Scott Morrison's suggestion that he had himself sworn into a number of ministries because we were in a crisis doesn't pass either the front bar of the pub or the tuck shop test. Sure, it's fair to call the pandemic a crisis. It may have been fair enough to have an ever ready health minister. There's no reason whatsoever that it had to be the prime minister. It could have been a junior minister in the health portfolio, the finance minister, the treasurer or a number of other ministers.
In any event a crisis is where you need to work together. It's not the time for someone, alone, to act as a self appointed guru. If you think you alone can save the day, your brain is in a bad space. Some would call it delusional.
Apparently he was only trying to be fully prepared to protect us. That's the "I only meant well" excuse. My granny used to remind us to "Beware of people bearing gifts and those who say they mean well". The phrase "I only meant well" not surprisingly comes up when there's a stuff up. It's nothing more than a lame expression of regret for a past stupidity.
Kids, teenagers and perhaps some youthful adults can perhaps be forgiven for doing the wrong or stupid thing because they meant well. Life experience denies that to more mature adults.
In any event the "crisis" excuse doesn't hold water for Finance, Treasury, Home Affairs or (Pitts). It's a laughable explanation. It reveals either a serious character flaw, an inappropriately inflated (mis)understanding of one's own skills, a distrust and disrespect of colleagues, perhaps a latent megalomania or some combination thereof.
If you sought the attorney general's advice on how to do something there's just no escaping that you intended to do it. You thought about it, got advice, considered it and went ahead.
Apart from being unnecessary (and I think stupid) these self appointments were largely unannounced to either the relevant ministers or to the cabinet as a whole. Why not? Process can be boring and time consuming. Of itself it doesn't deliver good outcomes. But without good process you open the door to all manner of evil. Accountability, responsibility and fairness require good process. Appointing yourself to a number of ministries and not telling your cabinet throws good process in the bin.
Prime ministers demand loyalty. They shouldn't have to because in the normal course of events if ministers and members are not loyal to the team, the team will hit rough times. Good government demands that corporate loyalty. If a prime minister doesn't show that loyalty to the team they are as destructive to the team as any other leaker or miscreant, perhaps more so. It's no wonder ScoMo's then-colleagues are spitting chips. They no doubt feeling extraordinarily cheated on and let down by their former leader.
As for the Governor-General David Hurley, I wouldn't criticise on the basis of assumptions. Apparently in the normal course of events the publication of these sorts of administrative arrangements are handled by Prime Minister and Cabinet. Presumably they are sent off for some sort of gazetting and there are reasonable questions to ask if that did not happen, why did it not. For something to slip once may be reasonable but there were a number of separate occasions. Its a trifle odd to repeat the error only on the unusual appointments. Their very unusual nature should have made them stand out.
MORE AMANDA VANSTONE:
There is a fair question as to whether the Governor-General's advice alerted him to the unusual nature of these appointments. Indeed for the subsequent ones I wonder if he was advised that the first had not been made public as I understand these normally are.
The reason that is relevant is that when Executive Council meets, or at least in my 10 years or so in government, both a senior and a junior minister attend. Following that the ministers would have a quick tea or coffee and chat with the governor-general. COVID may have limited that. Over the time in question one can't help but wonder if any "duplicated" minister was at Executive Council. If the Governor-General thought nothing was untoward about the appointments there would be no reason for them not to be mentioned in passing conversation. Now ScoMo has single-handedly placed a perhaps entirely unnecessary cloud over the Governor-General and his position.
If I were offering advice to the Governor-General it would be to stop having enforced "look someone in the eye" sing-a-longs at Vice-Regal events. It is in my opinion a misuse of the respect and courtesy people show to that office. It's that respect and courtesy that stops people saying "I hate sing-a-longs, that's not why you're here, nick off". It probably makes them feign enjoyment. Next there'll be guitars, hand holding and Kumbaya.
History shows that prime ministers can occasionally attribute too much meaning to the word prime. Maybe their ministers attach too little. There were a number of times when John Howard had a very clearly different view to mine. One in particular where both he and Alexander Downer wanted me to take a course of action. Both could have given me something in writing on the record to help justify that action. Neither did. I still recall saying in unison with the then-secretary of that department, without looking at each other and in front of a bunch of mostly "Yes, Prime Minister" people, "No, Prime Minister."
Howard could have done what ScoMo did. For reasons of governance propriety and others, he didn't.
When I told Tony, my husband, about what I thought was a career-limiting move he ecstatically exclaimed "Great we're going to Italy". He predicted I would be dumped and rather than have idle hands doing the devil's work I would be offered a position somewhere Howard was confident I would accept.
Nearly 12 months later that came to pass.
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