Scott Morrison has been warned against any future cabinet disclosures that may “undermine national security and the integrity of the Cabinet process” after he co-operated with the book, Plagued that included several bombshell revelations.
The Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has written to Mr Morrison outlining the government’s concerns that sensitive cabinet material is discussed in the book and questioning how this may have occurred.
The book revealed for the first time that Mr Morrison had secretly appointed himself to the health and finance portfolio, but it is other material in the book that raised the Albanese Government’s ire based on the correspondence.
“I am writing to you to express concern at the apparent extensive disclosures of cabinet information in the recent publication Plagued: Australia’s two years of hell – the inside story published by Pantera Press,’’ Mr Dreyfus wrote.
“I understand that the authors were informed by interviews conducted contemporaneously over the 2020-2022 period, including deliberations of the National Security Committee of Cabinet.
“As you are well aware, the publication is granular in its description of cabinet and cabinet committee deliberations.”
Mr Dreyfus goes on to raise concerns about a number of specific revelations in the book and provide page numbers of where the material can be found.
“Several disclosures appear to have been made in contravention of the expectation of discretion regarding sensitive Cabinet discussions, including the disclosure that the then-Secretary of your Department briefed cabinet on planning on Chinese economic coercion [at 129] and that the national security implications of Covid-19 were further discussed at the National Security. Committee of Cabinet  and  which includes alleged quotes from you and paraphrases discussions allegedly from those meetings,’’ he writes.
“Additionally, references to a ‘secret intelligence briefing’ from the Office of National Intelligence (312] would appear to be contrary to the confidentiality of information from the intelligence and security agencies.
“Disclosures of Cabinet discussions and deliberations undermine Cabinet confidentiality and solidarity.
“I trust there will be no further disclosures from your period in government that undermine national security and the integrity of the Cabinet process.”
During Senate estimates today, Labor frontbencher Murray Watt conceded there was no requirement that Mr Morrison respond to the correspondence.
It also does not appear that the book has been referred to the Australian Federal Police or other authorities to investigate any potential cabinet leaks.
After the publication of the book, news.com.au revealed he had also appointed himself to multiple other ministries without his colleagues knowledge, sparking a federal inquiry that will report back on November 25.
The authors of the book, The Australian’s Simon Benson and Geoff Chambers do not reveal in the book who the source for the cabinet leaks were or exactly when the material was provided.
Speaking earlier this year, Mr Morrison said he provided the authors’ interviews “that were done contemporaneously”.
“That book was written based on interviews that were conducted at the time, in the middle of the tempest,” Mr Morrison has said.
That suggests he told them about the secret ministries in real time as the appointments were made.
However, news.com.au understands this was not the case and the disclosures took place some months or even years after.
Last month, the first assistant secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, John Reid, confirmed officials had referred information about the book to the Attorney-General’s Department.
“Our conclusions were it certainly appears to reveal information that was, until it was revealed, cabinet material, and would ordinarily have been protected under the principle of cabinet confidentiality,” Mr Reid said.