POLITICS

Turnbull Government Accused Of 'Running Scared' And Avoiding Minority Chaos

Labor, the Greens and Bob Katter are going to turn up to parliament on Monday anyway.

20/11/2017 1:25 PM AEDT | Updated 20/11/2017 3:20 PM AEDT
Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax Media
Christopher Pyne: "We will sit until marriage equality and citizenship are dealt with."

CANBERRA -- The federal opposition, the Greens and crossbench MP Bob Katter are openly mocking the Turnbull Government's extraordinary surprise step of delaying the resumption of Federal Parliament by a week by vowing to turn up to work in Canberra anyway on Monday, the day it was scheduled to return.

The government has branded the multiple moves a "stunt" and is still insisting it is delaying parliament's return from November 27 to December 4 to ensure the legalisation of marriage equality and deal with the citizenship debacle. It is also denying claims it is tinkering with the end of the parliamentary year to avoid the embarrassing temporary loss of two members in the House of Representatives.

The Government is being threatened by some of its own members to support a Banking Royal Commission or Commission of Inquiry or they will go rogue and cross the floor, while Labor has been threatening parliamentary chaos during the current temporary period of minority government without caught out dual citizens, Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander."

The opposition has likened the parliamentary pause to an act of a dictator, but Labor leader Bill Shorten also said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is running scared.

"He is frightened of the Parliament and he is frightened of his party," Shorten told reporters. "Malcolm Turnbull's lack of courage is not a good enough reason to cancel parliament."

"It belongs to the people of Australia, it is not Mr Turnbull's play thing.

"We will be turning up to work on Monday because the Australian people expect nothing less than it elect to send to Canberra."

The Greens and Bob Katter have also vowed to turn up to work on Monday, although fellow crossbencher Andrew Wilkie will not due spare the cost to taxpayers.

However he has still taken a moment to heavily criticise the Turnbull government for "cancelling parliament," describing it as "scandalous and reminiscent of a tin-pot dictatorship".

Parliament offices will be open as usual to parliamentarians, despite parliament not sitting, but the chambers of parliament will not be available.

In a surprise move on Monday, the Prime Minister and Leader of the House Christopher Pyne ordered that the lower house of Parliament will sit this year until gay marriage is legal and all citizenship issues have been resolved.

The Government has a commitment it is trying to keep to pass marriage equality by private members bill before Christmas, but it is certainly not a done deal. Conservative senators in and out of Government are threatening scores of amendments to cover religious freedom and conscientious objections.

"The plebiscite last Wednesday made it abundantly clear that 62 percent of Australians want us to get on with the job of legislating marriage equality by the end of the year," Pyne told reporters in Adelaide.

So Pyne stated the House will now wait for the Senate to finish debate on marriage and, instead of resuming on the scheduled November 27, the House will resume on December 4.

"We will delay the closing of Parliament to make available the week of the 11 December, in the event that we need that time to finish the issues around citizenship and marriage equality," Pyne said.

"The public are expecting us to deal with marriage equality and to resolve any doubt around the eligibility of MPs to serve in the Parliament because of dual citizenship.

"If it goes on because of speeches and amendments that might need to be considered, we still have that week available to us in the 11th of December and the following week if required. So we will sit until marriage equality and citizenship are dealt with."

But the new date for the return of the House means the Government avoids a parliamentary period of minority government without the lower house MPs Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander. It was expected to be tested by Labor and Government members seeking a Royal Commission into the banking industry.

Both Joyce and Alexander are facing by-elections to be re-elected after being found to dual citizens.

Joyce is vying for a return to parliament in the December 2 New England by-election but Pyne denies delaying Parliament to December 4 -- and seeking to return to its one-seat majority in the Lower House -- has anything to do with it.

"The week of 4th of December, John Alexander and Barnaby Joyce won't be back, assuming that they are both re-elected in Bennelong and New England," Pyne said. "They won't be back in 4th of December so it has nothing to do with the Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander not being available."

Labor's deputy leader, Tanya Plibersek has accused the government of "pressing pause on democracy."

"I think it is an extraordinary call," she told Sky News. "I think that this is the sort of thing that happens in a dictatorship. When the parliament becomes inconvenient the government suspends democracy."

"It is outrageous. It is unacceptable.

"There are dozens of pieces of legislation before the parliament that could be debated next week. And the government has just decided that because the parliament does not suit them they are going to suspend it. "

And Bob Katter has accused the Turnbull government of hiding from the prospect of a Banking Royal Commission.

He is now describing the situation in Parliament as a full-blown "constitutional crisis".

The move also means a delay to the agreed date of December 1 for citizenship declarations from parliamentarians. The date was worked out in a deal for the Senate but the House still needs to pass a resolution for a similar deal, which now can't happen until the House resumes.

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