Bill Shorten says right-wing 'puppet masters' will control Malcolm Turnbull in new Parliament
The government's razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives is a recipe for instability and backbenchers will be able to hold the government to ransom, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has claimed.
Mr Shorten said the
rejection of former prime minister Kevin Rudd's bid to be the next United Nations secretary-general was a case of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in a tight Parliament, being "held hostage to his right-wing puppet masters pulling the strings".
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Labor leader Bill Shorten says the right wing of the Government is pulling the PM's strings. Courtesy ABC News 24.
"Before the election, the LNP, the Liberals, had 90 seats in the Parliament. Now they are reduced to a margin of one vote. That means Mr Turnbull is on probation from his backbench," Mr Shorten said.
"It means stability in Australia depends on Mr Turnbull keeping the goodwill of individuals such as the erratic member for Dawson, Mr [George] Christensen and others. What Labor offers today ... is we will be constructive in the new Parliament. That is what Australians want to hear."
Following Labor candidate Cathy O'Toole's victory in the Queensland seat of Herbert, which could still face a challenge in the Court of Disputed Returns, the Coalition commands 76 seats in the lower house. With one as speaker, who can only vote to break a deadlock, this gives the government 75 votes. Labor holds 69 votes and there are five on the crossbench.
Mr Christensen, a conservative MP from Queensland who sits in the Nationals party room, has publicly threatened to cross the floor over the government's proposed superannuation changes.
As the tit-for-tat over last week's Rudd decision continues, Labor is seeking to make the most out of the staunch opposition to the former Labor prime minister's candidacy from the conservative faction of the Liberal Party.
"It's clear to me that Mr Turnbull's put his own political survival ahead of prior positions he may have had," the Opposition Leader told ABC radio on Tuesday morning, referring to Mr Rudd's claim that the Prime Minister had previously offered support.
"The right-wing puppet masters of Mr Turnbull's government pulled the strings and he's danced to the string-pulling."
Mr Shorten says the opposition has a constructive mindset about the new Parliament, and wants to work with the government on job creation and changes to the controversial "backpacker tax".
"This government is making more mistakes than it should. The lesson here is if Mr Turnbull wants to be successful in the 45th Parliament, he needs to work with the opposition. We are up for co-operation," he said.
Labor's openness to a treaty or treaties between the government and Indigenous groups has been targeted by Coalition MPs in recent days, who say it threatens to derail the largely bipartisan progress towards constitutional recognition for Indigenous people.
WA Indigenous MP Ken Wyatt said he was surprised by Mr Shorten's position, calling it a "step away" from the referendum.
"I'm not opposing those who want a debate around treaty but we live within a country that is extremely conservative when it comes to referendum reform. We need to take little steps in order to achieve the change that was committed by four prime ministers," he told The Australian.