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Morrison Government

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Morrison Government
Coat of Arms of Australia.svg
Scott Morrison 2019.jpg
In office
24 August 2018 – present
MonarchElizabeth II
Governor-GeneralSir Peter Cosgrove (24 August 2018 – 1 July 2019)
David Hurley (1 July 2019 – present)
Prime MinisterScott Morrison
DeputyBarnaby Joyce
PartyLiberal and National (Coalition)
StatusMinority (October 2018 – May 2019; February 2021 - present)
Majority (August 2018 – October 2018; May 2019 – February 2021)[a]
OriginMorrison wins second 2018 Liberal leadership spill
PredecessorTurnbull Government

The Morrison Government is the current formation of Australian Government ministers, led by Scott Morrison, the prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Australia. The government consists of members of the Liberal-National Coalition. Barnaby Joyce is the leader of the junior party in the Coalition, the National Party, and serves as Deputy Prime Minister. The prime ministership of Scott Morrison commenced on 24 August 2018, when he was sworn in by the Governor-General of Australia. Following Morrison's victory in the 2019 federal election, the Second Morrison Ministry was formed in 2019; this succeeded the First Morrison Ministry, which was dissolved in May 2019.

The Turnbull Government ended in leadership turmoil in 2018. Morrison won the subsequent Liberal Party party room ballot for the leadership, and became Prime Minister of Australia.[1] Josh Frydenberg replaced Julie Bishop as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Morrison as Treasurer. Turnbull resigned from Parliament leaving the Coalition in minority government following the 2018 Wentworth by-election. Tensions remained as Turnbull lobbied for the removal of rivals. Morrison reformed Party rules to make it harder to remove elected Prime Ministers.

In Foreign Affairs, the Morrison Government concluded the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. On the economy, after the lowest deficit in a decade, Morrison predicted a small surplus in the 2019 Federal Budget, but then had to stimulate the economy due to the outbreak of COVID-19.


The Liberal-National Coalition won office under the leadership of Tony Abbott in the 2013 Australian federal election held on 7 September. Abbott defeated the second Rudd Government, ending six years of Labor Government.[2] Less than two years later on 14 September 2015, Malcolm Turnbull defeated Abbott in a leadership ballot, 54 votes to 44 and the Turnbull Government became the federal government of Australia.

Turnbull cited Newspoll results and "economic leadership" as reasons for mounting his challenge against Abbott.[3] Under the slogan "jobs and growth," Turnbull led the Coalition to the 2016 Election in which their majority in the House of Representatives was reduced to one seat.[4]

Turnbull's ousting of Abbott had divided the Liberal Party rank and file and tensions continued in the parliamentary Party.[5][6][7] The Government reached the 30-consecutive-Newspoll-losses benchmark Turnbull had used to unseat Abbott, in April 2018.[8] The government suffered by-election losses in July 2018.[9] Dissent from conservative MPs over issues such as energy prices and immigration levels grew during Turnbull's final months. On 21 August, Turnbull announced a leadership spill ahead of his 39th consecutive Newspoll loss, which he narrowly won against Peter Dutton. Turnbull resigned three days later after losing the confidence of his party room. Morrison won the resultant spill for the Liberal leadership, defeating Dutton and Julie Bishop. He became Australia's 30th Prime Minister.

Aftermath of Turnbull defeat

Minority government

The Turnbull Government had won the 2016 federal election with a single seat majority in the House of Representatives (76 seats out of 150). Turnbull's quitting of Parliament and the defection of two of the Coalition's MPs to the crossbenches following his removal as leader subsequently reduced the Coalition to a minority on the floor of Parliament. National Party MP Kevin Hogan had threatened to move to the crossbench if Turnbull was ousted as Prime Minister. On 27 August 2018, three days after Morrison succeeded Turnbull as leader, Hogan confirmed that he would sit on the crossbench, while remaining a member of the National Party and providing confidence and supply to the government.[10] The Coalition slipped further into minority with the departure of Turnbull from Parliament and loss of his seat to an independent, and with the defection of Julia Banks to the crossbench.

Wentworth by-election

A week after losing the leadership, Turnbull formally tendered his resignation from federal parliament.[11] He refused to campaign for Dave Sharma, the Liberal candidate to replace him in the seat of Wentworth.[12]

The by-election was held on 20 October 2018, and independent candidate Kerryn Phelps was elected, with a swing of almost twenty percent away from the Liberals.[13] It was the first time since the inaugural 1901 election that the seat had not been represented by the Liberals, its predecessors, or party defectors.[14]

One of Phelps' campaign promises was to bring more humane treatment of asylum seekers held on Manus Island (in the Manus Regional Processing Centre) and Nauru (in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre), which was partly brought to fruition with the passing of the "Medevac bill" early in 2019.[15]

Julie Bishop

After an eleven-year run as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had put herself up for election as Leader following Turnbull's resignation as Prime Minister. She garnered just 11 votes out of the 85-member party room, and quit her position as Foreign Minister to go to the backbench.[16] Bishop tied the ousting of Turnbull to women's issues, telling a Women's Weekly awards event on 6 September that it had prompted discussion on the "bullying, intimidation, harassment and coercion" by federal politicians and "unfair unequal treatment of women".[17] She joined Turnbull in calling for "clarity" around Dutton's eligibility to sit in Parliament, and refused to say how she would vote in the event of a referral.[18] Bishop announced she would quit politics and not re-contest her seat in a statement to parliament in February 2019.[19]

Defection of Julia Banks

Following Turnbull's loss of the Liberal leadership in August, the Liberal member for the seat of Chisholm, Julia Banks - a Turnbull supporter - began signalling dissatisfaction with the Party. On 27 November she announced to Parliament her departure from the Liberal Party to sit on the growing crossbench, reducing the Government's numbers to 73.[20] Banks made the announcement while Morrison was announcing a timetable for Budget surplus in 2019. She told Parliament her former Party had "changed largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and to themselves rather than listening to the people." The Guardian reported that the move undercut Morrison's efforts to stabilise the government and project a plan for the next election.[20] Banks promised confidence and supply to the government.[20] She told Fairfax Media that she was prepared to refer Turnbull's challenger Peter Dutton to the High Court over his eligibility to sit in Parliament, a move that would further reduce the Government's numbers on the floor of the House.[21]

Final pre-selections

In November, reports emerged that the "moderate faction" of the NSW Liberal Party had relegated Liberal Senator Jim Molan to an "unwinnable" fourth position on the NSW Senate ticket, and were moving to dump conservative NSW MP Craig Kelly - a three term MP with a 9% margin in his electorate.[22][23] The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan called the move against Molan an act of "self-mutilation" against "the most capable, the best-known and the most impressive backbench senator in Australia".[24] Journalist Michelle Grattan described Kelly as "all over the place in his comments", comparing media reports of Kelly's comments to branch members as reported by the ABC, and an interview with Sky News.[25] Kelly indicated he might run as an independent if the Party dis-endorsed him,[26][27][28] and Kent Johns was offered a $350,000 six-month job to withdraw from the preselection race by the president of Morrison's federal electoral conference.[29]

When Morrison moved to head off the factional dispute over Kelly and others by using state executive powers to automatically endorse sitting members, Turnbull launched a failed intervention to prevent the outcome, hoping Kelly, a Dutton backer, would be ousted.[30] Turnbull had approved a similar move by the Victorian state executive in July.[31] He had also previously personally endorsed Kelly himself, but dismissed comparisons to his own intervention to save Kelly in 2016, citing recent campaigns in NSW to allow grassroots members more say in pre-selection contests as the reason for his intervention against Kelly this time.[30]

When news of Turnbull lobbying against Kelly became public, Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman said that Turnbull's intervention "meant that it became an issue about the Prime Minister's authority, and that swung the dial in favour of acceding to the request the Prime Minister had made of the Executive".[31] Moderate members of the NSW branch agreed to abstain from a vote, effectively allowing Kelly and other sitting members such as Jason Falinski, John Alexander and Lucy Wicks to be re-selected.[27]

Journalists Michelle Grattan and Patricia Karvelas criticised the intervention for Kelly. Grattan wrote there had been no intervention in favour of moderate female candidate Jane Prentice, who had been an assistant minister.[32] Karvelas wrote that it was extraordinary the party would intervene to "save a bloke" when "women MPs like Jane Prentice and Ann Sudmalis are not afforded the same intervention to stay on in Parliament when faced with preselection challenges."[33] Zimmerman dismissed the comparison in an interview with Karvelas on ABC Radio, saying Sudmalis had quit, while Prentice's preselection had occurred prior to the instability occasioned by the departure of Turnbull.[31] Despite being expected to win preselection, and being asked to remain by Morrison, Sudmalis had quit as a candidate for her marginal electorate following the removal of Turnbull as leader, citing grievances with the NSW division of the Party.[34]

Morrison reforms party leadership

In December, Morrison and Frydenberg won support from the Liberal Party room for a change in Party rules regarding leadership spills, and announced that a sitting prime minister who has won an election could no longer be removed by the Party room unless there was a two-thirds majority calling for the change. Opposition Leaders could still be challenged with a simple majority. Morrison said the move was in response to public disgust at the repeated rolling of Prime Ministers over the preceding decade.[35]


Morrison was sworn in as prime minister on 24 August 2018, by the Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, in a ceremony at Government House. The newly elected deputy leader of the party Josh Frydenberg was the only other minister sworn in, as Treasurer.

Julie Bishop quit the frontbench, and her replacement as Foreign Affairs Minister was Marise Payne.[36] The rest of the Ministry was sworn in on 28 August 2018, with many Dutton supporters being granted ministerial posts.[37]

On 17 December 2018, Andrew Broad resigned over a sex scandal.[38]

On 19 January 2019, Kelly O'Dwyer, Minister for Women, Jobs and Industrial Relations, announced that she would not be contesting the upcoming election as her two children would be approaching primary school age and she wanted to give her and her husband the best opportunity for a third child.[39] Within one week, Human Services Minister Michael Keenan and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion also announced that they would not recontest their seats at the 2019 election, widely attributed to the low chances of the Morrison Government being re-elected.[40]

First term of government 2018–2019


Morrison had served as Treasurer in the Turnbull Government, and was succeeded by Josh Frydenberg in the role. In September, Treasurer Frydenberg announced that the government would deliver a smaller budget deficit than forecast for 2017–18, and that the budget was on track to return to balance by 2019–20. The Final Budget Outcome deficit of $10.1 billion was $19.3bn smaller than predicted, and the smallest recorded since the Global Financial Crisis. The result had been assisted by larger tax intakes and less spending on social security than expected. The Treasurer credited the result to the Coalition's economic management with real spending growth down to its lowest level in half a century.[41] In October 2018, The Economist described Australia as possessing "the world’s most successful economy".[42]

The "tampon tax": the Goods and Services Tax applied to feminine hygiene products, will be removed as of 1 January 2019.[43]

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was handed down in February, with 76 recommendations. There were only five remaining sitting days in Parliament, so there is little time for a legislative response before the election.[44] Labor has indicated that it intends to work with the crossbench to extend the sitting days for Parliament,[45] however, Christopher Pyne, speaking for the government, has pointed out that these laws are complex and should not be rushed through.[46]

Federal Budget

Morrison said the government would "continue to consolidate the budget", but its priorities for spending included additional school and hospital funding, affordable medicines and the national disability insurance scheme.[47] In November, Morrison and Frydenberg announced the 2019 Federal Budget would be brought forward a month to 2 April. "We will be handing down a budget and it will be a surplus budget. It will be a budget which is the product of the years of hard work of our government," Morrison said.[48][49]

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down the budget in a speech to parliament on the night of 2 April. The budget forecast a small surplus of $7.1 billion in the upcoming financial year (2019–20), though it was technically in deficit as the existing financial year came to a close.[50] The leading statements made were a cash rebate targeted toward lower and middle-income earners, with the Coalition promising to double the low and middle income tax offset it offered workers in the previous year's budget, giving voters on incomes between $50,000 and $90,000 a rebate of $1,080, similar to the Labor Party's proposals.[50] The budget was criticised by the opposition for proposing to flatten the tax rates of all income earners between $45,000-$200,000 to 30% in the long-term, though the Treasurer argued that doing so would provide an "incentive [for] people to stay in work, to work longer, to work more."[51][52] The government also promised $100 billion infrastructure funding over the decade and offered one-off payments for nearly 4 million welfare recipients to cover the cost of energy prices, which Labor supported.[53][54] Labor's budget reply differed from the government most notably with a $2.3 billion proposal to cover medical imaging, consultation and medicines' costs for cancer patients.[55] Overall, Labor had approximately $200 billion more funding than the Coalition to utilise over the decade; as it proposed more revenue raising, including scaling back negative gearing and abolishing cash refunds for excess franking credits, policies which were vociferously opposed by the government.[53]

Foreign affairs

Morrison with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia on his first overseas visit as prime minister.
Morrison with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia on his first overseas visit as prime minister.
Morrison with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires
Morrison with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires

Morrison shifted Marise Payne from the Defence Portfolio to the role of Minister for Foreign Affairs, following the resignation of Julie Bishop from the role. He visited Jakarta for the Australia–Indonesia Business Forum and met with President Joko Widodo on his first overseas visit as prime minister.[56][57] The Morrison Government and Indonesia announced the substantive conclusion of negotiations on the Indonesia -Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) on 31 August 2018.[58]

During the Wentworth by-election campaign, Morrison announced reviewing whether Australia's embassy in Israel should move to from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.[59] This was regarded[according to whom?] as potentially endangering the Indonesian fair trade agreement.[60] Indonesia responded by putting the free trade agreement on hold,[61] though it was eventually signed in Jakarta in March 2019.[62] In December 2018, Morrison announced Australia has recognised West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but will not immediately move its embassy from Tel Aviv.[63]

Morrison has signalled that his government could accept New Zealand's offer to accept refugees detained by Australia on Manus and Nauru if they were subject to a lifetime ban from coming to Australia.[64]

Due to the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the Australian government has pulled out of the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia.[65]

The Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) was signed in March 2019, following years of negotiations. Australia ratified the agreement in November 2019 (alongside CEPAs with Peru, Hong Kong and China)[66] and Indonesia followed suit in February 2020, with its provisions coming into effect in April 2020.[67][68]

Pivot to the Pacific

Ahead of the 2018 APEC Forum in PNG, the Morrison government announced increased defence co-operation with Pacific nations including a plan to jointly develop a naval base on Manus Island with Papua New Guinea and a "pivot to the Pacific" involving the establishment of a $2 billion infrastructure bank for the Pacific to be known as the Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility, to issue grants and long-term loans for projects such as telecommunications, energy, transport and water development. Morrison also pledged to open diplomatic missions in Palau, the Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Niue and the Cook Islands.[69][70] The "pivot to the Pacific" has been read as a way of undermining Chinese influence in the region.[71]

At the Pacific Islands Forum in August 2019 the 'Pivot to the Pacific' was severely undermined by Morrison's intransigence on the topic of climate change. In the face of an existential threat to those Morrison refers to as "family", Morrison refused to offer more than tokenism. The "very insulting and condescending" behaviour offered by Morrison [72] comes as the Deputy PM tells an Australian business group that Pacific Islanders will survive "because many of their workers come here to pick our fruit".[73]

Energy and climate change

After taking office, Morrison appointed Angus Taylor as Minister for Energy, saying "I am going to be the Prime Minister for getting electricity prices down. Angus Taylor is the minister for getting electricity prices down and that is a core focus of my government..."[74] The Morrison Government is "doing the bare minimum on climate change."[75]

Morrison committed to remaining in the Paris Agreement settled under the Abbott and Turnbull Governments, but promised a greater focus on reduction of energy prices. He described coal as remaining "a key source of keeping electricity prices down and keeping the lights on, and I intend for it to stay there".[76][77][78] The Morrison Government did not commit to replacing the existing renewable energy target with anything when it expires in 2020, stating that it will not be needed to meet emissions reduction targets.[79]

The government has implemented the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's review recommendations into electricity prices by asking energy retailers to introduce a default market offer for households and small businesses, which would be standard across all retailers.[80] This is designed to assist consumers who do not regularly change their power provider.[81]

Australian school students were inspired by Greta Thunberg to strike for three days after 28 November,[82] ignoring the call of their Prime minister Scott Morrison who said in the parliament that "what we want is more learning in schools and less activism".[83]

According to the Government's 2018 emissions projections report, Australia will not achieve its 2030 emissions reduction target of 26-28% less emissions than in 2005, and is only expected to achieve a 7% reduction on 2005 levels by 2030. The Government expects Australia will meet its 2020 target.[84]

As of February, the Morrison Government announced that it was taking its energy bill to the election, as it would likely be amended to prevent government funding of new coal-fired power stations.[85]

Morrison has allocated $2bn over 10 years to the Abbott Government-era Emissions Reduction Fund, renaming it the Climate Solutions Fund.[86] A project that is expected to benefit from the Climate Solutions Fund is the Tasmanian Battery of the Nation hydro-electric project.[87]

The government has endorsed the Snowy 2.0 hydro-electric project, a proposal of the Turnbull Government.[88]

Social security

Morrison changed the age at which Australians can receive the age pension back to 67,[89] from an age of 70, which had been government policy since the 2014 Australian federal budget.[90] In September 2018, the base Newstart rate was raised by $2.20 per week,[91] but further increases to Newstart have been ruled out by Morrison, who has stated that it is a "very expensive undertaking".[47] The Liberal and Labor parties voted for a bill which would enforce a wait of four years before new migrants could receive social security payments.[92]

In response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Morrison delivered on 22 October 2018 a National Apology Address in the Australian Parliament to victims of child sexual abuse on behalf of the Australian people, the parliament and his government. He also announced the establishment of a National Redress Scheme for victims of child sexual abuse; an Office of Child Safety within the Department of Social Services; and a National Centre of Excellence to raise awareness and understanding of the impacts of child sexual abuse, to deal with the stigma, to support help seeking and guide best practice for training and other services.[93]

Aged care and disability

Morrison brought forward aged care funding by $90 million, mainly focusing on regional areas.[94]

On 16 September 2018, Morrison revealed that a royal commission would be held into aged care facilities, focusing on the quality of care in residential, home and community aged care.[95][96] On 5 April 2019, Morrison announced another commission, this time to examine violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation within the disability sector. The commission is headed by former Federal Court judge Ronald Sackville and will last for three years. Morrison was emotional at the announcement of the commission, paying tribute to his brother-in-law who has multiple sclerosis.[97] The announcement was met with praise from Labor leader Bill Shorten, whose party had supported the idea in the past, as well as from Greens senator Jordon Steele-John, who had spent the previous year agitating for the government to support the policy and had heckled the government on the floor of the House of Representatives earlier in the year when it rejected holding a vote on a commission.[98] In relation to disability funding, the government announced price increases of up to 22 per cent for NDIS service providers, though it was criticised for a $1.6 billion under-spend on the scheme in the budget. Labor argued the under-spend was due to the government's desire for a surplus budget, though the government countered that by arguing no one who needed care would be neglected and that the scheme was responding to actual demand.[99]

Food safety

In response to the 2018 Australian strawberry contamination, Morrison announced an increase in the maximum jail term for the federal offence relating to contaminating food from 10 to 15 years.[100] However, when a woman was arrested for the crime, she was charged under the Queensland Criminal Code.[101]


The method of funding non-government schools was changed from using census data to using parental tax information; to take effect in 2020.[102] On 20 September, Morrison announced a $4.6 billion funding deal over 10 years starting from 2020 for Catholic and Independent schools as a peace deal with two non-government sectors, after they bitterly opposed the Coalition's 2017 school funding changes. The agreement was seen as controversial to some including Labor and the Australian Education Union, who cited the fact that it did nothing for public schools.[103]

The National School Chaplaincy Programme, following the extension of its funding confirmed during the 2018 federal budget, will be the subject of a new agreement between the states and the commonwealth, requiring complaints against chaplains to be centrally recorded.[104]

Indigenous affairs

Senator Nigel Scullion carried on as the Coalition's Minister for Indigenous Affairs in the Morrison Government, and in a conciliatory move by Morrison, the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was appointed the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Indigenous Affairs, with a brief to focus on school attendance and performance. After initial scepticism, Abbott accepted the role.[105][106]

Remote education

Abbott presented his first report to Parliament as Special Envoy in December.[107] He recommended increasing substantially the salary supplements and the retention bonuses for teachers in very remote areas; waiving HECS debt of longer term teachers in very remote schools; incentives for communities to adopt debit card arrangements; an extension of the Remote School Attendance Strategy, with more local school buy-in and engagement; extension of the Good to Great Schools program that has reintroduced phonics and disciplined learning for further evaluation and emulation; and that the government should match the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation's private and philanthropic funding on an ongoing basis.[108]

Australia Day

Morrison criticised Byron Shire Council for moving its citizenship ceremonies from Australia Day, rejecting calls to change the date of Australia Day and proposing a new national day to recognise Indigenous Australians.[109]

Uluru Statement and Indigenous voice to government

Morrison has rejected the Uluru Statement from the Heart, characterising the recommended "Indigenous voice to Parliament" as a third chamber.[110]

However, on 30 October 2019, Ken Wyatt AM, Minister for Indigenous Australians, announced the commencement of a "co-design process" aimed at providing an Indigenous voice to government. The Senior Advisory Group (SAG) is co-chaired by Professor Tom Calma AO, Chancellor of the University of Canberra, and Professor Dr Marcia Langton, Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne, and comprises a total of 20 leaders and experts from across the country.[111] There was some skepticism about the process from the beginning, with the criticism that it did not honour the Uluru Statement from the Heart's plea to "walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future".[112] According to Michelle Grattan, " is notable that it is calling it a 'voice to government' rather than a 'voice to parliament' ". Morrison rejected the proposal for a voice to parliament to be put into the Australian constitution; instead, the voice will be enshrined in legislation. The government also said it would run a referendum during its present term about recognising Indigenous people in the constitution "should a consensus be reached and should it be likely to succeed".[113]


The government announced an inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, following the sacking of managing director Michelle Guthrie and reports that Guthrie had resisted a call from ABC Chair Justin Milne to fire journalist Emma Alberici.[114] Milne was replaced by Ita Buttrose.[115]

Commonwealth Integrity Commission

In December, the Morrison Government proposed a national integrity commission framework.[116] The previous August, Griffith University researchers had laid out a plan for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission,[117] and Attorney-General Christian Porter had been working on adapting the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity into an anti-corruption watchdog in the Turnbull government.[116] The framework has been criticised for its narrow remit and the decision not to allow public hearings, and not being allowed to take tip-offs, as well as the high burden of proof needed before an investigation can take place.[118]


Algal blooms caused the death of over 10,000 fish in the Darling River just before Christmas 2018.[119] A second fish kill event happened in January, near the Menindee Lakes, which are a critical breeding ground for fish throughout the Murray-Darling.[120] A report by the Productivity Commission was released in January 2019 that said that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority should be broken up.[121] A third fish kill event occurred at the Menindee Lakes in late January. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian attributed the fish kills to the weather.[122]

During the 2018-2019 summer season, there were also bushfires in Tasmania's heritage-listed areas and the 2019 Townsville flood. Melissa Price, the Minister for the Environment, was criticised as being absent from announcements made by Morrison, McCormack and David Littleproud on these events.[123]

Drought assistance

As Morrison took office, much of eastern Australia was suffering severe drought. In a politically conciliatory move, he appointed former National Leader Barnaby Joyce as a Special Envoy for drought assistance and recovery.[124][125]

In October 2018, Morrison announced a drought assistance package, the Drought Future Fund, of $5 billion. The Drought Future Fund is intended to operate similarly to the Medical Futures Fund. However, the Drought Future Fund drew criticism from disability advocates, as $3.9 billion of the package's funding was drawn from money earmarked for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.[126]

Land-clearing inquiry

The Morrison Government announced an inquiry into land-clearing laws following the Queensland bushfires. The Queensland Government had introduced laws against broad-scale land-clearing in May 2018, and David Littleproud said "If Queensland’s laws are locking up agriculture’s potential and making fires worse, we need to know about it".[127]

Medical transfer of refugees

On 12 February 2019, the Morrison Government suffered the first substantive defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives since 1929, after the Labor Party and several cross-benchers supported amendments to the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 (the Home Affairs Bill) proposed by the Senate. The proposed amendments would give greater weight to medical opinion in allowing the medical evacuation of asylum seekers to Australia from Nauru and Manus Island. Further amendments followed negotiations between the Opposition and the House of Reps cross-bench members, before the Senate considered and agreed to the amendments to its original amendments on the following day, 13 February.[128] The amended legislation, which affected three laws, being the Migration Act 1958, the Customs Act 1901 and the Passenger Movement Charge Collection Act 1978,[129] became known as "the Medevac Bill", before being passed in the House by 75 votes to 74 and passed in the Senate by 36 votes to 34.[130][131][132]

In response to the bill passing into law, Morrison announced the re-opening of the Christmas Island detention centre,[133] intimating that this change in the law would provide the signal that people smugglers to begin operating again. In the days following, Dutton said that because of this change in the law, Australians on waiting lists for hospital treatment and those already in public housing were going to be adversely affected.[134] This was seen by Robert Manne as a turning point in Labor Party policy, after having had almost identical asylum seeker policies as the Coalition for the past five years. He also pointed out the numerous obstacles any potential people-smuggler or asylum seeker would have to face, because the deterrent aspects of the policy were still firmly in place, and the new legislation applied only to the approximately 1,000 people still on Nauru and Manus (of whom only a relatively small number will be allowed to access the urgent medical attention they need).[134]

However, the 2018 ruling was overturned in December 2019, after 37 votes to 35 supported the government's move to repeal the law.[135]

Uranium mine

Just prior to the federal election, Melissa Price approved the Yeelirrie Uranium mine north of Kalgoorlie. Traditional owners challenged the former Barnett Government's approval for the mine in court.[136]

2019 federal election

Morrison called the election for 18 May 2019, the last date on which a concurrent election for both the Senate and House of Representatives could occur. The government was widely anticipated to lose the vote, as almost all public polling conducted before and during the campaign suggested the Labor Party was on track to win a narrow majority.[137] The government's focus during the election was on providing income tax cuts for Australians in all tax brackets. Though both major parties policies on income tax cuts was similar in the short term, in the long term the Coalition sought to rise the top income threshold for the 19, 32.5 and 37 per cent tax brackets from July 2022, before eliminating the 37 per cent bracket in July 2024, which Labor considered fiscally irresponsible.[138] The government also strongly opposed Labor's proposals to abolish cash refunds for franking credit recipients and negative gearing allowances for new properties.[139]

The Coalition won 77 seats at the election and won 51.5% of the two-party preferred vote. Morrison credited the victory to voters he called "the quiet Australians".

Second term of government 2019–

Income tax cuts

The government's income tax cut election commitments were legislated in the form of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019.[140] In total the legislation provided $158 billion in income tax cuts. Despite opposing Stage 3 of the legislation (set to come into effect after 2022) which flattened the tax rate to 30% for all workers earning between $45,000 and $200,000, the Labor Party voted in favour and only the Greens voted against the bill.[141]


The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Exclusion Orders) Act 2019 and related legislation passed the parliament on 25 July 2019. The legislation gives the Minister for Home Affairs the power to issue an order barring an Australian citizen over the age of 14 from being able to enter Australian sovereign territory. A Temporary Exclusion Order can only be issued when the Minister or ASIO (Australia's foreign intelligence agency) reasonably suspects that the person is likely to commit or enable an act of terrorism in Australia, and can last for a maximum of two years.[142] All Temporary Exclusion Orders must be submitted for review to a reviewing authority (an Attorney-General-appointment former Justice), and can be revoked by the reviewing authority for any one of nine reasons. The government controversially rejected the amendments suggested by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which were supported by the opposition parties.[142][143]

Religious freedoms

The dispute between professional rugby player Israel Folau and Rugby Australia was a major story during the federal election campaign.[144] In the previous parliament, the two major parties had been unable to agree on legislation which would have removed the right of religious schools to expel LGBT students and sack homosexual teachers.[145][146] Amidst intense pressure from conservative MPs, the government in August 2019 released a draft bill focusing on religious freedom. The draft legislation included provisions preventing employers from limiting the religious expression of workers in their private capacity (unless the business can prove it is a "reasonable" limitation and necessary to avoid unjustifiable financial hardship) and explicitly overrides a Tasmanian anti-discrimination law, which prohibits conduct which "offends, humiliates, intimidates, insults or ridicules" based on protected grounds including gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability and relationship status.[147] The government had promised to introduce the bill to the parliament before the end of 2019 but objections from conservative religious groups and LGBTIQ equality advocates forced the government to delay and re-draft the bill.[148] In March 2020 the government dropped draft legislation to protect gay students and teachers from being expelled or sacked from religious schools.[149] In November 2021 the Cabinet signed off on a revised religious freedoms bill, that included a "statements of belief" protection, meaning such statements could not be considered discriminatory so long as they don't threaten, intimidate, harass or vilify a person or would be considered malicious to a "reasonable person".[150] The statement of beliefs clause would override any countervailing state or territory laws. The bill retained a clause that allows faith-based institutions, such as religious schools and hospitals, to positively discriminate against people who do not share or practice their faith.[151] These institutions would be required to have a publicly available policy that clearly explained how those religious views would be enforced.[150]

The so-called "Folau clause", which would have protected someone from being sacked for expressing any religious belief, was dropped.[152][150] Morrison introduced the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 to the House of Representatives on 25 November 2021.[153]

Electoral Reforms

In Late 2021 the government had plans for a Voter ID Law, the electoral committee had recommended it after the 2013, 2016 and 2019 elections. Under the proposed voter integrity bill, a voter unable to produce ID can still vote if their identity can be verified by another voter, or by casting a declaration vote, which requires further details such as date of birth and a signature. One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, has claimed credit for the Coalition’s voter integrity bill, saying she made voter identification a condition for her support. [154][155] The Labor party and the greens are opposed to the Voter ID bill, the government will need one vote out of the remaining crossbench senators – Griff, Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie – to pass the bill.

Industrial relations

The Government introduced legislation that would tighten the rules around the behaviours of unions and their officials. The legislation, named the Ensuring Integrity Bill, would allow automatic disqualifications of "registered organisations" and grant the Federal Court the power to prevent officials from holding office in certain circumstances and broaden the court's power to order remedial action with respect to union disputes and governance.[156] Trade union groups, Labor and the Greens opposed the bill, saying it was "contrary to international law and Australia’s commitments" and "hostile to the interests of working people". Industry groups and the Business Council of Australia argued the bill would "raise standards of conduct in the system" and would enforce penalties against "recalcitrant organisations".[156]

The legislation passed the House of Representatives where the government had a majority, though failed to pass the Senate in late November 2019, after the third reading was deadlocked at 34-34 votes.[157] The votes of crossbench Senators Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson were crucial to the outcome, with the government having brought the legislation to a vote under the impression Hanson and her One Nation party colleague would support the bill. The government responded by refusing to rule out the possibility of bringing back the legislation at a later date if it felt it could command newfound support in the Senate.[157]


The extent of the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season led to controversy over the federal response to the fires and its policies on reducing or adapting to climate change, after ministers initially downplayed the severity of the crisis.[158]

Sports grants scandal

The "sports rorts" affair led to the resignation of Bridget McKenzie from the cabinet. The subsequent election of a new deputy leader of the National Party turned into the 2020 National Party of Australia leadership spill when Barnaby Joyce unsuccessfully challenged for the leadership.[citation needed] McKenzie was reappointed to the cabinet 17 months later.

A report by Phil Gaetjens, the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Morrison's former chief-of-staff, found that the allocation of grants was not politically motivated, but that McKenzie had breached ministerial standards by allocating a grant to a gun club which she was a member of. The Gaetjens report was not released, with Senate leader Matthias Cormann claiming public interest immunity.[159] Morrison maintained at this time that the grants program was not politically motivated, and that all projects that were funded were eligible,[160] disputing the Auditor-General's report, which found that 43% of projects funded were ineligible, and that the grants program disproportionately favoured marginal and target seats.[161] It was later found that the offices of Bridget McKenzie and Scott Morrison exchanged 136 emails concerning the sports grants,[162] and McKenzie breached caretaker convention to make changes to the list of projects to be funded after the election was called, in at least one instance at the direction of the Prime Minister's Office.[163] Morrison denies involvement.[citation needed]


The Morrison Government announced an economic stimulus package to combat the effects of coronavirus on the economy.[164]

On 12 March 2020 the Government announced a A$17.6 billion stimulus package, the first since the 2008 GFC.[165][166] The package consists of multiple parts, a one-off A$750 payment to around 6.5 million welfare recipients as early as 31 March 2020, small business assistance with 700,000 grants up to $25,000 and a 50% wage subsidy for 120,000 apprenticies or trainees for up to 9 months, $1 billion to support economically impacted sectors, regions and communities, and $700 million to increase tax write off and $3.2 billion to support short-term small and medium-sized business investment.[165][167]

On 30 March the Australian Government announced a $130 billion "JobKeeper" wage subsidy program. The JobKeeper program would pay employers up to $1500 a fortnight per full-time, part-time or casual employee that has worked for that business for over a year. For a business to be eligible, they must have lost 30% of turnover after 1 March of annual revenue up to and including $1 billion. For businesses with a revenue of over $1 billion, turnover must have decreased by 50%. Businesses are then required by law to pay the subsidy to their staff, in lieu of their usual wages.[168] This response came after the enormous job losses seen just a week prior when an estimated 1 million Australians lost their jobs. This massive loss in jobs caused the myGov website to crash and lines out of Centrelink offices to run hundreds of metres long.[169] The program was backdated to 1 March, to aim at reemploying the many people who had just lost their jobs in the weeks before. Businesses would receive the JobKeeper subsidy for 6 months.[168]

The announcement of the JobKeeper wage subsidy program is the largest measure announced by the Australian Government in response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak. In the first hour of the scheme, over 8,000 businesses registered to receive the payments. The JobKeeper wage subsidy program is one of the largest economic packages ever implemented in the history of Australia.[168]

In September 2020 the Australian Government passed changes to "JobKeeper" wage subsidy program. From 28 September, the payment will fall to $1,200 a fortnight, followed by a further drop at the beginning of January 2021 to $1,000.[170][171]

Australia’s comparatively slow roll out of COVID vaccines,[172] along with a preference of many Australians for the COMIRNATY (Pfizer-BioNTech) vaccine,[173] and the government’s Health minister declining a meeting request and subsequent opportunity to order vaccines from Pfizer in mid-2020,[174] contributed to shortages of the Pfizer vaccine and corresponding extended lockdowns across the eastern seaboard in 2020 and 2021.[175] The government was criticised by some state premiers for how great a proportion of the nation’s Pfizer vaccines were diverted to the Prime Minister’s home state of New South Wales.[176]

2020 recession

On 2 September 2020, Australia was declared to be officially in a recession as GDP fell 7 per cent in June, the first time since the early 1990s.[177][178][179] However, by September Australia was out of the recession after recording a GDP growth rate of 3.3% in the September quarter.[180]

Historical rape allegations and Canberra workplace culture

Two separate historical rape allegations became public in February 2021, one regarding the alleged conduct of the Morrison Government's Attorney General Christian Porter when he was a child, and one regarding the alleged rape of a female Liberal staffer by a male staffer in the office of the Defence Minister Linda Reynolds after hours, in the lead up to the 2019 election campaign.[181] The allegations followed a similar allegation against Labor Leader Bill Shorten during his tenure as Opposition Leader, and former and serving female staffers of the Labor Opposition also separately came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse from some male Labor colleagues in the workplace.[182][183] These events led to widespread debate and demonstrations against mistreatment of women in Parliamentary workplace culture, as well as to debates about media coverage and due process.[184]

Claims of "workplace harassment", "systemic misogyny" and "victim blaming" in Parliament were widely aired.[181][185]

On 15 February 2021, Brittany Higgins, a former staffer in the office of Defence Minister Linda Reynolds came forward in the media with an allegation that, in March 2019, she had been raped by a male staffer in the office of the Defence Minister after being taken their after hours following a heavy drinking session.[186] Higgins took the matter to police on 24 February, and investigations are ongoing.[187] Higgins said the support offered by her Liberal bosses had been inadequate after the alleged rape.[188]

After the ABC had announced that a "cabinet minister" was the subject of rape allegations, Attorney-General Christian Porter came forward on 3 March 2021, to confirm that he had been the subject of the allegation that in 1988, when he was a 17-year-old boy, he had raped a 16-year-old girl. He denied the allegation. The woman who had made the allegation committed suicide in June 2020. NSW police pronounced the matter closed on the basis of "insufficient admissible evidence to proceed".[189] Porter is currently suing the ABC for defamation, and the matter remains ongoing.[190] The ABC campaigned strongly for the removal of the Attorney General. ABC political correspondent Laura Tingle argued in an 3 March editorial for the 7:30 program that it did not matter if he been found guilty of a crime beyond reasonable doubt, but that "perception" was sufficient for his removal. She dismissed comparisons made by Porter to Labor leader Bill Shorten.[191]

An Essential poll finding found that 65% of respondents (including 76% of Labor supporters, 51% of Coalition supporters and 88% of Greens supporters) said that the Government was more interested in protecting itself than women.[192]

As well as the Labor and Greens parties, the government faced criticism from within its own party. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who had been made aware of the allegations against Porter in 2019, criticised him for taking too long to come forward.[193] Former Prime Minister John Howard, however, defended Morrison's decision not to open an independent inquiry into Porter's conduct.[194]

Australian of the Year and sexual assault survivor advocate Grace Tame also criticised Morrison's rhetoric. Tame lambasted at Morrison at her NPC address, criticising Morrison's use of the “as a father” phrase, as well as saying "It shouldn't take having children to have a conscience."[195]

Car park rorts affair

The Morrison government was accused of ‘pork-barrelling’ over a $660 million commuter car park program that saw a large number of promised car parks targeted at Liberal Party held seats considered at risk in the 2019 election.[196]

The Australian National Audit Office ‘found that the federal government cash splash was ‘not administered appropriately and that there was no consultation with state governments and councils about where the money was needed.'[197] It further found that 'there is little evidence to demonstrate that the selection of commuter car park projects was based on assessed merit against the investment principles or achievement of the policy objective.'[198] This led to claims that the government's commuter car park program was an example of 'pork-barelling',[199] which was amplified after a number of the proposed car parks were found to be unsuitable and cancelled.[196]

Evacuation of Afghanistan

During the 2021 evacuation of Afghanistan, the Morrison Government deployed 250 Australian soldiers and three Royal Australian Air Force aircraft to aid in evacuations.[200] Morrison, Defence Minister Dutton and Foreign Minister Payne also called on the Taliban to "cease all violence against civilians and adhere to international humanitarian law and the human rights all Afghans are entitled to expect, in particular women and girls".[201]

By 24 August, Morrison confirmed that Australian and New Zealand forces had evacuated more than 650 people from Hamid Karzai International Airport in five flights.[202] In addition, Australian forces also assisted with the evacuation of six Fijian United Nations workers.[203]


In September 2021, the Morrison Government announced the scrapping of a $90 billion submarine contract with a French State owned Naval company, and subsequent announcement of building nuclear powered submarines with US and UK technology as part of the AUKUS security pact. This announcement was criticised by the French President, who recalled France’s ambassadors to Australia and the United States, as well as Malaysia and Indonesia.[204][205]

Prima facie case on Christian Porter

In October 2021, the Morrison Government successfully voted against sending Government MP Christian Porter to the privileges committee regarding his blind trust. This vote was significant because the Speaker Tony Smith had determined there was a Prima facie case and in voting down the motion, the Morrison Government became the first Government to refuse a referral from the Speaker since Federation.[206] The move from the government attracted significant criticism in the media.[207][208][209][210]

Additionally, the Leader of the House Peter Dutton did not allow crossbench MPs remoting into Parliament (due to COVID) to vote on the motion even though the Senate allows voting in such a fashion. If MPs were permitted to vote remotely the vote likely would have ended in a tie, giving the Speaker the deciding vote.[211]

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  1. ^ After Turnbull lost the Liberal leadership, National MP Kevin Hogan left the government benches, but guaranteed confidence and supply and remained in the National party room. However, Turnbull's former seat of Wentworth was lost in a by-election to Kerryn Phelps resulting in a minority government. The government previously held 74 out of 149 seats in the House of Representatives. Since February 2021, after the resignation of Craig Kelly from the Liberal Party, the Coalition effectively holds 75 out of 151 seats plus a Liberal Speaker, however, the Speaker's vote isn't considered to be part of the governments as he is expected the vote in accordance with convention only in which he must not create a majority where there is none, therefore the government doesn't hold a majority in the Lower House in its own right
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