While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has downplayed the role of Scott Morrison named Australia’s Governor General David Hurley’s role in the multiple ministries saga, there are clear signs that the role played by ‘Her Majesty’s Representative in the Commonwealth’ was problematic.
As the recently published documents regarding the revelation of the appointments, Morrison has been named a double director of the finance portfolio March 30, 2020yet there is no mention of it in the Governor General’s Programas is normally the case when a minister takes an oath.
But what is clear is that two days after the last Prime Minister began shadowing Finance Minister Mathias Cormann without his knowledge, the GG “took part in a bike ride with PCYC members from Canberra to Lake Burley Griffin”.
The Governor General’s official notes also deliberately detail his swearing in of the new Prime Minister on May 23 this year, as well as Richard Marles in the job, Penny Wong as Foreign Secretary, Jim Chambers as Treasurer and Katy Gallagher as Finance Minister.
The mention of seemingly insignificant events in the pages of the GG program, with the lack of recording of secret ministries hidden from the public, raises questions about the actions of Hurley himself but also raises concerns about the viability of the post of governor general.
Look to the other side
“It is not for the Governor General to inform the department or parliament (or the public) of administrative changes of this nature,” it read. A declaration attributed to a spokesperson for the Governor General.
“The Governor General had no reason to believe that the appointments would not be communicated,” he continued.
But while that claim may hold when Morrison was appointed health and finance administrator in March 2020, one would assume the GG would have said there had been no public announcement of those appointments before the other three in April May. 2021.
As Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue points out in his assessment of the situation, the GG “is bound to follow the advice of the Prime Minister”. But it remains unclear whether Hurley followed an order from Morrison by breaking protocol and not disclosing or disclosing the appointments.
The August 17 statement from the GG spokesperson tries to dodge any responsibility he may have had. However, the fact that the ultimate holder of executive power in this country is bound to undoubtedly follow the minister who appointed him in a vast conspiracy is problematic.
Bound by agreement
Article 1 of the Australian Constitution provides that legislative power rests with the Federal Parliament, consisting of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Article 2 clarifies that since the Queen is from a foreign country, the GG will exercise its power here.
Much of the space in which the Governor General operates is governed by convention, which means that he is guided by traditions that are not detailed in the Constitution or in any law or code of conduct.
For example, the GG spokesperson explains in his statement that the type of appointments involved in the shadow ministers scandal do not rest with the executive, but rather that the Prime Minister makes these recommendations to the GG in writing, which is a procedure bound by convention. .
And while the Governor-General attends many afternoon teas as part of his role, the incumbent also holds a number of reserve powerswhich are also not enshrined in the Constitution but instead fall under the authority of the Queen and are exercised in accordance with convention.
Thus, the extent of these powers is uncertain and subject to debate.
The GG can exercise these powers to appoint a prime minister in the event of a suspended parliament and to dismiss him if the lower house passes a motion of no confidence in his ability to govern.
The last time a scandal so prominently involved the Queen’s Representative was when GG Sir John Kerr sacked Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on November 11, 1975, following a coalition Senate in the summit refusing to pass a measure to fund parliament during a recess unless there is a snap election. has been called.
And the Morrison scandal has laid bare the underlying problems in our democracy, which continues to function as a constitutional monarchy, with the GG, as head of state, who is bound to follow the word of the Prime Minister, while exercising the power to dismiss them.
“Nothing will save the Governor General”
The Solicitor General’s assessment found that nothing illegal happened when Morrison asked the GG to secretly appoint him to administer five more portfolios, but the principle of responsible government implicit in the Constitution was violated by actions governed by the agreement.
Morrison has shown that conventions that have been in place for more than a century cannot be relied upon to maintain our system of government. Moreover, Hurley revealed that the Governor General’s office cannot be relied upon to stave off a crisis that is undermining our democracy.
The Albanian government has pledged to hold a referendum on the transformation of this nation into a republic and to sever these ultimate ties with British royalty, if elected for a second term, because it wants to prioritize giving the peoples First Nations a voice in parliament.
But can the current government achieve this goal by incorporating the First Peoples in a Constitution deemed deficient and still linked to the British Crown, while this voice will advise a Parliament which will ultimately be bound to follow it only by convention.
Albanese has launched an investigation into the scandal with former High Court judge Virginia Bell appointed to carry it out and report in November. It will investigate practices and policies applicable to “ministerial appointments and recommend any procedural or legislative changes”.
Yet this crisis of Australian democracy is far more important than the protocols governing ministerial appointments, and it highlights the rotting very foundations of one of the world’s largest multicultural nations, grappling with invasion and still tied to distant ties. Powerful.
The selfish bending of conventions by the last ruler of the country has revealed that this decadence has taken hold in the spaces between existing statutory laws and it signals the need for change far greater than a few band-aid provisions of a single cut. of legislation.