misleading” of parliament.

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Despite the House practice book noting that “the allocation of portfolios and any ministerial and departmental change is notified publicly and announced in the House”, we’ve heard from the clerk this is not a hard rule.

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Claressa Surtees told Guardian Australia:

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[This] is a description of what occurs under Australia’s system of parliamentary government, in accordance with established precedent and practice. There are no standing or other orders of the House which require an announcement of the ministry, or ministerial changes, in the House.

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It’s a small wrinkle in the case against Morrison. It’s arguable that tabling a list of the “full ministry” without disclosing Morrison’s extra portfolios was misleading parliament but there is no obligation to report changes in the standing orders.

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New South Wales commuters are experiencing delays on Sydney’s rail network this morning as industrial action impacts services again.

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Today’s strike includes the Bankstown, East Hills and Southern lines in south-western Sydney, but Transport for NSW said other lines would also be affected:

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A heavily reduced service will run on the T2 Inner West & Leppington, T3 Bankstown, T8 Airport & South, and the Southern Highlands lines as a result of industrial action by the Rail, Tram and Bus Union.

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The T4 Eastern and Illawarra line was impacted by a similar strike last week.

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Workers are going on six-hour strikes based on the area where they typically work, but the union is allowing the government to take workers from other areas to run a reduced-capacity service.

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The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has been taking escalating industrial action throughout this month in response to their safety concerns about a new intercity fleet.

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The union says the design means that train drivers will not be able to adequately monitor safety on platforms. The NSW government offered to spend more than $260m to address those safety concerns in June but the agreement between the union and the state government is the point of contention.

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Alex Claassens, the NSW secretary of the Rail, Tain and Bus Union, told ABC Breakfast News:

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n

Unless they sign a deed that does what we needed to do, that is fix the unsafe train, then industrial action will continue through to the end of the month. We have notified actions on our website for the world to see and next week there will be two days, Tuesday and Thursday, where we take different sections of the network out.

n

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with AAP

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New South Wales has recorded 26 Covid deaths and 8,064 new cases in the latest reporting period, with 2,115 people in hospital and 52 in intensive care.

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The former prime minister John Howard is appearing on ABC Radio to promote his new book, A Sense of Balance. But of course he is first asked about the revelations of Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to five additional ministries.

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Howard spoke to the former treasurer Josh Frydenberg yesterday and said he believes it’s an exaggeration to say Frydenberg is livid.

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He said Morrison’s actions were “unusual” and it was “unwise to have kept it secret” but echoed Barnaby Joyce’s defence that what Morrison did was not illegal.

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Howard can’t help but spruik his book, saying some of the responses have been “over the top” and there is a need to keep “a sense of balance in our responses”.

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He says the actions are “not some kind of constitutional crisis”.

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Victoria has recorded 15 Covid deaths and 4,732 new cases in the latest reporting period, with 518 people in hospital and 29 in intensive care.

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The former prime minister Scott Morrison has insisted that he didn’t use his secret powers as home affairs minister to overrule Karen Andrews.

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But when the current home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, was asked on ABC Radio if she was confident the PM didn’t make any decisions as home affairs minister, she responded:

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n

I do not know the answer to that question.

n

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O’Neil says the secretary of the home affairs department and the chief of Asio did not know Morrison was the minister for home affairs at the time. She implied the gravity of this means Morrison should resign:

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n

If you don’t understand how vulnerable that made us, you should not be in parliament.

n

There is a reason we have accountable government because we need Australians to be able to point to the person who exercises power on their behalf and hold them responsible for decisions they make.

n

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Asked if she was investigating if any decisions were made with the ministerial power, O’Neil says the government is constrained “because it’s the convention that the former government’s decisions aren’t meant to be examined by the new government”:

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n

This is very complicated, very difficult and it is far from apparent that no one has broken the law here.

n

Whatever happens with Scott Morrison, we need to understand how this occurred so it can’t happened again.

n

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Victoria’s opposition has pledged to scrap the suburban rail loop, described as the biggest transport project in the state’s history, with “every cent” of the $34.5bn saved to be invested in the health system if elected in November.

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The commitment, made 101 days before voters go to the polls, sets the stage for another election turned referendum on infrastructure.

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The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said:

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n

This November, Victorians face a clear choice. A choice between immediately rebuilding Victoria’s broken health system, or a train line in 13 years’ time.

n

As premier, my first priority will be to fix the health crisis.

n

Our plan is about returning confidence for Victorians. Confidence that an ambulance will arrive, an emergency call will be answered and critical healthcare will be available when needed.

n

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opposition will scrap the suburban rail loop if elected”,”contributors”:[{“name”:”Benita Kolovos”,”imageUrl”:”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/uploads/2022/03/03/Benita_Kolovos_2.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=d3f0a5f1842f00e9418475562a58b666″,”largeImageUrl”:”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/uploads/2022/03/03/Benita_Kolovos.png?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=5eab712ba445dc6cf12cdc0f9a1eff16″}],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 17 Aug 2022 03.41 BST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Tue 16 Aug 2022 22.27 BST”},{“id”:”62fc12f58f08b9fd3e4dff50″,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

Circling back to that Barnaby Joyce interview …

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The former deputy PM doubled down on how what Scott Morrison did was not illegal and therefore “insert the verbal equivalent of a shrug here”:

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n

So I think he himself, in reflecting on it, he has to come to the opinion that it probably wasn’t a good move. And, and on that issue, I agree with him.

n

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But Joyce does not believe Morrison should have to quit:

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n

If he did do something illegal, if he received some form of pecuniary benefit, if someone closely related to you get some for of pecuniary benefit, they failed to disclose, then yeah, you can pack up your bongos and get out of there.

n

But if something is legal, and you complied with the law even though people might not agree with that mightn’t be basically customary, or, as you would say, something you’ve done it in a way that’s annoying, you’ve done it in a way that has got people off side, but it’s not illegal. It’s not illegal.

n

That’s why we have laws, that’s why we have laws. We don’t arrest people on the road because they’re annoying, we arrest them if they break the law.

n

If someone says I am going to paint my car pink with lime green spots, it’s very annoying, but it’s not against the law.

n

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The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said the fact that the head of Asio didn’t know there were two ministers for home affairs was “dangerous for the country”.

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O’Neill cites the example this weekend that the shooting at Canberra airport required the minister to make a decision, and if there had been two home affairs ministers they could have had two different views on what action should have been taken.

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She says there are issues of who would own legal responsibility for decisions made if there were two people sworn into the ministry.

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She likens Morrison to a “despot” accumulating the additional ministries.

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Barnaby Joyce is speaking to ABC Radio National host Patricia Karvelas about what he knew and when about Scott Morrison’s extra roles, given that he was deputy prime minister (for a while at least) in the Morrison government.

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Joyce is trying to both sides it. He didn’t know, he says – other than resources – but it wasn’t illegal, so he doesn’t believe Morrison should have to resign from parliament.

“And it was in a form of, you know, he has the authority,” Joyce says of knowing about Morrison and resources:

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n

But once more I’d say to you and your listeners, there’s nothing illegal about it. Improper. Well, that’s a question take up with Mr Morrison. But illegal, no.

n

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did Barnaby Joyce know as Morrison’s deputy?”,”contributors”:[{“name”:”Amy Remeikis”,”imageUrl”:”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/uploads/2017/09/08/Amy-Remeikis.png?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=36a05106945eaf53cd466cae96e7ad84″,”largeImageUrl”:”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/uploads/2017/10/06/Amy_Remeikis_ng.png?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=6a9bc1c610d7bd016d76ceca42cb1ed2″}],”primaryDateLine”:”Wed 17 Aug 2022 03.41 BST”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Tue 16 Aug 2022 22.27 BST”},{“id”:”62fc0b858f08595b289df61c”,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, says she will bring a major focus on boosting employment opportunities for people with a disability to the government’s upcoming jobs summit:

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n

There is an amazing, skilled workforce that is sadly underutilised. Hiring a person with disability makes good business sense and is good for the nation.

n

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The minister will convene a roundtable meeting next week with executives from Australia Post, Crown Resorts, the Technology Council, the Council of Small Business, and the wheelchair tennis champion and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott among more than 20 attendees.

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Nearly 10% of young Australians have a disability, with some 2.1 million Australians with a disability being of working age. Rishworth will look to address unemployment and underemployment among people with a disability who want to access work, with discussions on how employers can better support workers, particularly in sectors like technology and tourism.

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Rishworth:

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n

Through my experience as a local member and as a clinical psychologist, I am aware of issues people with disability face in gaining employment and how detrimental unemployment can be for physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

n

Hiring someone with disability should not be seen as an optional or charitable act. People with disability bring diverse skills and experiences and make significant contributions to the workplace.

n

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She said employers could start “thinking outside the box” on how to employ people with disability, including providing more flexibility for employees and workplaces – such as work from home arrangements.

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Jordan O’Reilly, CEO of disability support network Hireup, said “mundane practicalities” like travelling to an office, or navigating an office environment, were among barriers preventing people with a disability being able to access more work.

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O’Reilly said flexibility provided by technology was one way of getting more people into the workforce.

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Australians should be prepared for more rain as the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting La Niña conditions to return for a rare third consecutive year.

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In more wet weather news, the New South Wales government will today hand down findings into the catastrophic February and March floods , responding to the recommendations made by NSW chief scientist Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Mick Fuller.

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NSW premier Dominic Perrottet will announce a new reconstruction authority to replace part of Resilience NSW. This is a key recommendation of the report and the body will become the state’s lead agency responsible for disaster prevention.

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Federal and state Indigenous affairs ministers are also meeting today for the first time to discuss the Indigenous voice to parliament and various stages of state treaty and truth-telling processes.

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Meanwhile, reactions continue to roll in to the revelations that have come through that the former prime minister Scott Morrison held an additional five ministries in secret.

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The host of ABC Radio Patricia Karvelas has tweeted that Josh Frydenberg is “livid”:

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n

Scott Morrison called Josh Frydenberg to apologise for secretly becoming Treasurer. The former treasurer has told people he is “livid”.

n

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We’ll bring you more reactions as they come.

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Let’s kick off.

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Key events

Morrison:

These were emergency effectively reserve powers.

I think there was a great risk that in the midst of that crisis those powers could be misinterpreted and misunderstood, which would have caused unnecessary angst in the middle of a pandemic and could have impacted on the day-to-day functioning of the government

I said there was a possibility of this being misinterpreted… I think the events of the last few days have highlighted how this could have happened.

Morrison is asked if he is maintaining that he did nothing wrong.

He responds:

Of course I regret that offence and I apologise for that offence, but I am pleased that through the course of the pandemic my confidence was in them to keep just doing their job. Now, the fact and I didn’t interfere in doing their job shows the confidence I had in them. Now, there were many issues that arose over that period of time where if I had wished to I could have exercised the authorities given to me in their portfolios but I did not do that, and I did not do that because I did not consider that they were consistent with the emergency New South Wales – situations and Emergency Services Minister powers that I had sought. So, I respected the additional authorities that were presented and that is proved by the fact that I exercised them not at all except in the one case in relation to resources, which was a completely different set of circumstances.

Morrison:

I did what I thought was necessary in the national interests to ensure the government continued to perform well which did.

He is asked if there a special issue that prompted him to take over Treasury?

He responds: “The answer to that is no.”

Question: Why not simply advise your cabinet colleagues that you were doing this. You said you had an expectation on you that you were responsible for everything. This looks like an extraordinary consolidation of power. Why not even just let your cabinet colleagues know if not the broader Australian public?

Morrison:

Well, as I said, I apologise for any concern this has caused about those issues and I understand that concern and that’s why I’m standing here today. But at the same time I did not want any of my ministers to be going about their daily business any different to what they were doing before. I was concerned that these issues could have been misconstrued and misunderstood and undermine the confidence of ministers in the performance of their duties at that time, and I did not consider that to be in the country’s interest.

Morrison:

What we did was in that particular instance we were dealing with extra powers, new powers enlivened under the biosecurity act and talking with Greg and how we would mapping that new set of powers, then we had that discussion. My honest recollection was that there’d been a communication between officers in relation to the Minister for Finance, that didn’t take place. I accept that, and I have apologised to then Minister Cormann before that, but equally that also related to additional spending powers that were delegated to the Finance Minister at that time. The later ones were added in May to 21 as the pandemic was continuing because in all the portfolios that I sought to have these authorities put in place they were portfolio areas where ministers could exercise unilateral decisions without reference to cabinet. So that is a very different thing from portfolios where the decisions minister makes are implementing the decisions of cabinet. Now, we were in a rather extreme situation over a protracked — protracted period of time. Those safeguards were put in place for precautionary, for prudent, responsible reasons, and I didn’t consider it at the time, given everything else that was going on and the other priorities we were dealing with, that it was a matter that needed to be raised at that point because if I needed to use the powers then I would have disclosed them with the minister

Morrison is now taking questions from the media.

He says:

I was swearing in to have authorities under the portfolio. As I have made very clear and the then Minister for Health will tell you, did I exercise any powers in that portfolio under that? No, I didn’t. He continued to be the Health Minister. This was the first of these things that we first addressed and it arose because of the rather unusual nay of the biosecurity powers which were unprecedented

Morrison:

As a Member of Parliament of course I’m accountable and I’m happy to be here today. But members of my family have nothing to do with this. I would very much like that the cameras that sit outside my house each day and film my wife and my daughters going to school or going for a coffee or if they would like to have friends around, or trades people coming, they have nothing to do with this, and so out of respect by all means sit outside my electoral office, there’s greet coffee in Cronulla, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it but I would ask that you not invade the privacy of my family. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.

Morrison:

As Prime Minister, only I could really understand the weight of responsibility that was on my shoulders and on no-one else, and as a result I took the decisions that I thought I needed to take. I took the calls that I thought were necessary and over the course of my time as Prime Minister I sought to pursue the national interest on that basis, not for any personal advancement, but to get Australia through one of the worst crises we have faced since the second world war, and the good news is Australia, we got through it.

Morrison:

In taking on these authorities from the Governor-General, I did not instruct any department that I was to have duties for carriage of any of the issues that the ministers were dealing with on a day-to-day basis. They continued to exercise their powers as ministers, fully and wholly, except in the one instance in relation to the decision that I referred to in my statement. I did not exercise those powers. And I had the power, though, to act if that was necessary. The powers that I was exercising and been sworn in administratively to those roles were lawful based on the advice and working through those issues, as was done by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the officer of the Governor-General, my own office. Those are obvious issues that were being addressed at the time, and we understood to be acting completely lawfully. But the point here is that at no time ‘cause the accusation has been made that somehow this was seeking these additional powers for what purpose personally, I cannot understand. I didn’t exercise them because, thankfully, the extreme circumstances in which I had established these powers to act in, thankfully, did not arise. The fact that ministers were unaware of these things is actually proof of my lack of interference or intervention in any of their activities and that I honoured the basis upon which I sought those powers because I was only ever going Use them in an emergency situation that would require that. Now, I understand the offence that some of my colleagues particularly have felt about this. I understand that and I have apologised to them.

Morrison:

I want to stress with the five departments in which I was sworn to administratively by the Governor-General, at no time except in the one instance that I have made reference to in relation to resources and Department of Industry, did I interfere in any of the decisions or exercise those powers in those departments. Secondly, I did not act as minister. There were not two ministers doing the same job – me as Prime Minister or the minister. You may not be aware – and I think these events have highlighted perhaps some unawareness of these types of arrangements. For example, Ben Morton was the minister assisting the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He was also the minister for public service. That did not make him the Prime Minister despite the fact that he was sworn to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. It didn’t make Ken Wyatt the Prime Minister. It didn’t make Michael Sukkar, who was the Assistant Treasurer, the treasurer. It didn’t make Jason Wood, who was sworn to the Department of Home Affairs the Minister for Home Affairs.

Morrison:

So, together with my colleagues, we did save lives, we did save livelihoods and we did so in a way that, as I’ve moved around the world since the election, is recognised. And there will come a time here, I suppose, where it will be maybe recognised also. But that is not my purpose today.

I’d rather have this discussion about what I did do rather than what I didn’t do”: Morrison

Morrison goes on to say:

With an understanding of the expectation of public responsibility singularly directed at the prime minister, I believed it was necessary to have authority – to have what were effectively emergency powers, to exercise in extreme situations that would be unforeseen – that would enable me to act in the national interests. And that is what I did in a crisis. Because, frankly, I’d rather be having this conversation about what I did do to try and protect the Australian people – and if there are views that that overstepped the mark, [I’m] happy to have that conversation, because what was focusing my mind was not having the conversation that perhaps I could have put powers in place if situations had arisen that I hadn’t been in a position to address because I hadn’t done the things that have been set out in recent days. So I’d rather have this discussion about what I did do rather than what I didn’t do to ensure that I was exercising those responsibilities.

Morrison says he was responsible for “every drop of rain, every strain of the virus” during pandemic

Morrison says his responsibilities were extensive during the pandemic which was “not a two-month thing.”

The situation was highly uncertain, as I’ve said, and dynamic. And I’d make this point – there was a clear expectation established in the public’s mind, certainly in the media’s mind, and absolutely certainly in the mind of the opposition, as I would walk into question time every day, that I, as prime minister, was responsible pretty much for every single thing that was going on – every drop of rain, every strain of the virus, everything that occurred over that period of time.




www.theguardian.com

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