Scott Morrison has defended himself over taking control in multiple government ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it emerges he was also given control of the other portfolios.
The former prime minister said he had "no recollection" of being secretly installed into more portfolios during his government in a radio interview, but his government had considered additional portfolios beyond the finance, health and resources portfolios already revealed.
"There are no other portfolios I'm aware of. But there may have been others that were done administratively," Mr Morrison told 2GB.
At one point, there were reports Mr Morrison also had control of the social services portfolio. That portfolio was not listed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese later in the morning when he revealed details of a departmental investigation into the matter, but it was put to Mr Morrison during the early morning interview.
"I don't recall that but I mean, as I said, there was some administrative issues done. I don't dispute that.
"I'm happy if there are other [portfolios] to be out there."
He said it was an "unconventional time and an unprecedented time" but there were safeguards.
"Boris Johnson almost died one night. We had ministers go down with COVID," he said.
"The powers in those portfolios, they weren't overseen by cabinet. The minister ... in both cases had powers that few, if any, ministers in our federation's history had.
"We had to take some extraordinary measures to put safeguards in place. None of these in the case of the finance and health portfolios were ever required to be used."
He blamed officials for the "oversight" of failing to inform his finance minister colleague Mathias Cormann that the prime minister was installing himself as a second finance minister.
"The ministers were continuing to run their portfolios without any interference."
The power grab enabled him to override a minister's decisions in their portfolio, or make a decision when the minister refused - which has been confirmed to have happened at least once, when Mr Morrison went around then resources minister Keith Pitt to veto a controversial gas project off the NSW coast.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declined to directly express his support for the governor-general when asked to on Tuesday morning, as the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet inquires into the legality of Mr Morrison's leadership arrangements.
However, Mr Albanese told the ABC: "The Governor-General acted on the advice of the government of the day. It is Scott Morrison that initiated this extraordinary and unprecedented action.
"The Governor-General's job is to take the advice of the government of the day. I don't intend to pass judgment ... blame for this lands squarely on the former government.
"Clearly other ministers knew ... they chose not to make it public."
Former agriculture minister David Littleproud has called on Mr Morrison to explain himself.
"He owes it to the office of prime minister and the exalted position that we have this country to reflect and actually give an explanation to clear this up and give clarity," he told the ABC.
"That is the honourable thing to do, to give the respect to the highest office that any Australian can be elected to in this country."
Helen Haines says while there was uncertainty around the COVID pandemic and what would happen if the health minister fell ill, there was no reason for the secrecy.
"But the fact he chose not to tell anyone about this, the fact many members of his cabinet didn't know about this, but this covered multiple portfolios," she said.
"The prime minister has a responsibility to inform the parliament, the public and to inform his cabinet."
On the weekend, the Australian reported Mr Morrison swore himself in as health minister and finance minister, alongside his own ministers, after the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
He also swore himself in as resources minister in 2021 and used his powers to overturn a decision by former minister Keith Pitt to approve a controversial gas project off the NSW coast, according to news.com.au.
Mr Pitt has issued a statement saying he was unaware Mr Morrison had joint oversight of his portfolio and that he stands by the decisions he made.
A spokesperson for Governor-General David Hurley says he followed processes consistent with the constitution when he appointed Mr Morrison to the additional portfolios.
"It is not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility," the spokesperson said in a statement.
"These appointments do not require a swearing-in ceremony. The governor-general signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister."
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said he didn't know Mr Morrison had sworn himself into the cabinet positions.
"Obviously the prime minister had his reasons, his logic for it, but it was not a decision that I was a party to or was aware of," he told ABC Radio on Monday.
- with AAP
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