Australia

Scott Morrison condemns Government ‘retribution’ as censure motion gets underway

Scott Morrison has accused Labor of “political intimidation” and “retribution” as he edges closer to being censured by parliament over his secret ministries takeover.
Labor is moving a censure motion against Mr Morrison in the lower house, after a former chief justice found he had undermined trust in democracy by covertly assuming control of five cabinet posts.
Responding on Wednesday morning, the former prime minister launched an impassioned defence of his record in government.
“I am proud [that] at a time of extreme trial, my government stood up and faced the abyss of uncertainty that our country looked into, the coercion of a regional bully, and saw Australia through the storm,” he said.

“I have no intention now of submitting to the political intimidation of this government, using its numbers in this place to impose its retribution on a political opponent.”

Mr Morrison flatly denied he had been sworn-in as minister in the five portfolios, saying he had simply been granted authority to administer them.
He insisted Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic had saved more than 30,000 lives.
“During this period, we were fighting for our very survival, from a public health, economic, and national security perspective,” he said.
“As prime minister, I sought to exercise my responsibility during this extremely difficult period in a manner that would best advance and protect Australia’s national interest in the welfare of the Australian people.
“That is what I had pledged to do.”
Labor’s censure motion, a symbolic move, is all but certain to succeed given it controls a majority in the chamber.

Introducing it on Wednesday morning, Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said no MP believed Mr Morrison’s actions had met the standards of the House.

“Today is not how any of us wanted to make history,” he said.
“[But] This is not some small matter. It goes to the absolute core of the principle of responsible government.”
Mr Burke warned question time had been unable to function without transparency, insisting “every single threshold” previously needed to censure MPs had been met in this case. 
“The gravity of what we are dealing with today is a censure motion beyond what the parliament has previously dealt with,” he said.

“On this occasion, the conduct of one member prevented the house from doing its job … The fact that that one member was also the prime minister of Australia means that what we are dealing with now isn’t just unprecedented … but [it] is so completely acceptable.”

The Coalition is throwing its support behind its former leader, and will vote against a motion it describes as a “political stunt”.
Mr Morrison has consistently defended his actions, which he claims were necessary as Australia grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A report by former Chief Justice Virginia Bell into the saga, released last Friday, found Mr Morrison undermined public trust in democracy and enabled a “culture of secrecy and cover-up”.
This is a developing story and this article will be updated.
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