Labor and the Greens have handed the Abbott government a double-dissolution trigger it doesn’t want to pull just yet.
But that hasn’t stopped the Greens from challenging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to take his plans to scrap the carbon tax to a second election.
The Senate on Wednesday rejected for a second time a government bill abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
A number of other carbon tax repeal bills could face the same fate.
Under the constitution, the government can use the bill to trigger the dissolution of both houses of parliament and call an election.
The bill, and others rejected twice by the Senate, could then be put to a joint sitting of the new parliament.
But it’s not an option the government is actively pursuing.
Instead it wants its package of carbon tax repeal bills put to a new Senate in July when an enlarged cross bench will have greater sway than Labor and the Greens.
Greens leader Christine Milne used parliament on Wednesday to deliver a direct message to Mr Abbott.
“If you are so convinced that ignoring climate change… is the way to go, go to an election on it,” she said.
The Greens and Labor used their numbers to force a vote on the corporation repeal bill, prompting Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to accuse them of defying voters.
“The judgment of the Australian people is very clear,” he said.
Labor argues polluters will be given a free pass if the government’s carbon tax repeal bills clear parliament.
“You are simply treating this sector as a joke,” Labor senator Louise Pratt said.
The corporation finances clean energy projects and was established to transition Australia “to a carbon-constrained economy”.
While the Senate was voting on the repeal bill, the government introduced its own climate action legislation – setting up a direct action fund – to the lower house.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said the legislation to abolish the corporation would be reintroduced to parliament next week.
The government did not believe it was appropriate to keep borrowing money to underwrite a $10 billion taxpayer funded bank that cherry-picked investments in direct competition with the private sector, he said.
The reintroduction will enable the new Senate to consider the bill.