The Liberal government is safe. For now.
Despite another head rolling over the citizenship saga that has engulfed federal parliament, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s minority government won’t be challenged with a no confidence vote, Labor has confirmed.
Not that their opinion matters.
Labor don’t have the numbers to put forward such a challenge because they need 76 votes to make up a majority of the 150 member House of Representatives, even though there are now 148 members due to two resignations within the Turnbull government.
Labor has 69 votes and even with all five crossbenchers it only makes 74 votes.
Following Saturday’s resignation of Liberal MP John Alexander, Mr Turnbull’s government commands only 73 votes.
The member for Bennelong has confirmed there is a high likelihood he holds British citizenship and has announced his resignation, a day after notifying Mr Turnbull of his decision.
“John’s done the right thing – the honourable thing,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Da Nang, Vietnam, where he is attending the APEC summit.
“He told me that he was no longer sufficiently satisfied … that he was not a UK citizen.”
The Prime Minister has ruled out returning home early from Asia to deal with the crisis, insisting a general election is not needed.
This won’t stop Labor trying to team up with crossbenchers and cause mischief when parliament returns later this month.
Labor spokesman Tony Burke says the party will pursue its own agenda, including a royal commission into banks and a reversal of the cut on penalty rates, both of which were defeated by one vote.
“This is now a government without a majority. It’s a prime minister without authority,” Mr Burke told reporters in Sydney.
“They’re meant to be the government, they’re lurching from crisis to crisis.”
Mr Burke rejected the prime minister’s assertions that Labor MPs who had doubts over their citizenship status – Justine Keay, Madeleine King, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson – should face the High Court.
“The Labor members that the Liberal Party has wanted to talk about are people who had taken reasonable steps before the election,” Mr Burke said. “John Alexander has gone today because he took no steps.”
It wasn’t until earlier this week Mr Alexander sought advice on whether his English-born father, Gilbert Alexander, had conferred UK citizenship.
Mr Alexander said he still hadn’t received official confirmation of his dual citizenship, but said the “balance, the probability of evidence is that I most likely am”.
“I felt I had to resign,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Now, he will contest his seat and stand again for parliament in an upcoming by-election, he said.
It follows Barnaby Joyce’s decision to recontest his seat of New England in a by-election after he was forced to step down over his New Zealand citizenship.
Another Turnbull government MP, Nola Marino, may be ineligible for parliament after questions she may hold Italian citizenship through marriage.
On Friday Mr Turnbull received Greens support to refer all MPs with “legitimate question marks” over their citizenship to the High Court.
But the Greens will still push ahead with a motion in the Senate on Monday to set up an independent audit of all 226 MPs to end the citizenship crisis and restore stability.