‘Surrender document’: Labor accuses Government of skipping work to escape scrutiny

Updated

November 28, 2018 09:57:46

Labor has accused the Federal Government of skipping work and avoiding scrutiny by ensuring Parliament sits for only 13 days before the federal budget in April.

Key points:

  • Labor says Parliament will sit for just 10 days for the first eight months of 2019 if an election is called in May
  • Labor MPs have said the calendar is “appalling” and a “surrender document”
  • Liberal MP Andrew Laming said changing sitting weeks will not have a “huge impact”

The Coalition’s parliamentary sitting week calendar was passed by just one vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday night, and was almost immediately criticised.

The Federal Government is now two votes short of a majority in Parliament after the Member for Chisholm, Julia Banks, quit the Liberal Party to sit as an independent MP.

Those numbers mean Labor and crossbench MPs could work together to veto Government legislation, or to pass bills without the Coalition.

Labor believes that once an election is called for early in May, as expected, then Parliament will only sit for 10 days in the first eight months of 2019.

“If ordinary Australians behaved at work like this Government does, they’d be sacked,” Opposition leader Bill Shorten said.

“This is a Government that has stopped working.”

When Leader of the House Christopher Pyne presented the calendar to Parliament, he described it as “quite unexceptional”.

Mr Pyne said the sitting weeks were evenly spread between the first and second half of the year, but that was immediately disputed by Labor.

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said that since 2014, there have been five weeks of sitting before the federal budget rather than the two scheduled for 2019.

“What is in front of us now is the surrender document,” Mr Burke said.

“They have decided they don’t want to risk what democracy might think of this Government.

“They don’t want to risk the fact they have 73 votes on the floor and they don’t know whether they have a capacity to govern.”

Liberal MP Andrew Laming defended the calendar when leaving Parliament on Tuesday night.

“There’ll be a lot done in the sitting weeks that are chosen but as we saw, changing sitting weeks doesn’t have a huge impact on what actually happens in a Parliament,” Mr Laming said.

“Most of our work isn’t here and when it comes to passing legislation, very little is usually passed in the last few weeks before an election, that’s very standard.”

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the calendar was “appalling” and was “undermining our democratic processes”.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

parliament,

federal-parliament,

australia

First posted

November 28, 2018 05:47:03

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