17 March 2023

Morrison appointed one of his MP mates to administer Home Affairs, without telling the minister

| Chris Johnson
Join the conversation
Ben Morton

Ben Morton’s responsibilities grew as the pandemic raged. Photo: Wiki.

A junior minister responsible for the public service in the former Coalition government was appointed to ‘administer’ the Home Affairs department on the very day a new minister was sworn into office.

On 30 March 2021, Scott Morrison got his right-wing mate Ben Morton, then assistant minister for the public service, appointed by Governor-General David Hurley to administer the Home Affairs Department.

There was no swearing-in ceremony for Mr Morton’s additional role, but Karen Andrews was sworn in that same day as the Home Affairs minister, replacing Peter Dutton who was promoted to defence minister.

It is understood that neither Ms Andrews nor Mr Dutton was aware of Mr Morton’s additional role, even though the Governor-General’s office subsequently noted the appointment in the government gazette.

Heavily redacted documents released under freedom of information laws on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website reveal correspondence between the department and the G-G’s official secretary Paul Singer on 11 March 2021.

“The PM has asked Assistant Minister Morton to have oversight of the Global Talents Taskforce, located in the Department of Home Affairs,” the PM&C officer wrote.

“This would require Mr Morton being sworn to administer the Dept of Home Affairs.”

Mr Singer replied the next day saying that it would be fine.

READ ALSO Deep-diving the ‘momentous’, ‘eye-wateringly expensive’ AUKUS submarine deal

But on 30 March, Mr Morrison wrote to the Governor-General to advise that Mr Morton did not need to be sworn in to take up his new responsibilities.

“As these changes are of an administrative nature only, Mr Morton … will not be participating in the swearing-in ceremony,” Mr Morrison wrote.

Another MP, whose name was redacted from the documents released, was appointed to administer another (redacted) department on the same day.

However, part of the unredacted correspondence suggests that the other MP could be former Coalition Minister Michelle Landry.

“This will be fine, happy to resolve the administrative arrangements for both Ministers Morton and Landry in the same correspondence,” Mr Singer wrote.

READ ALSO PwC under fire as Greens call for harsher penalties against rule-breaking consultancy firms

PM&C delivered the then prime minister a briefing stating documents had been produced to enable Morton to “administer the Global Business and Talent Attraction Taskforce within the Department of Home Affairs, which you have previously agreed on 9 March 2021”.

In October of that same year, Mr Morton was sworn in as public service minister and special minister of state.

But his March appointment to administer Home Affairs came just two months before Mr Morrison secretly had himself sworn in as another minister for the same department.

Mr Morton has not commented on the matter.

The former prime minister was censured in parliament in November last year – the first former PM to ever be censured – for secretly appointing himself as an additional minister to the Treasury, Home Affairs, Finance, Industry and Health departments between 2020 and 2021.

Morrison’s self-appointments were not publicly known until 13 August last year, following the May federal election.

While Mr Morrison’s defence was that Australia was navigating unusual times through the pandemic, requiring unusual governance steps, the newly elected Prime Minister Anthony Albanese launched an investigation into the matter.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I can not hold back my hatred for the Liberal party! Thank you for actually reporting something that reeks of corruption by the Liberals. True, it is old news, @ L Angers, but this needs to be kept circulating for all time… We all have short memories and the Liberal parties (federal and state) rely on that!

Yawn. So yesterday

Capital Retro3:40 pm 19 Mar 23

Albanese’s pre-election commitment not to make Kevin Rudd US Ambassador and then doing it is conveniently overlooked by all the Morrison haters on this thread.

Rudd will end up bringing this Labor government down.

No, CapitalRetro, not overlooked – a) It wasn’t a pre-election commitment and b) Not a big deal
And as for “Rudd will end up bringing this Labor government down” … where do you come up with these things? I hope whatever you are on is covered by PBS.

If Rudd suceeds, it sounds like you think that’s a win CR. So, maybe not a bad decision by federal Labor, if you are still holding out hope for a return of rich, entitled, private school boy liberal party “antics”.

Is it only me or can anyone else see the similarity in looks between Scott Morrison and Ben Morton? Could they have been separated at birth? Tell me I’m dreamin!

You’re dreamin’!! Nah, I’m with you Jack.

Capital Retro12:32 pm 17 Mar 23

The McGowan government appointed former Morrison government minister Ben Morton to another public role.

In October 2022 Morton was appointed as commissioner of the Insurance Commission of WA for a three-year term and later he was appointed as a board member of the Southern Ports Authority.

Hardly a “right-winger”.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.