The Abbott government will test support for repealing the carbon tax now that new senators have been sworn in.
But Labor and the Greens have appealed to the new crossbenchers to wait for a report into the legislation due to be tabled on July 14 before thinking about siding with the government.
The coalition now has 33 senators in the upper house, after new senators were sworn in on Monday morning, requiring six extra votes to get its laws passed.
If the government can’t get Labor’s 25 senators on side, it can try the 10 Greens or eight crossbenchers.
The other eight include Glenn Lazarus, Jacqui Lambie and Dio Wang from the Palmer United Party, Ricky Muir from the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, Bob Day from Family First, David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats, independent Nick Xenophon and the Democratic Labour Party’s John Madigan.
The government is set to move a motion in the Senate on Monday, after the swearing in and morning tea with Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, to bring on the carbon tax repeal bills.
But Labor Senate leader Penny Wong says the government is bullying the new senators.
“What the government is doing is asking the Senate and the new senators on the crossbench to suspend standing orders and bring on a vote on legislation which is due to be debated on July 14th,” she said.
Manager of government business in the Senate Mitch Fifield said Australians had voted to scrap the carbon tax at last year’s federal election.
“This week we would like to see the Australian Senate give effect to what the Australian people have already indicated they want,” he said.
PUP leader Clive Palmer supported a vote to scrap the carbon tax this week.
“I think it’s a good idea because Australians have debated the carbon tax now for five years,” he said.
The renewed push to scrap the tax came as 59 economists wrote an open letter calling for a price on carbon.
Putting a price and limit on carbon pollution is the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions, they said.
Senator Leyonhjelm, one of the senators the government expects to back the repeal, expressed some trepidation about his new role before taking his oath.
“It scares the crap out of me,” he told reporters.
Senator Day said his fellow debutants were eager to prove their critics wrong.
The Family First senator noted the crossbench had been called “a mish-mash, flotsam and jetsam, bunch of barnyard (animals), licorice all-sorts, Star Wars aliens”.
“All those things we think are hilarious,” he deadpanned. “We’re all committed to doing a good job.”