Turmoil as Palmer foils repeal

Clive Palmer arrives at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Alex EllinghausenDevil in the detail sees Palmer party rule the dayMark Kenny: PM puts positive spin on Palmer tornadoExclusive: I wil fight on, says Abbott

The Abbott government’s long-awaited carbon tax victory was snatched from it by Clive Palmer, the billionaire coalminer who actually wants to abolish the tax.

As chaos descended on the Senate, it was Mr Palmer’s insistence on harsh penalties for companies caught withholding price cuts after the carbon tax is abolished that stalled the legislation to repeal the carbon tax, and further fuelled the impression that the government is being dictated to by the crossbenches.

The air of chaos prompted Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reassert his leadership, dismissing what he called ”shouting from the sidelines” by minor parties.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Abbott expressed confidence that the carbon tax repeal would proceed on Monday, and appealed to critics not to judge the government by events in the Senate. ”The public will form their own conclusions, they don’t need any help from me,” he said.

Mr Abbott parried the suggestion that the chaos would also compromise his budget plans despite vast tracts of the May 13 formula being held up in the Parliament.

The Palmer United Party abandoned the government at the last minute and after the package of bills to repeal the carbon tax had been ”guillotined”, meaning they proceeded to a vote even though the majority needed to pass them had evaporated.

The bills, with the Palmer amendment, will be re-committed to the Parliament via the House of Representatives on Monday, with the government confident its majority for the package in the Senate will now hold.

It will constitute a fourth attempt to repeal the carbon tax.

Mr Palmer’s PUP pulled the pin on an agreement to pass the repeal bill package at 11.50am on Thursday, claiming it had been double crossed by the government.

PUP senators and Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir sided with Labor and the Greens to defeat the government move, with a final vote just after 12.30pm rejecting the repeal 37 votes to 35.

Explaining his decision to renege on the deal, Mr Palmer claimed his amendment – which itself had been changed since it was first agreed with the government on Monday – had not been properly circulated.

”We asked that it be distributed and we had a violent action from government, a violent reaction I would say,” Mr Palmer said. ”We had ministers calling us and visiting our senators and complaining.”

The problem arose because the Palmer amendment, inserting the penalties, had been expressed as a percentage and as such constituted a money bill. Under the constitution, money bills can only originate in the House of Representatives. However, the wording of the amendment has also raised questions over the application of the fines if enacted.

The opposition’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said carbon tax repeal had become an exercise in ad hoc lawmaking, raising big questions on the soundness of the legislation and creating damaging uncertainty for business.

”Australians are entitled to know does the price pass-through apply to all businesses or only to electricity and gas companies,” she said.

”Maybe if the government had paid attention to proper process rather than just try to ram these through to get a political win, it may not have been in such a chaotic and shambolic mess.”

The government’s leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, said the legislation would pass next week.

”The Palmer United Party are committed to the repeal of the carbon tax, as is the government, so I believe that next week we can resolve the issues that were of a technical nature,” he said.

Thursday’s setback coincided with yet another for the government, when the opposition teamed up with the Greens and the crossbenchers to force the tabling of regulations for its watered down financial planning and advice laws.

The early tabling, which had been planned for next week, has paved the way for the new rules to be struck out next week via a disallowance motion.

Greens leader Christine Milne said the chaos in the Senate was ”government by incompetence”.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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