CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday listed his achievements in government, including resisting a «bullying» China, while unsuccessfully advocating Parliament censure him for secretly amassing multiple powers. ministerial.
The centre-left Labor Party government has tabled a rare vote of no confidence in the House of Representatives against Morrison, who as Conservative prime minister took unprecedented steps to appoint himself to five ministerial posts between March 2020 and May 2021, usually without the knowledge of the existing minister.
The House passed the motion 86 to 50. It was certain to pass because Labor has a majority in the House, while most opposition lawmakers dismissed it as «political revenge.» Morrison is the first former Prime Minister to be censored.
A vote of no confidence against Morrison, who remains an opposition lawmaker, has no other effect than to tarnish his political legacy.
Morrison commented publicly on the controversy on Wednesday, the first time since his August takeover was exposed through interviews he had given to two journalists about his government responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, he has issued two written statements through attorneys.
Morrison said he was given additional ministerial powers at a time when Australia was «dealing with extreme uncertainty and unpredictability.»
The criticism had been «made from the safety and relative calm of hindsight,» he said.
«I am proud…in a time of dire trial, my government stood up and faced the abyss of uncertainty our country was peering into and the coercion of a regional bully and saw Australia through the storm,» he said. Morrison to the House, referring to China. .
“Our nation faced the greatest challenges we have experienced since World War II: a drought, natural disasters, a global pandemic, the global and national recession, the cause of the pandemic, and a rising and assertive China seeking to force Australia to submit”, Morrison. additional.
The motion of no confidence said that by failing to inform his Cabinet, Parliament and the Australian people of his additional ministerial powers, Morrison had undermined government accountability and eroded public confidence in Australia’s democracy.
The government, elected in May, cited the findings of an inquiry into Morrison’s extraordinary takeover.
Retired Superior Court Judge Virginia Bell recommended in her inquiry last week that legislation be created to require public notice of ministerial appointments, as well as the divisions of ministerial responsibilities, be posted. The government presented such laws to the House on Wednesday.
Morrison said he appreciated Bell’s recommendations and said his office had never issued instructions barring his additional ministerial powers from being made public.
Morrison was assigned the portfolios of health, finance, treasury, internal affairs and resources. But he only wielded those powers once when he overturned a decision by former Resources Secretary Keith Pitt to approve a controversial gas drilling project off Sydney’s north shore.
Sydney independent Sophie Scamps, who supported the vote of no confidence, described Morrison’s takeover as «a deeply worrying step towards authoritarianism».
Fellow independent Kate Chaney, who also supported the vote of no confidence, said Australia, under Morrison, had been «dipping its toe into the pool of autocracy.»
Morrison said he thought his office had told former finance minister Simon Birmingham that the prime minister had also taken over the finance portfolio. Birmingham had not been informed.
“I recognize that the non-disclosure of the arrangements has caused unintended offense and I extend an apology to those who were offended,” Morrison said.
«I make no apology for taking action, especially prudent dismissal action (from ministerial powers), in a national crisis to save lives and livelihoods,» he added.
Morrison called taking on China one of his greatest achievements while in office from August 2018 to May this year.
“We were up against an intimidating Chinese regime that sought to coerce and impose itself on our democracy through threats, sanctions and intimidation,” Morrison said.
Australia’s troubled relationship with China shows signs of improvement under the Labor government.
Morrison’s successor, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, this month held Australia’s first official bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since Morrison’s predecessor, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in 2016.
Calling for the censure of Morrison, Albanese said the former prime minister had shown arrogance, arrogance and denial, but not remorse.
“You owe the Australian people an apology for undermining democracy, and that is why all members of this House must support this motion,” Albanese said.