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I've read the riot act to missing MPs: PM

AAP logoAAP 1/09/2016

Malcolm Turnbull has read the riot act to missing-in-action coalition MPs whose absence from parliament allowed Labor to inflict an embarrassing defeat on the government.

The opposition exploited the government's slim majority in the lower house late on Thursday afternoon when it won three procedural votes and almost secured a majority for its call for a royal commission into bank misconduct.

Several coalition MPs, including ministers Peter Dutton, Christian Porter and Michael Keenan, missed votes when they skipped out early.

"I've read the riot act to them. Their colleagues will all read the riot act to them. They'll get the riot act read to them more often than just about anyone could imagine," the prime minister told Neil Mitchell on radio 3AW on Friday.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged Labor's end-of-week tactic was an "oldie but a goodie".

"There's no doubt it was a wake-up call. In fact in some respects it's good to have got it in the first week."

Labor is promising more of the same as it seeks to undermine the prime minister's claim he has a working majority in the parliament.

"There is no chance at all that the government is here for another three years. The clock is ticking for the Turnbull government," manager of opposition business Tony Burke said.

"You have to be pretty arrogant when you're claiming you've got a working majority with a majority of one to not hang around 'till the end of the day."

Leader of the House Christopher Pyne, the man ultimately responsible for the government's tactics, was a chastened figure on Friday.

"There is no doubt what happened ... was a stuff-up," he told the Nine Network.

The absent MPs learned a valuable lesson, he said, revealing they were not given permission to leave early.

Mr Keenan was on a flight to Melbourne after receiving late-breaking advice about a significant federal police operation, but said despite it being a work-related matter it was no excuse.

"It's a decision that I shouldn't have taken and obviously I'm sorry that I did," he told ABC radio.

Mr Keenan returned to Canberra to speak to Mr Turnbull, who made it clear it was unacceptable.

Mr Pyne attempted to play down the seriousness of the government's embarrassment even though it was the first time in more than 50 years a majority government has lost a vote on the floor of the house.

"People out there in the community are more worried about jobs, more worried about feeding themselves and their children than they are about three adjournment votes," he said.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese described the events as a farce.

"If you can't run the parliament, you can't run the country," he said.

Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said the coalition should expect Labor to pull stunts and needed to be on its guard at all times.

Colleague George Brandis said Labor got away with a "gotcha moment" stunt because of the coalition's ill discipline.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said Mr Turnbull had lost "complete control" of the parliament.

"Mr Turnbull has no authority over his party," he told reporters in Melbourne.

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