The federal Coalition has used parliamentary tactics to extend question time amid fears it was set to lose another vote in the House of Representatives.
Question time was allowed to run far beyond its usual end time, prompting Labor accusations the federal government was trying to avoid a looming vote to establish a royal commission into abuse in the disability sector.
It is the latest development in a scrappy week for federal Parliament after heated debate over the medical treatment of asylum seekers and a scuffle between a senator and a staffer.
Usual practice involves the Prime Minister calling for an end to Question Time some time after 3.10pm – often after a government MP has lobbed a so-called “dixer”, or a question where the government can spruik its own policy at a minister.
Labor and crossbench politicians took to Twitter to vent their frustration with the tactics.
#QT appears to be particularly long today, normally the second cross-bench question is the second to last one, we’ve had a few since then… 🤔
— Rebekha Sharkie MP (@MakeMayoMatter) February 14, 2019
— Madeleine King (@MadeleineMHKing) February 14, 2019
The Senate passed a motion calling on the government to establish a royal commission into abuse in the disability sector, and it was expected to be introduced into the Lower House on Thursday afternoon.
Usually, the commencement of such an inquiry is an act of the government of the day rather than by a vote in Parliament.
Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, who moved the motion calling for the establishment of the inquiry, was in the Lower House for the developments.
He was reprimanded by Speaker Tony Smith for interjecting as the Prime Minister sought to justify the situation.
Mr Smith noted the previous longest question time had run for 126 minutes in 2009.
Time runs out and Parliament adjourns
On Thursdays, the Lower House usually adjourns for the week around 4.30pm.
Labor MPs argued the Coalition was running down the clock to avoid losing a vote on establishing the royal commission.
The Speaker said it was in the control of the Prime Minister to call an end to question time.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten attempted to cut off question time, asking the House to vote in favour of bringing on the royal commission motion for debate.
The Prime Minister said he was “open to ideas and suggestions about how further support” could be provided to people with disabilities.
Instead he said he was not worried about losing a vote.
“I lost one on Tuesday,” he yelled, before again turning his attack on Labor for backing the medical transfers bill.
Before Mr Shorten’s motion could be voted on, the clock struck 4.30 and Parliament began to wrap up for the week.