Double dissolution election on July 2 likely
Crossbench resistance to industrial relations bills increases chance of historic July election.
The government is increasingly likely to go to the polls in July as crossbench senators continue to resist pressure to pass its industrial relations legislation.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday announced both houses of Parliament would be recalled for an extraordinary sitting in April to deal with the bills and said he would call a double dissolution election to be held on July 2 if the bills were not passed.
The government needs support from six of the eight crossbench senators to pass the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) legislation and the Registered Organisations bill, though three have already confirmed they will vote against the bills.
Independent senators John Madigan, Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus are not in favour of the legislation and are expected to vote it down when the government returns on April 18.
Senator Madigan told the ABC he would “not respond to threats”, criticising the government’s negotiating skills.
“If the Prime Minister was fair dinkum, he would sit down and have a real discussion, a real negotiation with members of the crossbench,” he said.
His comments were echoed by Senator Lazarus, who said he would only support the bill if it was amended to target corruption across all industries, including politics.
“Malcolm Turnbull can threaten me all he likes but I won’t be taking any notice,” he said in a statement.
“I answer to the people of Queensland, not him, and if he wants to pick a fight with Queensland, then let him.”
‘If you thought last week was ugly, you ain’t seen nothing yet’
Independent senator Nick Xenophon is open to voting in favour of an amended bill.
Senator Xenophon has voted for the bill in the past, but on Monday told media “if you thought last week was ugly in the Senate, you ain’t seen nothing yet”.
“It’s a nifty and cunning manoeuvre on the part of the PM, but I suspect it will cause fireworks in the Senate from April 18,” he said.
Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonjhelm and Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir are also yet to firm up their positions, though the latter indicated he was unlikely to support the legislation.
Senator Muir has supported the bill in the past, but on Monday said a number of amendments needed to be discussed.
Palmer United Party senator Dio Wang is also in favour of examining a number of amendments, while Family First senator Bob Day is the lone crossbencher who has confirmed his support for the bill.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told the ABC she would continue negotiating with the crossbench to pass the bills.
“I will be negotiating, as I have always done, in good faith with the crossbenchers,” she said.
“Our intent is to see these bills passed because they are good policy … I will negotiate in good faith, but I’m not about to tolerate amendments just for amendments’ sake.
“These bills must be passed.”
Senator Cash said the Senate was “in a state of paralysis, in particular when it comes to this legislation”.