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Aussie gov't cancels parliamentary sitting week after losing majority
Last Updated: 2017-11-20 14:13 | Xinhua
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The Australian government has cancelled the penultimate parliamentary sitting week of 2017 as it confronts the reality of losing its majority.

Christopher Pyne, leader of the House of Representatives, on Monday announced that the sitting week which was due to commence on Nov. 27 had been cancelled.

There has been speculation that the government made the decision to avoid the embarrassment of losing any votes in the lower house after losing its majority.

John Alexander and Barnaby Joyce, members of Parliament (MPs) serving the governing Liberal National Party (LNP), have vacated their seats after finding they were ineligible to serve in parliament on account of being dual citizens.

Their departure has left the LNP with fewer than the minimum of 76 seats required in the House of Representatives to form government, leaving them open to the possibility of losing votes on key matters such as a royal commission into the banking industry which they have opposed.

The following sitting week will take place after a byelection in New England which Joyce is expected to win comfortably having renounced his New Zealand citizenship, returning power to the LNP.

In a post on social media, Opposition leader Bill Shorten accused the government of "running scared," a sentiment which was shared by Greens MP Adam Bandt who said that the LNP was "terrified it has lost control of parliament."

While the government is expected to retain New England, the result in Alexander's north Sydney seat of Bennelong could go down to the wire with ALP candidate, former New South Wales (NSW) Premier Kristina Keneally gaining momentum.

Polling released on Saturday revealed that Keneally had gained ground on Alexander to trail 47-53 on a two-party preferred basis. Alexander retained the seat at the 2016 Federal election with a 60-40 two-party result.

Launching her campaign on Sunday, Keneally referred to the byelection as a referendum on the Turbull government.

Both parties are treating the byelection as an indicator ahead of the next federal election, likely to take place in 2018, which polling suggests Shorten will win in a landslide.

"Labor is trying to take Bennelong. This is going to be a tough fight but it is a fight worth having. Our opponents are going to throw everything at this by-election ?because they are panicked and under threat. This is no ordinary by-election and the people of Bennelong know that," Keneally told her supporters on Sunday.

"This is a chance to tell the Liberals: enough of your poor policies, enough hurting families and enough of your awful government. Enough, Malcolm, enough."

The ALP has won Bennelong only once when Maxine McKew famously defeated sitting PM John Howard in 2007.

Shorten told the crowd of 600 people on Sunday that every vote for the ALP candidate would send a message of discontent to Turnbull.

"There are millions of voters around the nation who are envious of the voters of Bennelong," he said.

"Bennelong has a chance to speak for Australia and to send a message to Mr Turnbull.

"Let us send a message from Bennelong that the nation will hear. Let us send Kristina to Canberra ... They will hear that message loud and clear, right through to the next general election."

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