Scott Morrison called ‘pathetic’ for sharing memes about ministry power grab

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Scott Morrison has been branded ‘pathetic’ for joking about the power grab scandal that saw him secretly take on five ministerial roles during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The former Prime Minister on his Facebook page, said he was enjoying the jokes about his multiple jobs and posted a meme where he pasted himself in as part of comedy troupe Sooshi Mango.

Though Sooshi Mango joked back that they were appointing themselves as ‘Minister of the Australian Tax Office’, hundreds of others were not at all amused and showed their anger. 

‘Clearly you have no clue,’ one outraged commenter wrote.

‘This is pathetic and shows your clear disregard and disrespect for the Australian people. This is not funny.’

Comedy troupe Sooshi Mango were in on Scott Morrison’s meme featuring them (pictured), but hundreds of others were not amused 

‘You think the running of this country is a joke. Have some humility and say you made a mistake. We don’t need US-style gloating about how badly you behaved in office,’ another said.

Some commenters got very personal in their condemnation of the embattled PM. 

‘Is this your tactic? Trying to laugh off the seriousness of what you have done? You repulsive little man,’ another wrote.

Mr Morrison, who is refusing to resign from Parliament over the revelations of his secret power grab, was also called out for ‘arrogance’.

‘So instead of taking responsibility for abusing your power as prime minister, you decide to make a joke about it,’ one person wrote. 

Another said: ‘This simply shows a lack of accountability and arrogance in a serious situation.’

Mr Morrison’s unusual response to what has become a rolling crisis for the Liberal-National opposition started earlier on Thursday when he joked about taking up a new role as a tree lopper after facing a mountain of criticism for being the ‘minister for everything’.

From March 14, 2020, to May 6, 2021, Mr Morrison with the help of Governor-General David Hurley and the then Attorney General Christian Porter, swore himself in for five ministerial roles.

Those positions were the Minister of Health, Minister of Finance, Minister of Resources, Home Affairs Minister and Treasurer. 

Former prime minister Scott Morrison said he liked a meme (pictured) of him being the coach of the Cronulla Sharks

Former prime minister Scott Morrison said he liked a meme (pictured) of him being the coach of the Cronulla Sharks

Melbourne-based Jefford Tree Services joined in on the pile-on, sharing a photo to their Facebook page on Thursday of an arborist working on a tree photoshopped to have Mr Morrison’s face.

‘WHAT! LOOK WHO JOINED THE TEAM!’ the company wrote.

‘Scott Morrison (ScoMo) just added Lead Climbing Arborist to his portfolio and started working for us without telling anyone!

‘Great to have you on board Scomo!’ 

Mr Morrison himself commented on the photo and chose to embrace the mockery.

‘I’ll let you know if I need any work done. What time do you need me for my first shift?’ he wrote.

Melbourne-based Jefford Tree Services joked Scott Morrison was now working as an arborist for their company

Melbourne-based Jefford Tree Services joked Scott Morrison was now working as an arborist for their company

The former prime minister joined in on the joke, asking what time his first shift started

The former prime minister joined in on the joke, asking what time his first shift started

Mr Morrison wrote on Facebook that ‘It’s been fun joining in on all the memes. But there are so many now I can’t keep up. As Aussies we can always have a chuckle at ourselves.’

Some of the commenters agreed with him that it was all just a laugh.  

‘Good on you for being a good sport! At least we can all have a good laugh in these times of madness! Don’t let the lunatics get to you,’ one person said.

‘Good to see ScoMo handling this in the best way, with humour. Well done, no harm no foul, play on,’ another wrote.

Scott Morrison posted on his Facebook page (pictured) that Australians like to 'have a chuckle at ourselves'

Scott Morrison posted on his Facebook page (pictured) that Australians like to ‘have a chuckle at ourselves’

Mr Morrison has insisted that he acted ‘in good faith’ throughout the Covid pandemic and was doing what he thought was best for the nation.

But his critics have accused him of having a power trip and deceiving the Australian public – as well as parliamentary colleagues – by secretly taking on the extra ministerial portfolios.

Commentators across the political spectrum believe the saga has crushed his reputation.

The former prime minister was grilled this week after it emerged he secretly gave himself the powers to act as the minister for health, finance, resources, home affairs and as treasurer in 2020 and 2021

The former prime minister was grilled this week after it emerged he secretly gave himself the powers to act as the minister for health, finance, resources, home affairs and as treasurer in 2020 and 2021

‘This will damage Scott Morrison’s legacy,’ said seasoned political commentator Paul Kelly of The Australian.

‘The whole thing is weird and just unnecessary… Scott Morrison can’t provide a persuasive argument as to why he did it. 

‘All other ministers can conclude is Scott Morrison had a lack of confidence and trust in them.’  

Mr Morrison insisted on Wednesday that Australians wouldn’t understand his power grab because they had never been prime minister.

He argued he was not acting like a dictator because he was democratically elected.

During his press conference in Sydney, he was asked why he had deceived Australians and his closest colleagues who were not told they were sharing their jobs with their boss.

‘I don’t share that view,’ he replied calmly. ‘The powers were established as an emergency power.’

Mr Morrison asked for privacy for his family after camera crews parked outside his south Sydney home on Tuesday

Mr Morrison asked for privacy for his family after camera crews parked outside his south Sydney home on Tuesday

He denied acting like a dictator, saying: ‘The powers were put in place by an elected prime minister in accordance with the laws and constitution of this country.’ 

Mr Morrison – who said he was not paid extra for the secret roles – also asked for privacy for his family after camera crews parked outside his south Sydney home on Tuesday. 

‘Members of my family have nothing to do with this,’ he said.

‘I would ask that you not invade the privacy of my family. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request.’ 

Mr Morrison said the fact that neither ex-treasurer Josh Frydenberg nor ex-home affairs minister Karen Andrews knew he was sharing their portfolios was ‘proof’ that he did not intervene in those areas. 

‘The non-exercising of these powers proves that they were handled responsibly, that they were not abused, that they were there in a reserve capacity to ensure the prime minister could act if that was necessary,’ he said. 

Mr Morrison did not give any examples of situations where he would need to use the powers, saying they allowed him to make a quick decision in ‘extreme situations that would be unforeseen’.

He said he kept his moves secret from his ministers so as not to distract them from doing their jobs.

‘I didn’t disclose it to them because I didn’t think it was for the best operation of the government during a crisis,’ he said.

‘I think there was a great risk that in the midst of that crisis those powers could be misinterpreted and misunderstood, which would have caused unnecessary angst.’ 

Despite refusing to resign as the MP for Cook, Mr Morrison has set up a new company called Triginta Pty Ltd and appointed himself director. Triginta means 30 in Latin and Mr Morrison was the 30th Prime Minister. 

SCOTT MORRISON STATEMENT ON MINISTRY PORTFOLIO SCANDAL

The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated recession required an unprecedented policy response from our government.

These were extraordinary times and they required extraordinary measures to respond. Our government’s overriding objective was to save lives and livelihoods, which we achieved. To achieve this we needed to ensure continuity of government and robust administrative arrangements to deal with the unexpected in what was a period of constant uncertainty during the nation’s biggest crisis outside of wartime.

Information and advice changed daily and even hourly. Meetings with ministers, officials and advisers were constant, as was liaison with industry and other stakeholders as we were dealing with everything from supply chain shocks to business closures, the overwhelming of the social security and hospital system and the sourcing of critical medical supplies and workforce. The prospect of civil disruption, extensive fatalities and economic collapse was real, especially in the early stages, which was occurring in other parts of the world.

The risk of ministers becoming incapacitated, sick, hospitalised, incapable of doing their work at a critical hour or even fatality was very real. The Home Affairs Minister was struck down with COVID-19 early in the pandemic and the UK Prime Minister was on a ventilator and facing the very real prospect of dying of COVID-19.

The parliament was suspended from sitting for a time and cabinet and others meetings were unable to be held face to face, as occurred with businesses and the public more generally.

As prime minister I considered it necessary to put in place safeguards, redundancies and contingencies to ensure the continuity and effective operation of government during this crisis period, which extended for the full period of my term.

To ensure oversight, the government, with the support of the opposition, established a concurrent public Senate inquiry into the management of COVID that effectively ran for the duration of my term as prime minister.

In addition I took the precaution of being given authority to administer various departments of state should the need arise due to incapacity of a minister or in the national interest. This was done in relation to departments where ministers were vested with specific powers under their legislation that were not subject to oversight by cabinet, including significant financial authorities.

Given the significant nature of many of these powers I considered this to be a prudent and responsible action as prime minister.

It is not uncommon for multiple ministers to be sworn to administer the same department. However, given that such additional ministers were in a more junior position in the relevant departments, and would not be familiar with all the details of the pandemic response, I considered it appropriate that the redundancy be put in place at a higher level within the government and not at a more junior level.

The major department for which this was considered was the Health Department, given the extensive powers afforded to the minister by the Biosecurity Act. This was put in place on March 14, 2020. The Department of Finance was added on March 30, 2020.

As an added administrative precaution, as a ‘belts and braces’ approach, the Departments of Treasury and Home Affairs were added some time after in May 2021. I did not consider it was likely that it would be necessary to exercise powers in these areas, but the future was very difficult to predict during the pandemic. As events demonstrated with the resurgence of COVID-19 in the second half of 2021, we could never take certainty for granted. In hindsight these arrangements were unnecessary and until seeking advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet today, I had not recollected these arrangements having been put in place. There was a lot going on at the time.

Thankfully it was not necessary for me to trigger use of any of these powers. In the event that I would have to use such powers I would have done so disclosing the authority by which I was making such decisions. The authority was pre approved to ensure there would be no delay in being able to make decisions or take actions should the need arise.

The crisis was a highly dynamic environment and it was important to plan ahead and take what precautions could lawfully be put in place to ensure I could act, as prime minister, if needed.

It is important to note that throughout this time ministers in all departments, where I was provided with authority to act, exercised full control of their departments and portfolios without intervention. Ministerial briefs were not copied to me as prime minister in a co-minister capacity, as this was not the nature of the arrangement. These arrangements were there as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ safeguard. I also did not wish ministers to be second guessing themselves or for there to be the appearance to be a right of appeal or any diminishing of their authority to exercise their responsibilities, as this was not the intention of putting these arrangements in place. I simply wanted them to get on with their job, which they did admirably and I am grateful for their service.

The decision in relation to the Department of Industry, Energy and Resources was undertaken in April 2021 for separate reasons. This was the consequence of my decision to consider the issues of the PEP11 license directly. Under the legislation the decision is not taken by cabinet, but unilaterally by a minister with authority to administer that department. I sought and was provided with the authority to administer matters in relation to this department and considered this issue observing all the necessary advice and issues pertaining to the matter before making a decision, without prejudice, which I announced publicly. Once having been given the authority to consider this matter I advised the minister of my intention to do so and proceeded to consider the matter. I retained full confidence in Minister Pitt who I was pleased to have serve in my ministry. I believe I made the right decision in the national interest. This was the only matter I involved myself directly with in this or any other department.

The use of the powers by a prime minister to exercise authority to administer departments has clearly caused concern. I regret this, but acted in good faith in a crisis.

I used such powers on one occasion only. I did not seek to interfere with ministers in the conduct of their portfolio as there were no circumstances that warranted their use, except in the case of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources which I have explained.

The pandemic has been a difficult time for Australia, although we have performed better than almost any other developed country in the world. There is no guide book in these circumstances and there is much commentary that will be offered in hindsight from the comfort of relatively calmer conditions. It is not surprising that some of this commentary will have a partisan or other motive, but that’s politics. In a democracy it is a positive thing for these issues to be discussed and for experience to inform future decisions and I hope my statement will help inform that process.

I have endeavoured to set out the context and reasoning for the decisions I took as prime minister in a highly unusual time. I did so in good faith, seeking to exercise my responsibilities as prime minister which exceeded those of any other member of the government, or parliament. For any offence to my colleagues I apologise. I led an outstanding team who did an excellent job and provided me great service and loyalty as ministers.

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