Liberal MP who crossed the floor over integrity dubbed a ‘lioness’

Coalition backbencher Bridget Archer has been called the “lioness of the 46th parliament” and a “hero” by independent MPs after she crossed the floor in an attempt to bring on a debate about introducing a corruption watchdog.

Nov 25, 2021, updated Nov 25, 2021
Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer before she crossed the floor during a vote for the integrity commission.(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer before she crossed the floor during a vote for the integrity commission.(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The Tasmanian Liberal embarrassed the federal government by supporting a motion from independent MP Helen Haines who called for an urgent debate on her integrity commission bill in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Ms Archer told parliament time had gone on long enough without a debate on the introduction of a federal independent commission against corrupt conduct.

The government had the fewest votes when it came to two separate motions on whether to allow a debate to take place.

But as an absolute majority of 76 votes was required in the 151-member chamber, debate did not continue.

Independent member for Indi Helen Haines (left) and Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer (right) leave the chamber after crossing the floor during a division on allowing debate on an integrity commission. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Haines said the absolute majority was a technicality which stopped the debate because not all House of Representatives members were present in Canberra due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Following the vote Haines told reporters there were other government backbenchers who had talked about supporting an integrity commission.

“This is far from over,” she said.

“The nation can take some comfort in knowing that despite what the prime minister is doing … the majority of (members) want an integrity commission.”

The motion was supported by the opposition, Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent MPs Craig Kelly, Bob Katter, Andrew Wilkie, Zali Steggall and Rebekha Sharkie.

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Mr Wilkie said Archer’s decision was the single greatest thing he had seen any member do during his 11 years in parliament.

“She’s a hero,” he said.

The government has previously stopped debate on Haines’ bill, with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher telling parliament there was an alternate proposal in place for a Commonwealth Integrity Commission.

The CIC legislation has yet to go to the coalition party room or parliament despite an election promise to establish an integrity commission.

“The irony of breaking an election promise on integrity is certainly not lost on me and I’m sure it’s not lost on voters,” Haines said.

Archer is the second government MP to cross the floor in as many days, following Queensland MP George Christensen doing the same on Wednesday over a bill dealing with class actions.

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