This was meant to be the Abbott government’s fortnight of triumph, repealing carbon tax and mining tax hand-in-hand with the newbie senators. But Palmer had other ideas …
“I won’t be filibustering like Senator [Doug] Cameron,” said Senator Ian Macdonald, after spending 10 minutes assembling a Dorothy Dixer that would give Jean-Claude Van Cormann a chance to attack the Australian Workers’ Union and reveal — shock — that there were links between Labor and trade unions. Wednesday morning in the Senate, and the carbon tax that was meant to be abolished with a flourish nine days ago is still wending its way slowly through the red benches. “I could talk about the mining tax,” Macdonald continued, “but that’s a matter for another day.”
Another day? It’s meant to be coming later this morning or early this afternoon. By now, the Abbott government’s fondest hope has been dashed — that the first sitting of the new Senate would be a chance to show off its “government by adults” style, with a crossbench snugly to the Right of the Coalition (the Greens now appear to be counted and not counted in the crossbenches, depending on context. Seems to be all about the way you say it, which doesn’t help in pronunciation).
That seems foolish now. Though the government is getting what it wants — carbon tax repeal, FOFA gutting — it is being put through the wringer. Yesterday, when FOFA was done down through a deal with PUP — well come on, with Palmer — the Palmersaurus himself sloped into the Senate chamber to hear that his substantially ineffectual amendments were being read into the record by Jean-Claude. Thus they were, and he departed again. Last week Joe Hockey was on holiday while in Canberra, Palmer announced that PUP would fillet $12 billion worth of budget measure savings. Tony Abbott was in the desert, setting Australia-China relations back by decades. This week, Hockey was here, but Abbott was in Sydney, primping and puffing himself to pay obeisance to Rupert. It’s a funny way to give the impression of leadership.
But perhaps it is well strategically thought out. Not so much a question of giving Clive enough rope as enough china shop, and hope that the public tire of him. That works on the supposition that the public was ever drawn to him in any large numbers — which outside of the seat of Fairfax, they weren’t. The wholly inaccurate picture of him as a “populist” has led people to suppose that he’s playing to the public gallery. Actually, PUP has converted itself immediately into an insider party, specialising in retail amendment deals. Having never been seen as a representative of the people, he can’t really lose that much of it. The government — having disdained actually speaking to PUP until a week or so before the new Senate commenced — now appear to have gone to the plan B of letting Palmer exhaust himself and pull too many swift moves to gain future support. They will be hoping against hope that the PUP Senate bloc doesn’t hold.
The mining tax, when it comes around, is another purportedly open-and-shut case that will be neither. PUP has committed to support its repeal, but last Monday, at the National Press Club, the Palmersauraus revealed that he wouldn’t be supporting the abolition of the tax and benefits measures that had been connected to it — the low-income superannuation contribution, the income support bonus and the schoolkids’ bonus.
Everyone except the Leyonhjelm/Day axis has jumped on the low-income super provisions, and Labor and PUP are committing to doing down all three income support abolitions, while the Greens have committed only to the low-income super support. Labor and Xenophon/Madigan are also holding out against any monkeying with the superannuation guarantee charge. And Leyonhjelm isn’t opposing any of those abolitions, but wants to gut the rest of the bill, which removes all the provisions put in to compensate business for some associated losses. I can’t say I’ve got it clear in my head, but none of it will get up anyway.
And of course as we can now reasonably suppose, when the bill does come around, the PUP position will most likely change again. If it gets done at all in this session, it will most likely be at 2am on Sunday. Stay tuned for matters of another day.