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Australia's former prime minister and federal Member for Cook Scott Morrison speaks to media during in Sydney.

AAP Image/Flavio Brancaleone via Reuters

What We're Watching: An Australian scandal, Israel and Turkey restore ties, North Korea in the Donbas

A rare scandal Down Under

Australia’s former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who lost general elections in May, is back in the spotlight after it was revealed this week that, at the height of the pandemic, he secretly appointed himself to head five additional ministries. (The Governor General – the Queen’s representative that formally presides over the executive – signed off on this.) Documents reveal that in 2020, Morrison, who now remains in parliament in the opposition, tapped himself to head the health and finance portfolios, followed by several other ministries the following year, including energy and resources. Making matters worse, Morrison’s colleagues in the Liberal Party didn’t know their boss had assumed these powers. In a defiant press conference Wednesday, Morrison said that he took this drastic move because of the public health emergency, and that he never acted as minister despite being secretly sworn into those positions. But the former PM remains in hot water: a mining company is accusing Morrison of “bias” for killing a permit to explore and drill for gas off the coast of New South Wales when he was secretly acting as head of the energy portfolio. Anthony Albanese, Australia’s new PM from the opposing Labor Party, said he is seeking advice on what – if any – the legal implications are. Meanwhile, several members of Morrison's own party have called for his resignation from parliament.

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Ari Winkleman

A guide to Australia’s lackluster election

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australians will head to the polls on May 21 to decide whether to keep his Liberal Party in power. (Time was ticking on his first term and he had to call a vote.) He’s facing off against Anthony Albanese, the low-profile leader of the Labor Party, which has served in opposition for a decade. Labor is currently leading by around 14 points, according to the Roy Morgan poll.

Australians have gained a reputation abroad for being amiable and easygoing, reflecting the country’s fair dinkum spirit. But Australian politics are notoriously cut-throat, long defined by back-stabbing, ad-hominem attacks and accusations of bullying – on both sides of the aisle. (Morrison is the first PM to complete his full term in 15 years because most leaders have been ousted by their own parties.)

What agenda items will be at the heart of the election campaign over the next six weeks, and what – if any – are the foreign policy implications?

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are shown on the screen monitor during the Quad Summit meeting at Suga's office in Tokyo.

Reuters

Can "the Quad" constrain China?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Australia says international borders to stay shut for "some time" despite vaccine progress

December 03, 2020 8:41 AM

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australia's borders will likely stay closed for "some time", Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday (Dec 3) , despite progress in rolling out Covid-19 vaccines.

Coronavirus: In first for Australia, prime minister speaks to Parliament on video link

November 30, 2020 1:02 PM

Monday marked 24 hours with no new locally acquired infections for Australia.

Misinterpretation of interests behind China tension: Australian PM Scott Morrison

November 23, 2020 7:20 PM

Mr Morrison said in a speech that Australia had been unfairly judged.

Morrison hits back over China grievances

November 20, 2020 5:00 AM

SYDNEY • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday pushed back over a list of more than a dozen grievances raised by China regarding his country's human rights diplomacy, independent media and investment policies, saying "we will always be Australia".

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