“We are committed to putting it up”: Senator Eric Abetz on the carbon tax repeal bill. Photo: Andrew Meares
The government will move to bring the carbon tax repeal bill on as the first order of business when the new Senate sits on Monday.
However, the opposition and the Greens say the debate should be left until July 14, when a Senate committee report into the repeal of the carbon tax is due to be tabled.
The argument will be settled in a procedural debate that could consume significant time on the first day of the new Senate before a vote on the carbon tax repeal bill can even go ahead.
The government’s Leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, said on Sunday that despite the “feisty demeanour” of the new crossbench senators, he hoped they would see the benefit of repealing the carbon tax after months of efforts from Labor and the Greens to “frustrate that agenda”.
“We are committed to putting it up,” Senator Abetz told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.
“We said before the election that the very first item of business we would put to the new Parliament was the repeal of the carbon tax.
“We did that over 6 months ago.
“It therefore is absolutely consistent for us to put it up as the first item for the new Senate.”
But the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, accused the government of “bullying” new crossbench senators and said bringing debate on this week would be inconsistent with Senate rules that permitted debate on the bills from July 14.
“The government has listed its carbon price repeal bills as the first order of business in the new Senate to put pressure on new crossbenchers and serve as a distraction from its unfair and unpopular budget measures,” Senator Wong said.
She said Senator Abetz was asking new crossbenchers to suspend standing orders and abolish the price on carbon pollution just hours after the new Senate sits.
“I hope the crossbench will resist the Government’s bullying and agree to consider bills that abolish a carbon price when they are scheduled to be debated.”
Labor wants the repeal of the carbon tax to come with an immediate transition to a floating price on carbon in the form of an emissions trading scheme.
The government still faces a battle to win over senators to push other unpopular measures, including its GP co-payment and changes to welfare entitlements, through Parliament.
Senator Abetz told Insiders the government would work with the new crossbench “as we have to have a landing on some of these issues”.
“Clearly a lot of them have come into the Senate with a feisty demeanour and an agenda and we will work with them to ascertain what we can achieve to the betterment of the Australian economy and the Australian community,” he said.
Some senators have signalled their readiness to negotiate on some government policies, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme.
Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has said he could be persuaded to support the scheme, if the government agrees to deregulate the childcare sector and allow for fewer checks and rules in the childcare system.
Senator Abetz said on Sunday there was a need for “some accreditation” in the sector, but he was not going to respond in detail to Senator Leyonhjelm’s proposal as it was not one of his ministerial responsibilities.
But the Workplace Relations Minister described as “interesting” a proposal from Family First Senator Bob Day to allow young job seekers to work for less than the minimum wage if they chose to.
“I’ve seen that proposal, I believe it’s an interesting one and what I would invite Senator Day to do is to submit that proposal to our Productivity Commission inquiry into the Fair Work Act framework and regime and see whether or not it has merit,” Senator Abetz said.
“Our view is that the wages that are set should be determined by the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission, but Senator Day here has a policy proposal which should be put into the open marketplace and considered.”
Written by: Lisa Cox