Coalition loses first votes to Labor

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The govt has been embarrassed after losing three consecutive votes on a Labor motion in the lower house.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra. Picture: AP

THE Turnbull government has suffered an embarrassing blow to its narrow majority after it lost three consecutive votes in the lower house.

It’s believed to be the first time in five decades that a majority government has lost a vote in the House of Representatives.

Labor exploited a weakness in the government’s numbers when many MPs were leaving Canberra for home.

The opposition tried to bring on debate in a bid to call on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to establish a royal commission into banks. Labor then won three divisions in its attempt to expedite debate, taking advantage of the coalition’s slender majority.

Speaker Tony Smith was also forced to use his casting vote – believed to be for the first time – on a procedural motion to allow the debate to be considered. Treasurer Scott Morrison denounced the move and accused Labor leader Bill Shorten of taking political advantage.

“He is using a stunt to promote his stunt,” he told parliament. Mr Shorten said the royal commission was the last resort for justice for those who’d been let down by the banking system.

“We may succeed tonight or not …. we will never give up.” Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen urged the prime minister to give up the fight against a royal commission.

“Sometimes you just have to know when you’ve lost – sometimes you just have to know when it’s time to recognise reality … when it’s time to say ‘OK I might have got this one wrong’.” Other Labor MPs were celebrating the victory on social media. “How is that stable majority government working out for you, Mr Turnbull?” frontbencher Mark Dreyfus tweeted.

Earlier, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fended off Labor’s push for a banking Royal Commission by taking aim at Opposition Leader Bill Shorten for a “hopelessly populist political campaign”.

Doubling down on yesterday’s parliamentary question time performance where he labelled Mr Shorten a “latter-day Jack Lang”, Mr Turnbull today branded the Opposition Leader “the image of liberty in that great Delacroix painting”.

“You see, Mr Speaker, I said yesterday that the Leader of the Opposition is like a latter-day Jack Lang taking on the banks, a heroic advocate for the people, taking on the big end of town,” Mr Turnbull told the parliament.

“I think he’s getting so carried away with himself he sees himself rather like the person, the image of liberty in that great Delacroix painting, the tricolour in one hand, the muscat in the other.

“There he is, trampling over the barricades, freeing the people, freeing the people from their wrongs, taking on the banks. Mr Speaker, this is a hopeless, hopelessly populist political campaign.”

Mr Shorten said he had today met with several people who had been treated unfairly by banks.

Macquarie MP Sussan Templeton used the experience of a couple called Dwayne and Jenny to ask Treasurer Scott Morrison why he would not back a Royal Commission into the banks.

But the question appeared to backfire when Mr Morrison pointed out the couple’s plight began when Labor was in government.

“I noticed in the members’ question that she referred to Dwayne and Jenny having been dealing with this for seven years,” he said.

“This government has been in power for three years. Three years. Not seven years.”

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