Scott Morrison’s various attempts to explain his multiple ministries left more questions than answers. Here, constitutional expert Professor Rosalind Dixon tries to explain the former prime minister’s possible motives.
Fear and Felt Need
One possibility is that Morrison genuinely feared what COVID might bring and the Cabinet’s ability to step up to the challenge of managing the pandemic.
Many of us experienced this feeling in February and March 2020. I certainly bought a lot (but a fair amount) of groceries, toilet paper, and even an industrial freezer to store groceries for my immunocompromised parents. To my colleague’s surprise, I started wearing his N95 mask in his February.
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This may also help explain Morrison’s first duplicate ministerial appointment, his decision to appoint a backup health minister in March 2020.
Morrison may not have had to make this promise. The ways in which a minister delegates authority to his colleagues in the event of illness or absenteeism are already well established. And this was clearly what should have happened in this case.
However, he may have really panicked and made this appointment in good faith. This was earlier this week I wrote a review article I have tried to credit the good faith of at least some of this version of events.
However, in most subsequent appointments, the timing and secrecy of Morrison’s multiple roles do not fit this account. may explain.
You don’t order emergency groceries and forget to tell people they’re designed to help.
And that doesn’t simply explain the actions he took in April and May 2021, benefiting from 12 months of pandemic management.
A more likely explanation is that Morrison sought these appointments because he had an erroneous view of how our constitutional system should work.
His statement at yesterday’s press conference was consistent with this view. He suggested that all aspects of pandemic management are ultimately accountable to the Australian people.
It may be politically correct. But legally it is not.
Our system of responsible government relies on the personal and collective responsibility of the members of the Cabinet, which collectively has a stake in the performance of the government and in maintaining the confidence of Congress and the public. Responsible.
So maybe Morrison simply spent a little too much time talking to other presidents and prime ministers with presidential tendencies.
Alone, Morrison’s relationship with the likes of Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe and Boris Johnson could have been good for Australia. But the downside is that some of their centralized, presidential tendencies may have influenced Morrison.
And that was before he spent time with former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump wasn’t just a president. He was the one who equated the power of public institutions with the power of individuals.
He made no distinction between the White House and Mar-a-Lago, classifying official documents and his own tax returns. Both were his personal enclaves. And it seems more likely that he got rid of the squirrels or shredded them both.
He also had no qualms about inciting violence against members of Congress and the Vice President to defend his position. Institutions didn’t matter, only his own personal brand.
Morrison was much more restrained and parent organization than this one.
However, he remained a strong individualist and had anti-institutional tendencies. He dismantled the Council of Governments of Australia (COAG) and favored a highly presidential form of national ‘cabinet’ or commission that eliminated many key ministers at the state and federal levels.
He has reduced the importance of institutions such as the Australian Public Service and independent bodies such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
And rather than insisting on independent agency responses and investigations and the importance of maintaining public trust in agencies such as the Attorney General, he is more concerned with the actions of cabinet ministers such as Alan Todge and Christian Porter. I thought it was enough just to accept the word.
Why that happened is anyone’s guess. Perhaps Morrison’s remarkable success in the 2019 election came to his mind as he grabbed victory off the jaws of defeat. Perhaps being a Pentecostalist, a religion that emphasizes individual charismatic authority, played a role.
Or maybe Morrison is something of a megalomaniac.
Lessons for the future
Whatever the explanation, Australian voters cannot accept Morrison’s attempts to justify his actions as necessary and appropriate.
They were unnecessary, secretive, and violated a fundamental commitment to responsible government and institutional checks and balances in a democracy.
And we need a consensus on that before we can move on. Because our system works well when these norms are followed, but otherwise it works very poorly.
Modest reforms should be adopted by Congress to require all ministries to be registered with the legislature, however temporarily.
But the biggest change we need is how we talk about Morrison’s actions.
And there is absolutely no good reason for them to be repeated.
Is it possible to understand Scott Morrison?
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