Mining magnate Clive Palmer is threatening to block all the Abbott government's legislation – even measures he supports such as scrapping the carbon price – unless his party gets more staff and resources.
Personal opinion, if Ricky Muir lasts six months he will be … pretty lucky.
After striking a deal with Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator-elect Ricky Muir to form a balance-of-power voting bloc of four seats in the Senate from next July, Mr Palmer demanded the same staffing and resources as the Greens, who currently hold the balance.
Clive Palmer with Ricky Muir. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
Although the Palmer United Party and Mr Muir together have fewer than half the Senate seats held by the Greens, Mr Palmer said the balance-of-power role meant his bloc would need more staff to properly scrutinise legislation.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott dismissed the demand, saying there was a standard convention on staffing and resources for minor parties and independents.
When Fairfax Media put Mr Abbott's remarks to Mr Palmer, he said: "Fine, then he won't get any legislation through. None at all."
Mr Palmer refused to show Fairfax Media the PUP's memorandum of understanding with Mr Muir.
The stand-off comes as Mr Muir – who won a Victorian Senate seat in last month's election – faces a furious backlash from his party's state branch.
Mr Muir's former campaign director, Scott McDonald, said Victorian members were angry that they had not been consulted on the deal, which he said went against the party's platform.
He expressed doubt that Mr Muir would last his full six-year term. ''Personal opinion, if he lasts six months he will be … pretty lucky.''
The leadership of the party's Victorian branch was sacked by the national body last week. Stuart Brown, founding vice-chairman of the Victorian branch, said the party was being controlled by a couple of people in Queensland.
''The Queenslanders have grabbed hold of him [Muir] and are doing what they want with him. This is absolutely a betrayal of Victoria. He is supposed to be working for Victorians,'' Mr Brown said.
With four votes once the new Senate is installed in July, the Palmer group could block Coalition legislation if Labor and the Greens also oppose it. The Coalition, with 33 senators, would need six of the eight crossbench votes.
The four outside the Palmer bloc will be current crossbenchers Nick Xenophon and John Madigan, plus incoming Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm and Family First's Bob Day. It is a conservative-leaning crossbench, and Mr Abbott is expected to get the numbers to scrap the carbon price and mining tax.