Josh Frydenberg has slammed Scott Morrison over the ministerial power grab that saw the then prime minister secretly appoint himself to five extra portfolios.
When the matter was revealed in August, the ex-Treasurer went head-to-head and told the former prime minister: ‘You wouldn’t do it again if you had your time over.’
He was shocked by the three word answer, with Mr Morrison reportedly replying simply with: ‘Yes I would.’
One of the portfolios Mr Morrison appointed himself to was Treasurer, but he failed to tell Mr Frydenberg, who was not only the actual Treasurer at the time, he was also living with the prime minister in The Lodge.
‘I don’t think there was any reason for Scott to take on the additional Treasury portfolio,’ Mr Frydenberg told journalist Niki Savva for her new book, Bulldozed.
‘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,’ he said, adding that their relationship had been damaged by Mr Morrison’s deception.
Josh Frydenberg (pictured with his wife Amie) said it was ‘wrong and profoundly 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 help of Governor-General David Hurley and then Attorney General Christian Porter, also swore himself in as the Minister for Health, Finance, Resources and Home Affairs.
When the secret multiple portfolio appointments were revealed in August, Mr Morrison said they had been necessary 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 – didn’t answer the first few attempts to call, not trusting what he might say.
When he did finally answer a call, he said he can’t remember getting an apology.
In an extract, published by Nine newspapers, from her book, Savva wrote that ‘Frydenberg was staggered.’
‘When he asked him why he had done it, Morrison had no coherent explanation, except to say that “No one understands what it was like” – a theme he would reprise at his press conference afterwards, the one where he also insisted that he and Mr Frydenberg remained “the best of friends”.’
Mr Frydenberg told Savva, whose book is out on December 1, that he still regarded Mr Morrison as 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, November 7, 2022
Bulldozed also reveals that if Mr Morrison’s extra portfolios had been known about at the time time, it could have likely led to his leadership being challenged.
If he had known, Mr Frydenberg told Savva he would have insisted Mr Morrison revoke the secret appointments.
She writes that ‘If Morrison had resisted, Frydenberg is convinced there would have been a challenge, because of the level of outrage in the party’s moderate and conservative ranks.
‘More likely, despite the complete absence of remorse afterwards, Frydenberg believes that Morrison would have done one of his famous “pivots” and relinquished the additional ministries.’
Then 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 about at the time time, it could have likely led to his leadership being challenged (pictured, the former PM with his wife Jenny in May)
The book also reveals that a former political staffer said it was wrong for people to describe Mr Morrison’s actions as ‘weird’ because was a deflection from the reality.
‘It was not kooky – it was dangerous,’ the staffer told Savva.
A report on Mr Morrison’s power grab, commissioned by the Labor government, is due to be unveiled on Friday.
According to reports, it reveals the former prime minister refused to participate in the inquiry other than through his lawyers.
Mr Morrison was not compelled to give evidence to the inquiry in person or via interview.
Political journalist Niki Savva’s (pictured) new book Bulldozed reveals how Josh Frydenberg reacted to Scott Morrison secretly appointing himself as co-Treasurer without telling Mr Frydenberg