Labor has lost a bid to suspend standing orders in federal parliament over the coalition’s controlling “extreme right” faction and the party’s lack of female MPs.
Deputy leader of the opposition Tanya Plibersek jumped on media reports that Sydney Liberal MP Craig Kelly will be saved from a preselection battle in his Sydney seat, despite another sitting MP Jane Prentice not receiving the same treatment.
Labor “therefore reprimands the prime minister for only ever protecting the men in his party and abandoning the women”, Ms Plibersek told the lower house on Monday.
She questioned Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s calls for candidates to be chosen on merit, which he has urged while rejecting quotas for the number of women in the Liberal Party.
“He’s a merit guy and he believes in rank and file preselections, unless it’s the knuckle draggers and the Neanderthals of the extreme right which he’s protecting,” Mr Plibersek said.
“And in that case of course he’s all for intervention, and merit takes on a pretty new and interesting definition.”
The opposition lost its bid to halt parliament 67 votes to 71, with independent MP Bob Katter siding with the coalition while his crossbench colleagues Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt voted with Labor.
The other crossbenchers – independents Rebekha Sharkie, Kerryn Phelps, Cathy McGowan and former Liberal MP Julia Banks – did not vote on the motion.
Before the vote, minister Alan Tudge accused the opposition of focusing on the “Canberra bubble” and turning their back on debate over draft laws such as domestic violence leave.
“That’s what they’re focused on, the internal games which the Australian public are sick of,” he told the chamber.