By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra
CLIVE Palmer and his Palmer United Party are refusing to meet with ministers in a bid to pressure the government to give PUP extra staff to deal with legislation “effectively”.
Palmer cancelled a meeting with the Leader of the House, Christopher Pyne, on Monday after PUP decided on Sunday not to enter discussions.
He told The Conversation today that PUP had applied for party status but Prime Minister Tony Abbott had rejected this last week.
Palmer said that PUP should get parliamentary status because it would have four senators from July 1 – including Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir, who has entered an alliance with it – as well as himself in the lower house. But the government had taken the view that Muir didn’t count toward party status because he was not in the party.
Palmer said PUP had put a freeze on talks for “the time being”.
He said its senators were “relatively new” to policy and unless they knew what a bill was about it was not reasonable for them to be asked to vote on it.
Given its role in the balance of power in the new Senate, PUP needed a core of specialist staff like the Greens had. In the new Senate it would be in the same sort of balance-of-power role that the Greens were in this Senate, he said. PUP votes will be needed to get legislation through when Labor and the Greens are opposed, although the government will also require extra votes.
Palmer accused the government of trying to bully PUP.
He said PUP could not function effectively without the extra staff and pointed out that it was in the government’s interests to know ahead of time what PUP’s attitude to bills was going to be.
“We can’t give an undertaking to abolish the carbon tax if you don’t know what’s in the bill,” he said. “We can’t give an undertaking to abolish the mining tax if we don’t know what’s being done to the orphans’ benefit.”
That measure – for children of military personnel who had been killed or badly injured – is paid for out of the mining tax and hence the government says it won’t continue with it.
It is understood the office of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also contacted Palmer’s office to ask about a meeting.
PUP says it will oppose a number of key budget measures, including the pension changes and the Medicare co-payment.
Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.