Labor is keeping Scott Morrison’s minority government on its toes ahead of the return of federal parliament, announcing a strategy that puts pressure on MPs to be present for votes.
Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke has told the coalition that Labor will not pair MPs – a practice when opposition MPs sit out votes when a government member can’t make it – in certain instances, to ensure numbers are even.
This will put pressure on the government for votes that require an absolute majority of 76 members.
That includes votes expected to come up involving the legislation to bring asylum seekers to Australia for medical reasons, and a push to add more parliamentary sittings to deal with banking regulation.
Defence Minister and Leader of the House Christopher Pyne says the move is unprecedented and shows Labor has stooped to a new low.
“By cancelling pairs the ALP are saying they won’t let any Member of the HoR (House of Representatives) leave to attend to a sick family member or to get medical attention themselves,” he wrote on Twitter.
But Mr Burke said Mr Pyne was being “melodramatic”, with pairs only set to be cancelled for divisions that require an absolute majority.
Such votes are rare and if an MP is away it would make no difference to the result, he said.