Inside confrontation that saw Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg clash over ministerial ‘power grab’
Josh Frydenberg has heavily criticized Scott Morrison for the ministerial power grab that saw the then Prime Minister secretly appoint himself to five additional portfolios.
When the case came to light in August, the ex-treasurer took the fight, telling the former prime minister, “You wouldn’t do it again if you had time to spare.”
He was shocked by the three-word reply, with Mr. Morrison reportedly replying simply, “Yes, I would.”
One of the portfolios to which Mr. Morrison appointed himself was Treasurer, but he neglected to tell Mr. Frydenberg, who was not only the de facto Treasurer at the time, that he also lived with the Prime Minister at The Lodge.
“I don’t think there was any reason for Scott to take on the additional Treasury portfolio,” Frydenberg told journalist Niki Savva for her new book Bulldozed.
“The fact that he did take it and it wasn’t made transparent to me and others was wrong and very disappointing. It was extremely exaggerated,” he said, adding that their relationship was damaged by Mr Morrison’s cheating.
Josh Frydenberg (pictured with his wife Amie) said it was ‘wrong and very disappointing’ for Scott Morrison to secretly appoint himself as treasurer when Mr Frydenberg already held the role
Between March 14, 2020 and May 6, 2021, Mr. Morrison, with the assistance of Governor General David Hurley and then Attorney General Christian Porter, also sworn himself in as Secretary of Health, Finance, Resources and Home Affairs.
When the undisclosed multi-portfolio appointments were revealed in August, Mr Morrison said they were needed due to the Covid pandemic.
Mr Morrison tried to contact his close friend after the story broke, but Mr Frydenberg – who lost his seat in the federal election in May – did not answer the first few attempts to call, because he did not trust what he would say.
When he finally answered a call, he said he can’t remember getting an apology.
In an excerpt published by Nine newspapers, from her book Savva wrote that ‘Frydenberg wavered’.
When asked why he did it, Morrison had no coherent explanation other than to say, “No one understands what it was like” — a theme he would later repeat at his press conference, where he also insisted that he and the Lord Frydenberg remained ‘the best of friends.’
Mr Frydenberg told Savva, whose book is due out December 1, that he still considered Mr Morrison a friend, but answered ‘yes’ when asked if the relationship had been damaged by Mr Morrison’s power grab.
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison is pictured on the opposition benches at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday 7 November 2022
Bulldozed also reveals that had Mr. Morrison’s additional portfolios been known at the time, it likely could have resulted in his leadership being challenged.
Had he known, Mr. Frydenberg told Savva that he would have insisted that Mr. Morrison withdraw the undisclosed appointments.
She writes: ‘Had Morrison resisted, Frydenberg is convinced there would have been a challenge, because of the degree of outrage in the party’s moderate and conservative ranks.
“It is more likely that, despite the complete absence of remorse afterwards, Frydenberg believes that Morrison would have done one of his famous ‘pivots’ and relinquished the extra ministries.”
Next Prime Minister Scott Morrison (left) is pictured with then-Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (right)
Bulldozed also reveals that if Mr Morrison’s extra portfolios had been known at the time, it probably could have resulted in his leadership being challenged (pictured, the former Prime Minister with his wife Jenny in May)
The book also reveals that a former political staffer said it was wrong for people to label Mr Morrison’s actions as ‘weird’ because it deviated from reality.
“It wasn’t crazy — it was dangerous,” the staffer told Savva.
A report on Mr Morrison’s power grab, commissioned by the Labor government, is to be unveiled on Friday.
According to reports, it reveals that the former prime minister refused to participate in the investigation other than through his lawyers.
Mr Morrison was not required to testify in person or by interview for the inquiry.
Political journalist Niki Savva’s new book Bulldozed (pictured) reveals how Josh Frydenberg reacted to Scott Morrison secretly appointing himself co-treasurer without telling Mr. Frydenberg