While blame for the government’s bill to increase the passenger movement charge failing in the Senate last night ostensibly rests with Pauline Hanson and Brian Burston — the One Nation senators had agreed to support the bill (part of the government’s backpacker tax changes) but failed to show for the vote — in fact it was the result of Mathias Cormann being too smart by half. The government wanted its backpacker tax package bills moved into committee stage today in the Senate (when the Senate in effect turns into one giant committee to consider a bill in detail, and when amendments get moved), which requires they be “read a second time”.

With adjournment looming, the government decided to wrap up second reading debate and get the bills read a second time, meaning they could go straight into committee on the bills today. But they forgot to tell Hanson and Burston, who failed to show up for the vote, meaning the question to read the passenger movement charge bill a second time was resolved in the negative, 31-30.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has accused Hanson and Busrton of “bastardry” over the mix-up. Now the government will have to try to have the vote recommitted today — that is, take a legislative Mulligan and run the vote again. Hopefully they’ll have their Senate ducks in a row this time.

Peter Fray

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