You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Crossbench saves govt from embarrassment

AAP logoAAP 12/09/2016

Crossbench MPs have saved the Turnbull government from another parliamentary embarrassment, helping the coalition pass its first pieces of legislation through the lower house.

The votes of Andrew Wilkie, Rebekha Sharkie and Cathy McGowen allowed one of the bills to sail through on Monday while Bob Katter gave support to the second.

Earlier Labor refused the government leave to have the two bills pass their final stage, even though it wasn't opposed to the legislation.

That frustrated government senators who have been waiting to receive bills from the lower house.

Instead, under the guise of replying to the governor-general's first-day address to parliament, they have been forced to talk about topics from the Australian flag to paying tribute to colleagues who lost their seats at the July 2 election.

Labor senators are refusing to take part in that debate, forcing the government to call on some its ministers to prolong proceedings until a bill arrives from the House of Representatives.

Manager of government business Mitch Fifield tweeted his annoyance, accusing Labor of playing games in the other house.

"Senate is ready. No bill could be less controversial," he tweeted.

Opposition leader in the Senate Penny Wong said the government had been forced to drag cabinet ministers in to "filibuster" until question time.

"This address in reply ... really confirms what Labor said in the election - Mr Turnbull and his government have no agenda," she told parliament.

"They've literally got nothing to talk about."

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne won enough support to push through the two bills.

Four of five crossbench MPs backed the immediate passage of an agriculture levies bill, while Mr Katter abstained on a vote to pass a bill to better register deaths overseas.

The government needed an absolute majority - 76 votes - to win the day.

It comes after the government lost a series of procedural votes in the lower house at the end of the first sitting week, after several MPs went home early.

It was the first loss suffered by a majority government in more than 50 years.

Senator Fifield said Labor was frustrating the passage of a bill that could not be more uncontroversial.

It has used procedural tactics to delay passage of the registration of deaths abroad amendment bill, which enables the minister to appoint any state or territory registrar as the registrar of deaths abroad.

"This is how low the Australian Labor Party have stooped," he told parliament.

"The opposition have been running around talking to anyone who will listen to them today to say the Senate has run out of business, that the government has mismanaged its legislative program.

"Nothing could be further from the truth."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon