Prime Minister ‘not afraid’ of rebellion by Liberal MPs over government votes

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has tried to downplay deeper divisions and poor discipline in his ranks after a chaotic week in parliament, saying he embraces the divergent views of his colleagues.

Sir. Morrison faces a backbench uprising that has paralyzed his government’s agenda, with coalition senators taking sides with One Nation and the government briefly losing control of the House of Representatives.

On Thursday, Liberal MP Bridget Archer crossed the floor in support of an attempt to force a debate on a federal corruption watchdog.

Morrison confirmed today that the government would stick to its original proposal for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission and abandon plans to reject the much-criticized model.

However, he will not say whether it will be introduced next week before Parliament rises for the year.

“I’m not leading a team of drones and hot bodies that I’m just moving around Parliament,” Mr Morrison said.

“That’s what the Labor Party does, that’s how they treat their members.

“If you disagree with the Labor Party, they will kick you out.”

Prime Minister ‘not afraid’ that Liberal MPs will ruin the legislative agenda

The coalition likes to promote the fact that, unlike Labor, its backers are not obliged to vote by party lines, but the fact that seven Liberals and National MPs voted against the government in one week is almost unheard of.

Despite the fact that this uprising prevented the government from passing important pieces of legislation this week, Mr Morrison said he wanted his MPs to have their say.

“I let my party breathe. I’m not trying to tie it together in a claustrophobic way,” he said.

“I actually think it makes our government stronger.”

Ms Archer, who represents the ultra-marginal liberal seat of Bass in Tasmania, told the Guardian this week that she was “offended” that the government had prioritized its law on religious discrimination over another promise to establish a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

Helen Haines, wearing a mustard yellow shirt, walks out of the chamber with her arm around Bridget Archer
A bill by independent MP Helen Haines was tabled by Bridget Archer, a move that caught some liberals in the hall.(ABC News: Tamara Penniket)

After crossing the floor to start a debate on a federal anti-corruption commission, Mrs Archer was summoned to a meeting with Mr Morrison, treasurer Josh Frydenberg and women’s minister Marise Payne.

Morrison characterized the meeting as “very positive and very encouraging” and said he and Mrs Archer were “close colleagues”.

“It was a very warm and friendly and supportive meeting … and I wanted to make sure she was supported,” he said.

With four meeting days left of the year, Mr Morrison has given no indication of when the coalition will introduce legislation to set up its proposed Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

The government unveiled its draft bill a year ago, but after being heavily criticized and attracted some parliamentary support, Advocate General Michaelia Cash began a months-long consultation process.

But Mr Morrison said today that the government would stick to the original model.

“The legislation we have is out there,” he said.

“We do not want to see these things used as a political weapon, and our proposal secures against that.”

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said it was misleading to suggest the government’s model had been made public.

“They have not received a proposal. They have not presented anything to Parliament,” Mr Albanese said.

“They’ve got a draft of exposure, and what they have is 1,000 days of inactivity.”


Leave a Comment