Sleepless Scott Morrison was so worried during the Covid-19 pandemic that he suffered from insomnia and relied on drugs to sedate him into sleep.
As controversy erupts over his decision to secretly appoint himself to key portfolios during the pandemic, the revelations are contained in a new book Plagued that is based on extensive interviews with the former Prime Minister.
The drug regimen to tackle his insomnia, as outlined in the book, was said to include a “mild sedative” that is not referenced by brand name.
“He’d often wake up at 3am, wrestling with the scale of what was facing the country and his responsibilities in dealing with it,” the book says.
“He’d rouse in a fitful state and look at the ceiling for hours on end, saying to himself, ‘I have to sleep or I won’t get through this week.’
“More than once, so he could function the following day, he would take a mild sedative.
“He took half a sleeping pill to make sure he was fresh for the next day.”
‘What on earth is going on?’
However, it is the former prime minister’s secret arrangements regarding cabinet jobs that could now spark a full-blown inquiry.
The revelations that Mr Morrison swore himself in as the Health Minister and Finance Minister are revealed in the new book.
It states this was the idea of former Attorney-General Christian Porter.
However, Mr Porter has told colleagues he remembers the arrangements relating to Mr Hunt but does not recall any discussions involving Mr Cormann.
Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey said the secret arrangements were “bizarre” and “utterly inappropriate”.
“What on earth was going on, I don’t know, but the secrecy involved in this is just simply bizarre,” she told the ABC.
“I mean, you know, you just wonder what is wrong with these people that they have to do everything in secret and they can’t ‘fess up to what they’re doing.
“Because if they had done it and made it public, [it] probably would have been seen [as] pretty reasonable. But hiding it? That’s the weird thing.”
If Mr Morrison did swear himself into the Finance Minister he also never told Mr Cormann, the relevant Minister.
On Sunday, news.com.au revealed that Resources Minister Keith Pitt also discovered that the Prime Minister had secretly sworn himself into his portfolio too.
He also didn’t tell Industry Minister Angus Tayor he had control of his portfolio.
Peter Dutton was unaware of the secret arrangements involving the resources portfolio but did learn at some point that Mr Morrison was also sworn in as health Minister in case he got sick and couldn’t exercise the extraordinary pandemic powers he held to make decisions without parliamentary approval .
Governor-General defends role
Governor-General David Hurley has confirmed he appointed Scott Morrison to administer portfolios other than his own, insisting he was following “normal process and acting on the advice of the government of the day”.
“The Governor-General, following normal process and acting on the advice of the government of the day, appointed former prime minister Morrison to administer portfolios other than the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet,” a spokesman for the Governor-General’s official secretary said.
“The appointments were made consistently with section 64 of the Constitution.
“It is not uncommon for ministers to be appointed to administer departments other than their portfolio responsibility. These appointments do not require a wearing-in ceremony – the Governor-General signs an administrative instrument on the advice of the prime minister.
“Questions around appointments of this nature are a matter for the government of the day and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Similarly, the decision whether to publicize appointments to administer additional portfolios is a matter for the government of the day.”
Scott Morrison ‘doesn’t engage in day to day politics’
On Monday, Scott Morrison broke his silence on the secret ministry scandal to tell a Sky News journalist that he doesn’t “engage in day to day politics anymore”.
Offered a right of reply by Sky News host Kieran Gilbert today the former PM texted back that he didn’t have anything to say – yet.
“No, haven’t seen what he has said. Since leaving the job I haven’t engaged in any day to day politics,” he said.
The former Prime Minister is still collecting $211,250 as a backbench MP and recently skipped the first week of Parliament to travel overseas.
News.com.au has confirmed the Opposition leader Peter Dutton did become aware at some point of the arrangements involving the Health Minister Greg Hunt but did not know of the secret arrangements involving the Finance portfolio or resources.
In fact, even the Industry Minister Angus Taylor who was the senior Minister didn’t know that the Prime Minister was sworn into his own portfolio.
The former Resources Minister said he discovered the Prime Minister was secretly sworn into his portfolio at some juncture in 2021.
“There is no doubt it was unusual,” former resources Minister Keith Pitt told Sky News.
“I am not going to throw him under a bus, I am just not. It’s clearly something I was concerned about.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed he was seeking advice on the legality of Mr Morrison’s appointments.
“This is extraordinary and unprecedented,” he said.
“In Australia, we have a Westminster system of government that produces accountability. This is the sort of tin-pot activity that we would ridicule if it was in a non-democratic country.”
“Let’s be very clear – Australians knew during the election campaign that I was running a shadow ministry. What they didn’t know was that Scott Morrison was running a shadow government,” he said.
“This is very contrary to our Westminster system. It is unbecoming. It was cynical and it was just weird that this has occurred.”
The public was never told of the prime minister’s secret arrangement, and the reasons for that secrecy have not been explained.
‘A complete breakdown of the Westminster system’
Institute of Public Affairs senior fellow John Roskam said that the revelations about Scott Morrison’s ghost ministries demanded a full and frank independent inquiry.
“It is a complete breakdown of our Westminster system of government and is arguably unconstitutional,” said Morgan Begg, the Director of the Legal Rights Program at the Institute of Public Affairs.
“The extraordinary revelations leave Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with no choice but to establish an independent inquiry with powers to subpoena any relevant documents and to compel witnesses to appear.”
Plagued, by Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers, is out on Tuesday
Originally published as Former PM Scott Morrison was ‘sedated’ at night for his insomnia throughout pandemic