Scott Morrison has apologised to former home affairs minister Karen Andrews for secretly taking over her portfolio – after initially skipping her in a round of phone calls to Coalition colleagues.
Ms Andrews, who has called for Mr Morrison to quit parliament amid the scandal of his secret adoption of five further frontbench roles, confirmed on Thursday the former PM had phoned her.
It came after she told Sky News that Mr Morrison had not spoken to her, despite directly contacting former MP Josh Frydenberg and former senator Mathias Cormann to apologise to them directly.
Confirmation from Ms Andrews’ team, as reported by the ABC, came after Opposition Leader Peter Dutton told Mr Morrison to pick up the phone and call her.
Ms Andrews this week called on him to quit parliament, labelling the power grab “disgraceful”.
On Thursday, she said she had accepted Mr Morrison’s broader apology to colleagues and wanted to move on.
“I can assure you I have not changed my view … [but] we’ve had the line drawn in the sand by Peter Dutton, he’s made it clear that would not happen if he were to be elected as prime minister,” she said.
But there is more strife for Mr Morrison. Another former cabinet colleague, Bridget McKenzie, accused him of breaching the Liberal-National Coalition agreement with his secret takeover of the health, treasury, finance, home affairs and resources ministries.
Senator McKenzie said the actions showed “complete disrespect” for her party, the Nationals.
“Our coalition arrangements are a negotiated outcome and they include a ratio of cabinet portfolios in a Coalition government,” she told ABC Radio National on Thursday.
“By essentially removing the authority of one of those ministers and giving it to a Liberal minister … [he] breached the Coalition agreement.
“It showed complete disrespect for the second party of government … the National Party would not have agreed with having one of its ministers removed.”
Ms Andrews was the first Liberal to call for the former prime minister to resign from parliament, after he addressed the media on Wednesday saying he took over the five portfolios in secret in the national interest.
She said she had no problem with contingencies, but did not understand the need for secrecy.
“Transparency is incredibly important,” she said.
“If you put in place contingencies, that’s a good thing … but they needed to be done in a matter of good governance.”
Mr Dutton said he would have told his former leader it was “inappropriate for him to be assuming these powers” had he been consulted at the time.
“Most people want to move on and start dealing with issues that are more important, the rising cost of living,” he said.
“He’s apologised for it, he’s no longer occupying the office and there’s not much more you can continue to trail over it.”
Meanwhile, Governor-General David Hurley has revealed he had “no reason to believe” Mr Morrison would not make the appointments public knowledge.
Mr Morrison on Wednesday said he kept the roles confidential as he did not want to “undermine the confidence of ministers in the performance of their duties”.
He said he understood that some of his former colleagues were offended at the clandestine takeover of their portfolios.
“I understand that and I have apologised to them,” he said.
“But equally, as Prime Minister, only I could really understand the weight of responsibility that was on my shoulders. I took the decisions that I thought I needed to take.”
Mr Morrison said not reveal he was yet to apologise to Ms Andrews. He described his apology phone call with Mr Frydenberg as “wonderful”.
“I have had a wonderful conversation with Josh. We had one yesterday and we are the best of friends,’’ Mr Morrison said.
He also said he used his extra powers ministerial powers only once, to block a gas drilling project off the NSW coast.
That decision, made in 2021, is the subject of a Federal Court appeal.
Nationals MP Keith Pitt held the resources portfolio at the time.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is seeking advice from the solicitor-general on whether his predecessor’s actions have legal implications.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said her office is checking for any other decisions that could have been made by Mr Morrison.