A former minister, Keith Pitt whose job Scott Morrison took on has confessed he knew about this secret more than a year ago.
Mr Morrison, as the former Liberal prime minister, in 2020 and 2021 had Governor-General David Hurley swear him into five different portfolios: health, finance, resources, home affairs and treasury, and kept it secret from Australians.
Keith Pitt, the former resources minister, has admitted he knew about the unorthodox arrangements that had begun in April 2021 and had discussed this with Michael McCormack, who was then Nationals deputy prime minister.
‘I had a discussion with Michael McCormack as leader of the Nationals as you would expect I would,’ he told the ABC’s Q&A program on Thursday night.
‘I had a particular view that Michael was the leader, he was responsible for the agreement between our two parties.’
Scroll down for video
Keith Pitt, the former resources minister, has confirmed he knew about the unorthodox arrangements that had begun in April 2021 and had discussed this with Michael McCormack, who was then Nationals deputy prime minister
Stan Grant tells minister his explanation ‘doesn’t make sense’
Mr Pitt, a regional Queenslander from the Nationals, had been reluctant to rescind a gas exploration permit stretching from Sydney to Newcastle – known as PEP 11.
HEALTH: March 14, 2020
FINANCE: March 30, 2020
INDUSTRY, SCIENCE, ENERGY AND RESOURCES: April 15, 2021
HOME AFFAIRS: May 6, 2021
TREASURY: May 6, 2021
Source: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
But after Mr Morrison was also sworn in as resources minister, the unpopular gas drilling project was overturned by the former PM in December 2021, with an election due by May.
Mr Morrison holds the coastal southern Sydney seat of Cook taking in beachside Cronulla.
At the time the drilling exploration project cancellation was announced, the Liberal Party held the Sydney and Central Coast beach electorates of Wentworth, Mackellar and Robertson, which were all lost at the May election to teal independents or Labor.
Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews has this week called on Mr Morrison to quit Parliament while former treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who lost his Melbourne seat of Kooyong, is reportedly furious.
Former health minister Greg Hunt, whose portfolio Mr Morrison secretly signed himself into in March 2020 at the start of the Covid pandemic, was thought to be the only minister who knew about the former PM’s unusual arrangements.
But Mr Pitt’s recollections now show other ministers knew about the bizarre constitutional arrangements.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison (left) had Governor-General David Hurley (right) swear him into five different portfolios: health, finance, resources, home affairs and treasury
‘If I recall correctly, I think Michael may well have been at one of those meetings,’ he said.
‘It may have occurred in a meeting that Michael was at with all of us, including the PM and his representatives or it may have been a separate discussion – I’m working my way through what is a very complex diary.’
Q&A host Stan Grant asked the audience at Penrith, in Sydney’s west, if the revelations made sense to them – evoking a collective shake of heads.
‘Does this make sense to you?’
Grant was perplexed at why Mr Pitt kept the secret for so long.
‘I just don’t understand what you’re saying here, Keith,’ he said.
‘You were aware that Scott Morrison, some time in 2021, you became aware that Scott Morrison had sworn himself into your portfolio.
‘The public didn’t know this, by the way, and you told Michael McCormack, “Hey, Scott Morrison has now sworn himself in to my portfolios”.’
Despite the worst of the pandemic easing by early 2021, that year Scott Morrison took on the resources portfolio on April 15 that year followed by home affairs and treasury on May 6
Mr Morrison was sworn into the health portfolio on March 14, 2020 during the start of the Covid pandemic.
He took on the finance portfolio two weeks later on March 30, 2020.
Despite the worst of the pandemic easing by early 2021, that year he took on the resources portfolio on April 15 that year followed by home affairs and treasury on May 6.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese this week ordered his department to release those details to the public, and has asked Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue to investigate.