Government cancels sitting week for Senate to finish debating SSM in Australia


Government cancels sitting week for Senate to finish debating SSM in Australia

Julie Bishop has defended Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's decision to delay a lower house sitting of parliament by a week in order to deal with same-sex marriage legislation, saying it's not a matter of weakness but rather is about being efficient.

"We will form Parliament, we'll appoint a speaker, and we will proceed", while fellow crossbench MP Rebekha Sharkie said she would also return to Canberra, even though the lower house would not sit.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten suspects the sitting week was cancelled in part to fend off renegade coalition MPs exploiting their government's depleted number to cross the floor and establish a banking inquiry.

Announced by leader of the house, Christopher Pyne, the government argued the cancellation would allow the Senate plenty of time to debate and pass a same-sex marriage bill. The Lower House was supposed to sit for two weeks from Monday.

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Liberal MP John Alexander are fighting by-elections because of dual citizenship, reducing the Government's numbers in the House of Representatives from 76 to 74 MPs and putting it at risk of losing votes on the floor if some sided with Labor.

He has added that rather than cancelling a week, members could be kept in Canberra until same-sex marriage and the ongoing citizenship saga are resolved.

But the Opposition has told Coalition rebels it would support a motion to hold a commission of inquiry into the banking sector, a move the Government has rejected as disruptive and unnecessary. She said it is the sort of thing that happens in a dictatorship, "when Parliament becomes inconvenient the Government suspends democracy".

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne
SUPPLIED Leader of the House Christopher Pyne

The Turnbull government is now a minority government, holding just 73 seats on the floor of the lower house, because former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and backbench MP John Alexander are campaigning to win back their NSW seats of New England and Bennelong respectively. Mr Porter told ABC News Breakfast. "Because, if you can not control the floor of parliament, you can not control the country and Turnbull know this".

Independent Andrew Wilkie called the change to sitting days "scandalous" and the work of a "tin-pot dictator" but said he would not be in Canberra on Monday "because it would be a waste of taxpayers' money". And it will make the laws of the land, because the laws of our country are quite clear.

His deputy Tanya Plibersek said the decision was outrageous and "there are dozens of pieces of legislation before the Parliament that could be debated".

Section 30 of the House of Representatives Standing Orders states that when Parliament is not sitting, only the Speaker may change the date and time at which it next convenes.

"While it is entirely possible both matters could be dealt with in the week beginning 4 December, Members should be prepared for the House to sit for some or all of the second week beginning 11 December or as long as it takes legislate for marriage equality and resolve all citizenship issues".

The sitting calendar for Parliament is typically announced a year in advance and very rarely changes.

"Malcolm Turnbull is a drowning man clutching at straws", he said.