Government cancels sitting week to deal with SSM vote, clean up citizenship mess

Government cancels sitting week to deal with SSM vote, clean up citizenship mess

Government cancels sitting week to deal with SSM vote, clean up citizenship mess

Updated 20 November 2017, 16:25 AEDT

The move will allow the Senate to finish debating the same-sex marriage bill before it goes to the Lower House, but it also has implications for the dual citizenship mess and any push by backbenchers for a banking royal commission.

The Federal Government has cancelled a sitting week for the House of Representatives to allow the Senate to finish debating the same-sex marriage bill before it goes to the Lower House.

The leader of the Government in the House of Representatives, Christopher Pyne, said once it had returned, Parliament would continue to sit until same-sex marriage is legislated.

The Lower House was due to sit for two weeks from Monday but it will instead sit for one week from December 4, with an option of extending sittings.

"If there is more time required, we can sit in the week of December 11," Mr Pyne said.

The move comes in the midst of a citizenship crisis and a backbench push for a royal commission into the banks.

The new schedule will also push back the Prime Minister's December 1 deadline for all politicians to disclose their citizenship status in Parliament.

MPs will need to provide paperwork by 8pm on December 5, leaving only two days for any referrals to the High Court.

The cancellation puts the brakes on Government backbenchers who are threatening to cross the floor and establish a banking commission.

Nationals MP George Christensen wrote to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the weekend saying he was willing to cause "political damage" on banking and support bids to roll back penalty rate cuts.

A private member's bill on banks or penalty rates has a chance of succeeding in the House of Representatives, given Barnaby Joyce and John Alexander have resigned to contest by-elections.

Labor says move shows Government 'running scared'

Mr Pyne said the sitting week had been cancelled so the Senate could finish debating same-sex marriage, before it was passed to the House of Representatives.

"The Government has made the decision that we would rather deal specifically with marriage equality and with dual citizenship before Christmas," he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the Government was using same-sex marriage as an excuse to prevent Coalition MPs crossing the floor in Parliament.

"Is Malcolm Turnbull now saying that this parliament is so simplistic it can only deal with one item of business?" Mr Shorten said.

"One of the reasons why Mr Turnbull has cancelled Parliament next week is because he knows that a banking royal commission is inevitable, and he will do everything he can do to protect his mates at the top end of town."

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek said the decision was "outrageous" given there were "dozens" of bills that could be debated next week.

"This is the sort of thing that happens in a dictatorship, when Parliament becomes inconvenient the Government suspends democracy," she said.

The new date for MPs to return to the House is two days after the December 2 New England by-election for Mr Joyce's seat.

Mr Pyne denied suggestions the reschedule was an effort to protect the Government's numbers in the Lower House.

"As I have said, neither John Alexander or Barnaby Joyce would be back in the House," he said.

"If what you are suggesting was fact, we would not sit until maybe next year."

A politician can only be sworn in after a return of writs by the Australian Electoral Commission, once it is satisfied the election result is beyond doubt.

That might take several days and the Government appears resigned to the fact it will be down at least one Lower House MP until next year.

Cancellation throws spanner in works for High Court

The delay may also affect when the High Court could hear any dual citizenship cases.

The High Court's final sitting week starts on December 11 and it will not return until February 5.

The court can deal with procedural matters during the summer break, but contested cases will be delayed until next year.

"I have enough trouble managing the summer break with my own children, so I won't be managing the High Court's summer break," Mr Pyne said.

He said the Government needed to give politicians enough time to get their citizenship papers in order.

"We think December 5 gives more than enough time and then we will be able to consider what information they have provided to the House of Representatives," Mr Pyne said.

He said Parliament would continue to sit until same-sex marriage is legal.

"Members should be prepared for the House to sit for some or all of the second week beginning December 11, or as long as it takes to legislate for marriage equality and resolve all citizenship issues," Mr Pyne said.