Former treasurer Josh Frydenberg breaks silence on Scott Morrison’s secret ministries ahead of inquiry report

Former prime minister Scott Morrison’s decision to secretly appoint himself to multiple portfolios during the COVID-19 pandemic has been labeled an “extreme overreach” and “profoundly disappointing” by former treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who has spoken about the saga for the first time.

His comments come as former High Court justice Virginia Bell prepares to hand down the findings of her three-month inquiry into the former prime minister’s secret ministries.

Speaking to veteran journalist Niki Savva for her upcoming book Bulldozed, Mr Frydenberg said he was “loyal to a fault” to Mr Morrison — a close confidant he briefly lived with at the Lodge during the pandemic — and there was no reason for him to take on the treasury portfolio.

Mr Frydenberg said he had spoken to Mr Morrison twice since the story broke and, while the former leader eventually conceded he would not take on the treasury portfolio if he had his time again, he still refused to apologise.

“It’s impossible properly to evaluate the decision-making during the pandemic without understanding the context in which decisions were made,” Mr Frydenberg told Savva in an extract published in today’s Nine newspapers.

“We faced a once-in-a-century pandemic, an evolving crisis laden with uncertainty as to what each day would bring. This meant we had to take and live with decisions on both the health and economic front that in normal times would never have been contemplated.

close up of side of Scott Morrison's face
Scott Morrison has maintained his actions were necessary in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.(ABC Alice Springs: Xavier Martin)

“That being said, I don’t think there was any reason for Scott to take on the additional treasury portfolio. The fact he did take it, and it was not made transparent to me and others, was wrong and profoundly disappointing.

“It was extreme overreach.”

Ex-frontbencher says cabinet would have demanded powers be revoked

Mr Frydenberg knew of Mr Morrison’s decision to take on the health portfolio at the start of the pandemic in 2020, but over the next 14 months the then-prime minister was secretly sworn into the finance, treasury, home affairs and industry, science, energy and resource portfolios.


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