What Bell said in her Morrison secret ministries report

Former High Court judge Virginia Bell on Friday released her report into former prime minister Scott Morrison’s decision to secretly swear himself in to five extra ministries during the last parliament, which she said was “corrosive of trust in government”.

Here are some quotes from her report:

Former High Court judge Virginia Bell (inset) conducted the inquiry into Scott Morrison’s secret ministries.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen, supplied

On the implications of the appointments

“The lack of disclosure of the appointments to the public was apt to undermine public confidence in government. Once the appointments became known, the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government.”

“There was no delineation of responsibilities between Mr Morrison and the other minister or ministers appointed to administer the department. In the absence of such delineation, there was a risk of conflict had Mr Morrison decided to exercise a statutory power inconsistently with the exercise of the power by another minister administering the department.”

On the necessity of the appointments to administer the Departments of Health and Finance

“Mr Morrison’s appointment to administer departments against the risk of the incumbent becoming incapacitated served as a blueprint for the three appointments to administer departments of state in 2021, which were not concerned with the risk of incapacity but rather with the risk that the incumbent minister might exercise his or her statutory powers in a manner with which Mr Morrison did not agree.”

Conclusions on the secrecy of the appointments

“While it is troubling that by the time of the 2021 appointments, [former secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet] Mr [Phil] Gaetjens did not take up the issue of the secrecy surrounding them with Mr Morrison and firmly argue for their disclosure, the responsibility for that secrecy must reside with Mr Morrison.”

On the functioning of departments of state

“Mr Morrison does not appear to have attached any significance to the fact that, from the time of its making, each appointment operated in law to charge him with responsibility for the administration of the whole department.”

On consultation

“In September 2022, I wrote to Mr [Simon] Benson and Mr [Geoff] Chambers, the authors of Plagued, asking if they would consider providing me with copies of any documents that may assist the inquiry, and offering to meet with them. I was advised that they do not hold any relevant documents and did not wish to attend a meeting.”

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