Malcolm Turnbull humiliated by clever Labor tactics

CHRISTOPHER Pyne played down the government's "stuff up" in the House of Representatives on Thursday attempting to remove himself from a number of embarrassing defeats which saw a majority government lose a vote for the first time since 1962.

The Coalition was caught short in the first week of the new parliament with a number of senior members including Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Social Services Minister Christian Porter missing from the house.

Labor, taking stock of the numbers, voted to keep the House of Representatives sitting late into the afternoon, using the opportunity to try to see through a motion calling for a Royal Commission into banking.

The Coalition lost a three procedural votes until Speaker Tony Smith used his casting vote for the continuation of debate until the government whips were able to call back enough MPs to the chamber.

But Mr Pyne, who is the Manager of Government Business, said lessons had been learnt and there was no need to point fingers.

"It's a salutary lesson for anyone who went home before the house rose yesterday afternoon," he said. "I'm absolutely certain that they won't do that again.

"People out there in the community are more worried about jobs, more worried about feeding themselves and their children than they are about three adjournment votes."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, furious at the lack of discipline wasted no time in admonishing the erring members.

"I've read the riot act to them, their colleagues will all read the riot act to them. They'll get the riot act read to them more often than just about anyone could imagine," he told breakfast radio today.

"There's no doubt it was a wake-up call. In fact in some respects it's good to have got it in the first week."

The Opposition, meanwhile, has spent the day talking up their ability to almost turn the numbers in their favour laughing off Mr Turnbull's claims that his was a "stable majority government".

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese described the events as a farce.

"If you can't run the parliament, you can't run the country," he said.

"We were in control during three years of minority government, each and every day of the parliament. This mob with a majority government couldn't get through three days."

But some political experts seem to agree with Mr Payne saying that the loss of three consecutive votes in the Lower House doesn't really mean much.

"It would have been embarrassing for the government if the motion for a Royal Commission into the banking and financial sector had been successful, but not much more," said Professor Pat Weller, whose specialty is Australian politics and executive government.

"Does it mean much? No. It suggests the government standing is as precarious as people thought it was. It's their job to keep the house, not the Opposition's."