Peter Dutton says he will miss the year’s final week of Parliament through an injury sustained at home as Labor continues its push to refer him to the High Court.
The Home Affairs Minister revealed Monday he will remain on medical leave with an arm injury and not return for the final parliamentary session.
His announcement comes as Labor figures attempt to convince wavering crossbenchers to support a High Court referral, saying Mr Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament needs to be urgently addressed.
“I will remain on medical leave this week on the advice of my doctor,” Mr Dutton said on Twitter. “The [Attorney General] will continue to act for me during my absence,” he said.
The questions over whether Mr Dutton is eligible to sit in parliament revolve around his financial interests in childcare centres that receive federal funding.
Labor only needs a simple majority on the floor of Parliament to refer Mr Dutton to the High Court, and Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is pushing for a referral this week.
“The doubts over [Mr Dutton’s] eligibility to sit in parliament, and therefore the doubt over the very many ministerial decisions that he’s made, remains,” Mr Dreyfus told ABC radio on Monday.
It’s essential that this be cleared up as quickly as possible.”
Former Liberal MP Julia Banks is prepared to vote to refer Mr Dutton to the high court to test whether he meets section 44 of the constitution, which bans people from parliament if they get money from the Commonwealth.
The minority coalition government now holds just 74 of 150 lower house seats, and Labor could successfully refer Mr Dutton if it secures votes from six-out-of-the seven crossbenchers.
However, Labor might not have the numbers to pull off its referral.
Queensland independent MP Bob Katter is opposed to the referral and Tasmanian crossbencher Andrew Wilkie will only support a “job lot” of all MPs under a cloud.
“I’d invite Mr Wilkie to look individually at each case,” Mr Dreyfus said.
“It’s quite shameful that the government is prepared to go on knowing that there’s a massive doubt over Mr Dutton’s eligibility.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that sending Mr Dutton to the high court could trigger a spate of other referrals.
“There are three other house members that have the same issues that have been suggested about Peter Dutton,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
“So any principled position, any consistent position, anyone seeking to be truly fair about this would apply the same rule to all of those members.”
Mr Dutton’s absence will likely to scupper Labor’s hopes of debating private members’ Bills, including the push for an integrity commission.
Labor has already agreed to “pair” Mr Dutton’s vote while he is absent, denying it the absolute majority of 76 votes it needs to force the debate.