Scott Morrison has slammed the historic censure motion over his secret ministries deception as political payback as he issued a qualified apology for anyone who was “offended.”
The former prime minister said he now conceded his decision to secretly seize five portfolios without telling his cabinet, his treasurer, his party room, the Parliament or the public was “unnecessary.”
Liberal leader Peter Dutton opposed the motion but Liberal MP Bridget Archer has signalled she will cross the floor and vote with Labor.
After listening to Mr Morrison’s speech as a show of support the Coalition MPs staged a mass walkout while other MPs spoke on the motion.
But while multiple MPs hugged and supported Mr Morrison, his successor Peter Dutton did not.
Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer remained in her chair, as she prepared to cross the floor as the lone Liberal MP to vote with Labor on the censure motion.
The Victorian MP Keith Wolahan (Menzies) also remained in the chamber but told news.com.au he was not planning to vote for the censure motion.
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Fired-up Scott Morrison responds to censure motion
During his speech, Mr Morrison defended his government’s record during the pandemic.
However, he did not address what the pandemic had to do with secretly appointing himself to the resources portfolio to stop a gas project.
The Bell report found that the first two secret appointments – health and finance “were unnecessary, and a further three appointments had nothing to do with the pandemic at all.
“No nation, no leader had a perfect record,” Mr Morrison said.
“I now concede with the benefit of hindsight these decisions were unnecessary,” he said.
Bizarrely, he claimed the decision not to tell Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was an oversight insisting he believed his office had told him.
On the day he secretly appointed himself, he spent hours in meetings with Mr Cormann.
“None of us can claim to be infallible,” he said.
Mr Morrison also said if any journalists had asked him about the secret arrangements he didn’t tell his own cabinet about, he would have told the truth.
“Had I been asked about these matters at the time at numerous press conferences I held, I would have responded truthfully,” he said.
Mr Morrison thanked his wife Jenny and his two daughters.
“Mr Speaker, I have seen bitterness destroy people who have come to this place, and it continues to gnaw away at them each and every day of their lives for even decades after they leave this place,” he said.
“I am not one of those. Nor will I ever be. I am proud of the many achievements that I have been able to accomplish in this place, especially as prime minister, and I am very grateful for the opportunities and to thank and to all of those I worked with to achieve them.
“I gave it everything I had.”
Mr Morrison was mobbed by MPs shaking his hands and hugging him after his speech, including deputy leader Sussan Ley and former deputy prime minister Michael McCormack.
Anthony Albanese and Liberal MP Bridget Archer speak
The lone Liberal MP to support the motion Bridget Archer said what had occurred was an affront to democracy.
“I do not accept any of the explanations put forward by the former prime minister,” she said.
“To sit quietly now would be hypocritical
Ms Archer said she was “deeply disappointed for the lack of apology or more importantly, the lack of understanding of the impact of the decisions.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese entered the chamber to speak on the motion shortly before 11am.
“This was an abuse of power and a trashing of our democracy,” Mr Albanese said.
“The fact is that our democracy is precious. There’s no room for complacency.”
Mr Albanese said he had come to Parliament today not sure if he would speak but had to respond to Mr Morrison’s claim he had “privately” apologised to colleagues.
“It’s not about Josh Frydenberg,” he said.
Mr Albanese said the Prime Minister was responsible to voters.
“All this unctuousness and self-congratulation [from Morrison] should be dismissed,” he said.
Mr Albanese said there was a collective responsibility in the Liberal Party to right the wrongs of the deception.
“People had a responsibility to act. They didn’t,” Mr Albanese said.
“It was a slippery slope.”
Mr Albanese said it was preposterous to expect the media to ask him questions about a secret power grab his own cabinet were never told about.
He came up with a different explanation today. If only he was asked!,” he said.
“To blame the media and everyone else. Why didn’t we come in here and ask if he’d been sworn in as Treasurer or Finance Minister?
“What’s your day job? It’s just beyond comprehension that this Parliament should be as a whole standing up and voting for this motion.
“I thought this morning we would see some contrition. We got none of that. We got hubris. We got denial.”
‘Not how any of us wanted to make history’
“Today is not how any of us wanted to make history,” Leader of Government in the House Tony Burke said earlier.
“A censure, while rare, has its place.”
The Liberal Party will oppose the motion forcing MPs to effectively endorse Mr Morrison’s deception.
“His cabinet was not told, his department secretaries were not told, the parliament was not told,” Mr Burke said.
Mr Morrison sat alone, tapping with a finger on his iPad during Mr Burke’s address.
In response, Scott Morrison stood to his feet to hit back at his critics and defend his conduct.
“I am proud of my government,” he said
Mr Morrison said Australia had “stared into the abyss” and stood up to a regional bully during the Covid pandemic – a clear reference to China.
“I have no intention now, Mr Speaker, of submitting to the political intimidation of this government, using its numbers to impose retribution on a political opponent,” he said.
But Mr Burke insisted there was no choice but to censure Mr Morrison.
“It is true that what happened here was the end of a long process of enabling where convention were attacks, one after another,” Mr Burke said.
“This place runs on rules and conventions. The concept the parliament knows who has which job is essential to responsible government.
“The gravity of what we are dealing with is a censure motion beyond what parliament has previously dealt with.
“The fact that the one member was also prime minister means that what we are dealing with isn’t just unprecedented … it is completely unacceptable.”
“We have no choice but to support a censure.”
“Mr Speaker, I acknowledge that the nondisclosure of arrangements has caused unintentional offence and extend an apology,” he said.
“I do not apologise for taking action…acting in a national crisis to in order to save lives.”
The motion censures Mr Morrison, the member for Cook, for “failing to disclose his appointments to the House of Representatives, the Australian people and the cabinet, which undermined responsible government and eroded public trust in Australia’s democracy”.
If the vote is successful as expected, Mr Morrison will be the first former prime minister to face being censured.
Story Credit: news.com.au