Anthony Albanese has lashed the coalition over its “abuse” of the public service on election day, saying it trashed caretaker conventions by pressuring officials to release news of an asylum seeker boat arrival.
Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo released a report on Friday about events that took place on May 21, which found there “was pressure placed on officials” to issue a statement on the arrival.
The boat was intercepted near Christmas Island on its way to Australia from Sri Lanka before being eventually turned back.
The prime minister said Mr Pezzullo acted appropriately on the day in the face of the pressure being applied by the coalition.
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“This was the final act of the Morrison government and that was one that trashed convention and sought to abuse the relationship with the public service,” he told Sky News on Sunday.
“That was a disgraceful event that shouldn’t have happened, and it shouldn’t ever happen again.”
Mr Albanese said the government would consider changing caretaker conventions so that information was only released when lives were threatened.
“The point here is the word convention relies upon some element of decency and goodwill,” he said.
“There was nothing respectful about the actions of the government on that day. It was opportunistic, it was unprincipled, it was unprecedented and it shouldn’t have happened.”
Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews pressured officials while the on-water operation was still in play, Mr Pezzullo found.
Ms Andrews on Saturday said there was no breach of caretaker conventions which ensure a bipartisan approach to the government of the nation once an election is called.
“I was asked by the prime minister to issue the statement and that is exactly what I did,” she said.
She said she wanted a statement that “stuck to the facts,” and that it was a “lawful request”.
The former government also wanted information about the boat intercept given to “selected journalists”, which Mr Pezzullo at the time rejected, saying this should happen “under no circumstances”.
Officials also refused requests to “amplify” the news by putting it on social media.
After the statement was put up on the Australian Border Force website, text messages were sent out by the Liberal Party telling Australians to vote Liberal to “keep our borders secure”.