Turnbull berates Coalition MPs who left parliament early, blames Shorten for ‘stunt’

By @chelean on
Malcolm Turnbull
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is seen during an event at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, May 13, 2016 during campaigning before the July 2 federal election. AAP/Lukas Coch/via Reuters

Malcolm Turnbull was seething at the MPs who left the parliament early on Thursday. The Australian prime minister has “read the riot act” to some Coalition MPs, including three senior ministers, for going home early and therefore allowing Labor to win three consecutive motions.

The ministers – including Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Social Services Minister Christian Porter and Justice Minister Michael Keenan – left even before the parliament ended its second day of sitting. This allowed the Opposition to overpower the Coalition and win most votes on the floor of House of Representatives. The Labor called a motion for a banking royal commission after the ministers have left.

Their absence and the Coalition’s loss have questioned the Government’s control of the House. As 3AW host Neil Mitchell asked the PM on Friday, “If you can’t run the parliament in week one, how the hell can we expect you to run the country?”

Turnbull admitted that the ministers should have stayed until the end, and that they have already been reprimanded, but he claimed there was no real damage done.

“Yes, a number of our members who should have not left the building left the building. They did the wrong thing, they know they did the wrong thing. I’ve read the Riot Act to them. Their colleagues will all read the Riot Act to them, they’ll get the Riot Act read to them more often than just about anyone could imagine,” Turnbull told Mitchell.

“But at the end of the day, these were procedural votes. These were not substantive issues, this was all about stunts and games and puts completely to one side, the undertakings Bill Shorten gave about being constructive and being a committed Opposition leader.”

Turnbull explained that the ministers knew they were not supposed to leave but they did because they thought they could get away with it. “They’ve been caught out, they’ve been embarrassed, they’ve been humiliated, they’ve been excoriated. It won’t happen again.”

Keenan told ABC radio on Friday that he already apologised to his colleagues. He claimed he left early because of a “work-related matter,” but he admitted that that’s still not an excuse.

Shorten has denied that the surprise vote at the parliament was a stunt, saying the Opposition just really wanted justice for banking victims. He added that the incident has nevertheless proved that Turnbull couldn’t manage the parliament.