Yesterday, Malcolm Turnbull learned just how difficult the next three years could be, when the Government lost three votes in Parliament.
A close election result coupled with an ill-disciplined and divided party room means the Government will be sweating on the results of every single vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Here’s what happened yesterday;
Typically, Thursday afternoons are when Canberra starts to wind down. Politicians begin leaving the Parliament building to begin their journey home to their electorates.
It’s been the practice over many many years for politicians from both sides, especially those with a considerable journey ahead of them, those who might live in Far North Queensland, Perth or the Northern Territory for example, to depart before the House has formally completed business and adjourned.
Yesterday three senior Government ministers, Michael Keenan and Christian Porter who are from Perth, and Peter Dutton who lives in Brisbane, did just that.
The marriage equality plebiscite was big news in politics this week too. Listen to Mia Freedman, Kate De Brito and Monique Bowley talk about it on Mamamia Out Loud.
That left the Government three votes short, and in the minority in the House of Representatives.
At 4:30pm, the Opposition voted against a motion to adjourn the House, and with the numbers as tight as they are, the motion was defeated 69 to 67.
The Labor Party then used the opportunity to bring on a motion to establish a Royal Commission in the the banking system in Australia.
At this point Christopher Pyne, the Manager of Government Business, moved a series of votes to adjourn the house. The Government was able to win the vote this time after Michael Keenan, Christian Porter and Peter Dutton returned to Canberra.
It doesn’t sound like such a big deal, really. And in practical terms, it’s not. No legislation was passed. The Opposition did not achieve the establishment of a Royal Commission into banking.
But in political terms it’s a big deal.
It’s embarrassing for the Government, a point made by the Prime Minister himself this morning on Melbourne radio station 3AW.
“What (Bill Shorten) has exposed is among a number of our colleagues, a degree of complacency that obviously was unwarranted,” Mr Turnbull said.