The Age: PUP threatens to block supply over privatising states’ assets. August 1, 2014. Heath Aston, Judith Ireland
Clive Palmer says his Senate team is prepared to vote to block supply to prevent Treasurer Joe Hockey’s $6 billion asset recycling fund, designed to pay state governments to privatise assets.
”The only recycling we would vote for is recycling the Treasurer,” Mr Palmer said. ”Joe Hockey is the most spectacularly unsuccessful treasurer Australia has seen.”
Spruiker: Tony Abbott has no interest in an election. Photo: Justin McManus
”The government should call a double dissolution and let the public decide on things like privatisation, but they’ve got no guts.”
And Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said on Friday that the Abbottt government’s budget had failed because the Prime Minister believed negotiating with the opposition was a ”sign of weakness”.
”What has amazed me in the 10 months I’ve been Opposition Leader is that Tony Abbott will do anything but deal with the opposition,” Mr Shorten told ABC Radio.
Let voters decide: Clive Palmer blasts Joe Hockey.
”He thinks that somehow negotiation with Labor is a sign of weakness I just think it’s a sign of pragmatism.”
Mr Palmer’s hardened stance against asset recycling came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Hockey focused on infrastructure renewal and privatisation in their bid to jump-start the budget sales job.
Spruiking the merits of privatisation in Tasmania on Thursday, Mr Abbott fended off taunts by Mr Palmer to go to back to the polls to break the budget deadlock with the Senate, saying ”Australia doesn’t need another election” right now.
”We need a Parliament which respects the mandate that the government was given at the election we’ve just had,” he said.
On Friday, the Treasurer batted away the threat and urged critics to take a ”chill pill”.
”Most of the budget has passed through the parliament because of the appropriations, so its important that everyone has a bit of a chill pill here,” he told Sky News.
Constitutional lawyer Professor George Williams has cast doubt on whether Mr Abbott could take Australia back to the polls even if he wanted to, saying it was not clear whether a double dissolution trigger existed.
He said it was not certain whether the old Senate could ”roll over” its disagreements with the lower house when the Senate renewed on July 1 and the High Court may need to get involved on the question.
The Senate rejected the Clean Energy Finance Corporation abolition bill twice before July and the mining tax repeal bill once.
”The fact that the Senate has rolled over means that there’s some uncertainty with that trigger. The constitution doesn’t deal specifically with that question,” Professor Williams said.
The Asset Recycling Bill, which would strip $5.9 billion from Labor’s Building Australia Fund and Education Infrastructure Fund, has been rejected once by the Senate and it is viewed by the Palmer United Party as the likely next double dissolution trigger if it comes back again from the House of Representatives.
The scheme will pay a loading of 15 per cent of the value of a privatisation to states as long as the money goes back into new infrastructure projects such as Melbourne’s East West link and the Sydney WestConnex motorway.
But Mr Hockey took the unusual step this week of warning that he could bypass the Senate altogether by establishing the fund via an appropriation bill. He dared the opposition to block an appropriation bill – tantamount to blocking supply and bringing on a constitutional crisis.
It is understood the Labor Party would not block supply on this issue, while Mr Palmer has stated his readiness.
The government is likely to try again to negotiate the bill through Parliament. A spokeswoman for Mr Hockey said: ”The government is committed to the government’s bill but if it has to look at other ways of funding infrastructure for the states it will.”
Mr Hockey hit the road this week, meeting crucial crossbench senators independent Nick Xenophon, Family First’s Bob Day and PUP Jacqui Lambie, trying to win their support for key budget measures being blocked by the Parliament.
The Treasurer also accused Labor of tearing up its support for a budget surplus and said any shift from the bipartisan goal could put Australia’s triple-A credit rating at risk.
But Mr Shorten hit back on Friday saying Mr Hockey was ”flailing around” trying to blame anyone for his budget mess and said the ”spectacle” of the Treasurer trying to ”retrofit the votes to get it through” 10 weeks later was a ”joke”.
Mr Shorten says the government needs to sit down with Labor and not the assortment of crossbench Senators.
Mr Shorten accused Mr Abbott of being so ”addicted to the politics of opposition” that he lacked the skills to negotiate and needed to appreciate that ”the rest of us got elected too”.
with Latika Bourke