Morrison to face rare parliamentary action

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A Labor bid to censure former prime minister Scott Morrison over his decision to secretly appoint himself to additional ministerial portfolios is "payback", the Liberals say. 


Leader of the House Tony Burke is expected to move the motion in parliament on Wednesday, during the final sitting week of the year. 

Censure motions do not have any legal consequences, but they are rare and give parliamentarians the chance to formally note disapproval with their colleagues.

Coalition MPs won't support the motion, labelling it a "political stunt" by the Labor government.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the censure motion was political revenge by the prime minister.

"A Labor government should in fact be using the time that we have left in parliament to deal with the real problems that are facing Australians, like the cost of living and energy prices," he told a coalition party room meeting on Tuesday.

"Instead, they've chosen to use the time for political stunts and payback - so much for a kinder, gentler parliament."

Mr Morrison spoke briefly at the party room meeting, thanking coalition members for their support since the inquiry report was released and since his election loss.

Tasmanian Liberal MP Bridget Archer plans to speak and vote in favour of the censure motion.

"These actions of the former prime minister are intrinsically linked to lessons we need to learn if we are going to move forward ... if we are able to get out from the shadow of that time and reset," she told the ABC.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Bell report into Mr Morrison's conduct was "devastating" for the coalition.

"We can never go back to the chaos and dysfunction of the previous government," he told a party room meeting.

Mr Morrison's conduct was criticised by key factional ally Alex Hawke, with the Nine newspapers reporting he described the former prime minister as addicted to power.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Hawke said he only had the highest regard for Mr Morrison and criticised the upcoming censure motion.

"The pointless and unnecessary political manoeuvring of the Australian Labor Party in proposing to censure a former prime minister ... is wrong," he said.

"I have caught up with Scott Morrison and like every day, look forward to joining him in parliament and, in particular, supporting him against the Labor Party's divisive political tactics."

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said it was important for parliament to show its disapproval of Mr Morrison's conduct.

"These are the actions of a prime minister who had himself appointed to some five ministries and kept it secret from the parliament," he told Nine's Today program.

"It's a very serious attack on our democracy, and we can't let it go unmarked."

The last MP to be censured was Liberal MP Bruce Billson in 2018 for not declaring payments while he was still in parliament.

Mr Dreyfus said what Mr Morrison did was a breach of democratic principles.

"(Being) censured by the parliament is a very, very unusual step, and I think that in itself is a very serious punishment," he said.

Nationals leader David Littleproud said while he did not support Mr Morrison's secretive ministries, a censure was not necessary.

"What the parliament should be focused on is the reform that that report said we should take up as a parliament and we should do that in a bipartisan way," he told ABC TV.

"But what we should do is focus on Australians and focus on the cost-of-living pressures they're facing at the moment." 

Cabinet has agreed to implement all six recommendations from former High Court judge Virginia Bell's report into Mr Morrison's conduct, to improve the transparency of ministerial appointments.

Mr Albanese said the government would introduce proposals for new laws to implement the recommendations from the report later this week.

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