January 27, 2023

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office demanded that staff reveal the interception of an asylum-seeker boat on election day, a report shows.

The Home Office report found that senior government officials were pressured by Mr Morrison’s staff to release a statement about the interception before the operation ended.

Home Secretary Michael Pezzullo said officials, members of the Australian Border Force and Defense Force refused to release a statement to the media as the events unfolded.

Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) demanded that a statement be released about the interception of an illegal ship from Sri Lanka as events unfolded

“The detailed chronology of events indicates that there was pressure on officials to release a public statement regarding the interception of SIEV (illegal entry vessel) 915 before the operational activity was completed,” Mr Pezzullo said.

‘The pressure was increased by the management to prepare and publish the statement within fifteen minutes.’

Commonwealth Concierge Conventions

The Commonwealth government enters a transition period prior to each election.

The concierge agreements come into effect upon the dissolution of the House of Representatives.

Caretaker conventions are rules that formalize the rights of the opposition as a possible future government, and prevent the government from exploiting the advantages of the incumbent position in elections.

In the caretaker agreements it is recognized that in the absence of the House of Representatives there is no review body for decisions of the Board.

The department secretary explained that it is “up to the responsible minister” to assess the public interest in making the announcement and that the covenant does not have the force of law.

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The report shows that a journalist asked Mr Morrison about the interception of a ship entering Australia from Sri Lanka, despite officials refusing to share it on Border Force editorial staff, social media or send it directly to journalists. .

“The information may have reached the journalist separately from and before the ABF editorial announcement,” Pezzullo said.

According to the report, Mr Pezzullo warned at 11:09 a.m. on May 21 that the interception would create a political problem.

“Keep an eye out for social media chatter or worse, leaks to the media,” Mr Pezzullo said.

“It could be a very late election issue.”

“Once approved, the release will be posted on our news and media site – no more, no less,” said Mr. Pezzullo.

At 11:59 a.m., the Home Secretary asked for a statement by email to selected journalists, saying that “the Prime Minister wants a statement,” but Mr Pezzullo declined.

A bombshell text exchange with the Morrison government ensued.

‘Is it live? PM is speaking,” said the text message from the Minister of the Interior (MHAO).

“I’m refreshing,” read a reply from the department.

‘That’s who we are. What the hell is going on?’ MH wrote.

“It always takes a few minutes to go live – I have no idea how it works, but we can’t influence it. We’re calling IT,” the department replied.

“A lot of people are outraged,” MHAO said.

‘We can’t do anything. Legitimately nothing. So my sincere apologies,” the department wrote.

Within half an hour preparations were made to inform the opposition.

The statement was ready and loaded on the department’s website at 1 p.m., but was not published until 1:09 p.m.

Mr Morrison’s last press conference was held at 1:03 p.m. and a reporter questioned him about the ship three minutes later – before the statement was available on the department’s website.

“I can just say this. I’ve been here to stop this boat, but to make sure I can be there to stop those who are coming from here, you must vote liberally and nationally today,” the then prime minister said at the press conference.

It was not until 2:26 p.m. that the opposition was informed.

At 3:03 p.m., the Liberal Party shared the interception via text message and Twitter: ‘BREAKING – Aust Border Force has intercepted an illegal boat trying to reach Aus. Keep our borders safe by voting liberal today.’

The report found that officials were unaware that the Liberal Party planned to share the interception with thousands of voters via SMS and Twitter.

BREAKING – Aust Border Force has intercepted an illegal boat trying to reach Aus. Keep our borders safe by voting liberal today,” the liberal party shared at 3:03 p.m.

Labor Home Secretary Clare O’Neil said it was the first time the Australian government had endangered an army-led operation.

“The former government had a duty to protect Australia. Instead, they sabotaged the protocols protecting Operation Sovereign Borders for political gain,” said Ms O’Neil.

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Their actions undermined the integrity of this complex operation, making it more difficult and dangerous.

“The profound compromise of an army-led operation is unprecedented in Australian history.

“It was disgraceful, shameful and characteristic of a national government that often put political interests above the national interest.”

The report led by Home Secretary Michael Pezzullo (pictured, center) revealed a detailed chronology of events that showed government officials were pressured to release an official statement.

Mr. Pezzullo suggested revisions to the terms of the Covenant Covenant – the Concierge’s Covenant is without prejudice to ministerial authority, and officials are required to follow legal directions at all times.

And sensitive information that may be politically important should not be made public during the surveillance period unless there is a threat to life or other urgency related to public safety and security.

The ship carrying asylum seekers was intercepted off Christmas Island and later returned to Sri Lanka.