Religious discrimination revolt - historical data shows scale of rebellion

by Josh Nicholas and Nick Evershed

12 February 2022

Crossing the floor is rare, and only seems to be getting rarer, with a minority of federal politicians having ever crossed the floor and just a single politician involved in more than half of all floor crossing divisions between 1950 and 2019, according to data compiled by the parliamentary library.

Large defections have scuttled significant legislation before. In 2006, then prime minister John Howard was forced to drop a bill that aimed to send asylum seekers who arrived by boat to Nauru for processing. Despite three lower house MPs crossing the floor against the bill, with one abstaining, the bill made it to the Senate. But Howard was unable to secure a majority in the Senate despite the government having a slim majority of 39 (out of 76) Senate seats.

At the time, Liberal senator Judith Troeth had vowed to cross the floor against the legislation, and Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce said he planned to abstain from the vote. Troeth would also later cross the floor with senator Susan Boyce to vote in favour of Labor’s carbon pollution reduction scheme.

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