A key crossbencher who will share the balance of power when the Senate changes over next week has hit out at the Abbott government “bludgeon” approach to securing support for the budget.
Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan has warned senior ministers he won’t engage in horse trading.
“We won’t be bludgeoned, we won’t be hijacked, we won’t be taken for fools,” Senator Madigan told the Senate on Tuesday night.
He called on the government to negotiate in good faith and to stop using families as punching bags.
“I won’t be bludgeoned into selling out those people who can least afford cuts,” Senator Madigan said.
He attacked the government’s approach to budget negotiations and the impracticalities of expecting crossbenchers to deal with large volumes of bills at short notice.
He recently received four bills, totalling 650 pages.
“Let’s have a meeting, let’s sit down and discuss common ground more than just a couple of days out before we’re expected to vote on legislation,” he said.
The GP co-payment, plans to force young people off unemployment benefits for six months and university fee increases were among Senator Madigan’s top concerns.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated getting the budget passed through the Senate may take some time.
“We may not get it through the first time or even the second time but I think we will get it through,” he told Sky News.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann played down opposition in the Senate to the budget, saying “these things seem to continue to chop and change”.
“We will engage constructively and positively with all parties and all senators represented in the Senate,” Senator Cormann told the ABC.
“If we don’t get these measures through the first time round, we will reintroduce them a second time around.”