Senator David Leyonhjelm is congratulated by Senator Doug Cameron after delivering his first speech in the Senate last week. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Liberal Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm says he has become increasingly frustrated with Clive Palmer and Palmer United Party senators for their reluctance to engage properly with parliamentarians, or to base their votes on a “consistent position”.
He says it is “hard to figure out” what the purpose of their obstruction has been about, other than to cause the “maximum amount of disruption.”
The libertarian senator – who this week called on “true” liberals in the Abbott government to support same-sex marriage – told ABC’s Lateline on Wednesday that he did not like Parliament’s dysfunction at the moment.
He said Clive Palmer was largely to blame, but PUP senators and Ricky Muir from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party were also difficult to work with.
“Senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan are fine, I mean, I understand their position,” Mr Leyonhjelm said.
“Senator Bob Day is fine. It’s just the Palmer people and Ricky Muir who I’m finding very hard to follow their position.”
“There is this frustrating reluctance to engage and be persistent, to be predictable, to base their votes, if you like, on a consistent position, [there's a constant] changing of their position. You saw this with the carbon tax.”
His criticism comes as senators prepare to endure an unusual ordeal over the next two days as they attempt to get through the government’s agenda before rising for an extended break.
Mr Leyonhjelm said the Senate would sit on Thursday from 9.30am to 11.30pm, and then again on Friday for the same hours to get through the huge backlog of work.
Given the situation, he was frustrated with Mr Palmer and PUP senators for causing so much disruption, he said.
“They seem not to understand that there is a fiscal imbalance,” he said.
“And you could be forgiven for thinking that they are joining the opposition and the Greens in terms of frustrating the government’s intentions and only occasionally throwing them a little bit of concession for whatever reason.”
It comes after Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan slammed Mr Palmer this week for verbally abusing the clerk of the senate, Rosemary Laing.
Mr Palmer reportedly yelled at Ms Laing on Wednesday evening last week when she ruled that one of his party’s amendments to the Coalition’s carbon tax repeal bill was unconstitutional.
He has repeatedly attacked her since then, saying she should resign if she could not follow instructions from senators.
But Mr Madigan said this week that Mr Palmer’s behaviour had set a “very bad precedent" in Australian politics.
Mr Leyonhjelm said on Wednesday that the Abbott government’s last-minute, confusing negotiations over the carbon tax last week – during which Mr Palmer yelled at Ms Laing – were an example of PUP’s disruptive influence in Parliament.
“What the government thought was a negotiated position to allow their repeal bill to go through got changed at least twice more,” Mr Leyonhjelm said.
“It was getting to the point where Senator Day and I thought it was getting alarming, [that] it was going to be more expensive to remove than to leave it in place. So we created some pushback of our own and that helped a bit, but still, it is a very frustrating situation to be in.”