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How Scott Morrison’s new political crisis could see an end to Australia’s international travel ban

Prime Minister Scott Morrison‘s new political crisis could see Australia’s international travel ban scrapped sooner as crossbench MPs pressure the government to change its strict policy.

The Coalition barely commands a majority in the House of Representatives, after renegade southern Sydney MP Craig Kelly on Monday quit the Liberal Party.

Should there be another defection, the government will lose its majority and be forced to rely on crossbench MPs, including two who are openly opposed to the ban on Australians travelling overseas for a holiday.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, who holds the Adelaide Hills seat of Mayo, wants the restriction relaxed to allow a travel bubble with the Pacific islands.

‘Travel bubbles close to home should be explored because Rebekha is deeply concerned for the South Pacific people who have historically relied on Australia for tourism, and Australia needs their workers here for agriculture,’ her spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison's new political crisis could see Australia's international travel ban scrapped sooner if crossbench MPs exercised their newfound power

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's new political crisis could see Australia's international travel ban scrapped sooner if crossbench MPs exercised their newfound power

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s new political crisis could see Australia’s international travel ban scrapped sooner if crossbench MPs exercised their newfound power

‘Perhaps the government should explore the concepts of some safe travel bubbles once the vaccine roll out is underway, here and in the Pacific.’

Ms Sharkie’s spokeswoman added: ‘Rebekha would like to see more Australians allowed to travel overseas on compassionate grounds’.

Griffith University politics lecturer Paul Williams said that while the government wasn’t technically in minority yet its bare majority was ‘precariously thin’.

‘It’s on the precipice of minority, the role of independents becomes absolutely crucial in getting legislation through the lower house,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.

The lower house crossbench also includes the independent Member for Warringah Zali Steggall, a barrister and Winter Olympian who two years ago defeated former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott in his harbour and beach-side Sydney Northern Beaches electorate.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, who holds the Adelaide Hills seat of Mayo, wants the restriction relaxed to allow a travel bubble with the Pacific islands.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, who holds the Adelaide Hills seat of Mayo, wants the restriction relaxed to allow a travel bubble with the Pacific islands.

Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, who holds the Adelaide Hills seat of Mayo, wants the restriction relaxed to allow a travel bubble with the Pacific islands.

The 46-year-old first-term MP in August last year likened the travel ban to North Korea, with many of her wealthy constituents more likely to travel overseas.

‘There are many stories. Restrictions for travelling IN and OUT of Aus means we are currently aligned with North Korea with closed outward bound borders!,’ she tweeted.

Crossbench MPs

Craig Kelly, the ex-Liberal Member for Hughes (New South Wales)

Zali Steggall, independent Member for Warringah (New South Wales)

Bob Katter, Katters Australian Party Member for Kennedy (Queensland)

Rebekha Sharkie, Centre Alliance Member for Mayo (South Australia) 

Andrew Wilkie, independent Member for Clark (Tasmania) 

Adam Bandt, Greens Member for Melbourne (Victoria) 

Helen Haines, independent Member for Indi (Victoria) 

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‘We can show compassion and flexibility without compromising health and safety.’

As a powerful crossbencher, Ms Steggall could pressure the government to scrap or relax the travel ban in exchange for her vote on other legislation, even if her demands aren’t included in specific amendments to proposed laws.

Asked about this, the independent MP told Daily Mail Australia: ‘I am committed to working with the government in a way consistent with the Warringah electorate, whilst holding the government to account where needed.’

Dave Sharma, the Liberal Member for Wentworth in Sydney’s east, is also a critic of the travel ban and the tighter numbers in the lower house would give moderate MPs like him more scope to speak up in the party room.

The Morrison Government won 77 out of 151 seats at the May 2019 election but Mr Kelly’s defection to the crossbench now means it will be relying on the vote of Speaker Tony Smith, a Liberal, if there is a parliamentary deadlock. 

Mr Kelly has vowed to support the government on confidence and supply and legislation reflecting election promises but he reserves the right to vote against certain policies and could still spring a surprise.

The Member for Hughes could also potentially embolden another hard-right MP Kevin Andrews, a former minister, to reconsider his future in the Liberal Party after he last month lost preselection for his Melbourne seat. 

Another defection from the Coalition could force the government to rely on one of seven other crossbenchers to get legislation passed. 

In December, Health Minister Greg Hunt extended the travel ban until March 2021.

But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham has hinted the travel ban could end in October, contingent on the Covid vaccine program going well.

The Coalition barely commands a majority in the House of Representatives, after renegade southern Sydney MP Craig Kelly on Monday quit the Liberal Party

The Coalition barely commands a majority in the House of Representatives, after renegade southern Sydney MP Craig Kelly on Monday quit the Liberal Party

The Coalition barely commands a majority in the House of Representatives, after renegade southern Sydney MP Craig Kelly on Monday quit the Liberal Party

‘It’s possible and I would share those hopes, but there are many uncertainties between now and October,’ he told Sky News on Friday.

‘Obviously we need the vaccine rollout to go well. 

‘Within that we need to see how the evidence plays out around the world about the emergence of other strains and variants of COVID-19 and the vaccine’s resistance to those and the protections that it gives to individual people.’ 

Making matters harder for the government, Coalition MPs are prepared to cause trouble. 

Zali Steggall (left with fellow independent Helen Haines) two years ago defeated former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott in his harbour and beach-side Sydney Northern Beaches electorate

Zali Steggall (left with fellow independent Helen Haines) two years ago defeated former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott in his harbour and beach-side Sydney Northern Beaches electorate

Zali Steggall (left with fellow independent Helen Haines) two years ago defeated former Liberal prime minister Tony Abbott in his harbour and beach-side Sydney Northern Beaches electorate

The 46-year-old first-term MP in August last year likened the travel ban to North Korea

The 46-year-old first-term MP in August last year likened the travel ban to North Korea

The 46-year-old first-term MP in August last year likened the travel ban to North Korea

Maverick Nationals backbencher George Christensen did this in 2017, backing the Labor Opposition on penalty rates.

Unlike Labor, the Liberal and National parties allow MPs to cross the floor without the risk of being expelled from the party. 

That was a year before former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Sydney eastern suburbs seat of Wentworth was lost to independent Dr Kerryn Phelps in a by-election.

A month later, in November 2018, Julia Banks quit the Liberal Party, plunging Mr Morrison’s new government into minority.

This enabled Dr Phelps in February 2019 to secure, with Labor support, short-lived ‘medevac’ laws that allowed asylum seekers in offshore detention to obtain medical treatment in mainland Australia.

In November 2018, Julia Banks (centre) quit the Liberal Party, plunging Mr Morrison's new government into minority. This enabled new independent Kerryn Phelps (left) in February 2019 to secure, with Labor support, short-lived 'medevac' laws that allowed asylum seekers in offshore detention to obtain medical treatment in mainland Australia. Rebekha Sharkie is pictured right

In November 2018, Julia Banks (centre) quit the Liberal Party, plunging Mr Morrison's new government into minority. This enabled new independent Kerryn Phelps (left) in February 2019 to secure, with Labor support, short-lived 'medevac' laws that allowed asylum seekers in offshore detention to obtain medical treatment in mainland Australia. Rebekha Sharkie is pictured right

In November 2018, Julia Banks (centre) quit the Liberal Party, plunging Mr Morrison’s new government into minority. This enabled new independent Kerryn Phelps (left) in February 2019 to secure, with Labor support, short-lived ‘medevac’ laws that allowed asylum seekers in offshore detention to obtain medical treatment in mainland Australia. Rebekha Sharkie is pictured right

Source: Daily Mail Australia | World News

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