As new senators learnt the ropes at Parliament House, the government was preparing to deliver on its promise to repeal the carbon tax.
The Abbott government is leaving little time for the new senators to scrutinise the carbon and mining tax repeal bills, scheduling the debate for immediately after they are sworn in.
However, the government is expected to face a motion on Monday – which AAP understands has majority support – calling for the package of nine carbon tax repeal bills to be split.
This would allow the new Senate to scrap the carbon tax but block the government’s ditching of a second round of income tax cuts and welfare payment rises set in train by the Gillard government as compensation.
An added problem is that if a Senate committee looking at the bills does not report back on Monday, the debate will be deferred and the upper house will move on to the mining tax repeal.
The tax repeals and stalled federal budget measures were the subject of talk on the sidelines of an induction program for the 12 new senators in Canberra on Thursday.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior ministers, including Senate heavyweights Eric Abetz and George Brandis, have also been sounding out the crossbenchers on key legislation.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten urged the new senators to be wary of government heavying.
“I have heard that George Brandis and Eric Abetz are going to lead a charm offensive on the crossbenchers,” Mr Shorten said.
“With those two characters, it is all offensive and no charm.”
Mr Abbott said he would treat the new senators with respect and courtesy.
“They’ve all got a contribution to make and I want to work with them to maximise that contribution,” he said.
He remained confident the Senate would back the repeal of the carbon tax.
Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm expects the carbon and mining tax repeals to pass within the fortnight.
But he said the government needed to slow the pace down to ensure all senators could get up to speed on other issues.
The prime minister’s effort to win friends and influence people has not gone down well with incoming Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie, who labelled him a “political psychopath”.
Mr Abbott’s decision to parade his daughters before the media during the 2013 election campaign showed he cared more about his political career than his family’s security, she said.
“Being ex-military, that was the last straw for me,” she said.
The new senators spent the day filling out paperwork and being briefed by the Senate Procedure Office on issues from expenses to the routine of business.
On Friday they will role-play motions and voting in the Senate chamber.
Queensland Liberal National Party Senator Matt Canavan said the crossbenchers needed to realise where the real power lay.
“At the end of the day, you can make as much noise as you like but if you don’t have 76 votes in the lower house and 39 in the Senate, you are whistling and doing nothing for your people,” the former staffer to minister Barnaby Joyce said.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said the new Senate was of a “centre-right persuasion”, but he wanted an early “statement of principles” from the new senators to give the government greater clarity, especially in relation to the budget.