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Dicey numbers as debate goes pair shaped

AAP logoAAP 31/08/2016 Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer

The tight numbers following the federal election came to the fore on the first full working day of parliament.

Labor accused the government of not honouring a "pair" for a female MP who is on parental leave.

A vote relating to Labor's call for a banking royal commission failed on Wednesday by a vote of 75 government MPs to 73 Labor members and crossbenchers.

Following the July 2 election the government has 75 MPs, plus Speaker Tony Smith who exercises a casting vote only in certain circumstances.

Labor has 69 MPs, but was one vote down having received parliament's approval on Tuesday for parental leave for Labor MP Clare O'Neil until November 22.

The opposition gained the support of five crossbenchers, taking its vote to 73.

Manager of opposition business Tony Burke told parliament on Wednesday if a pair was in place the government should have only recorded 74 votes.

"It means a member on parental leave that was carried by resolution from this house had no government member paired," Mr Burke said.

Mr Smith said he had no responsibility for pairing arrangements, which were a matter for party whips.

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne described Mr Burke as "scum", but while Labor asked for him to withdraw the comment the Speaker described it as a frivolous point of order.

"If they wish to have a pair for Clare O'Neil they can have one straight away right now. They haven't asked for one and that is why they didn't get one," Mr Pyne said.

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