Greens leader Senator Christine Milne speaks on the carbon tax repeal bill in the Senate on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The Abbott government's hopes of passing the repeal of the carbon tax on Wednesday are fading after Labor and the Greens used the morning to scrutinise the repeal bills and drag out debate in the Senate.
The government accused the opposition and Greens of “filibustering” as both parties steadfastly fired questions on amendments to protect consumers, emissions trading, the Coalition's Direct Action policy, and the price of lamb.
Finance Minister Senator Mathias Cormann speaks on the carbon tax repeal bill in the Senate on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Debate adjourned at lunchtime and will not resume until early this evening.
It is now unlikely there will be a vote on scrapping the carbon tax on Wednesday, unless the government moves a gag motion, which it has so far signalled it does not plan to do.
Both Labor and the Greens went after the government in the Senate chamber over amendments negotiated with the Palmer United Party to secure the numbers to axe Labor's carbon price.
Greens leader Christine Milne accused the government of not understanding its own legislation and said the PUP had been “conned” into thinking the amendments would guarantee savings for consumers.
The opposition and Greens pressured Finance Minister Mathias Cormann to explain what consultation there had been with business over the eleventh hour PUP amendments and what assurance there was in the legislation that non-energy companies would pass savings on to customers.
Labor senator Sam Dastyari said there was “real concern” that customers would not be guaranteed any financial benefits from the repeal.
But Senator Cormann attacked both parties for “filibustering” to delay a vote and said the most important consultation had taken place in the lead up to the September 7 election.
He said there was “absolutely no evidence” that companies would not pass on savings to customers after the carbon price was scrapped.
In question time on Wednesday afternoon, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten had his senators "doing what he knows best" to avoid a vote.
"Right this moment, his senators are on strike," Mr Hunt said.
"There is a picket of the Senate voting box. We are going through this agonising process of speech after speech, repetition after repetition, of senators from the ALP under instructions from the Leader of the Opposition not to allow the carbon tax to be repealed.
"Well, we will keep going. Let me say this to the Leader of the Opposition: we will keep going for as long as it takes this Parliament until the carbon tax is repealed.''
The Senate extended its hours on Tuesday night to try to pass the Abbott government's repeal – whether it takes hours, days or a weekend or two.
Senate hours have been extended to ensure senators remain in Canberra until the carbon tax is repealed and other bills considered.