All eyes on the new Senate
As July 1 approaches, the Government needs to cultivate the new Senate to pass legislation. Mark Kenny and Heath Aston explain.PT15M0S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-398sf 620 349 May 30, 2014
The elusive Motoring Enthusiast Party senator-elect Ricky Muir was not at work at a Gippsland sawmill on Friday, a day after it was revealed he was too busy to meet Prime Minister Tony Abbott to discuss his role in the new Senate.
Fairfax Media revealed that Mr Muir, who will become a senator in July, was too busy to meet Mr Abbott to discuss important bills that he will have to vote on.
Mr Muir is set to vote as a bloc with Clive Palmer's Palmer United Party in the Senate.
The sawmill where senator-elect Ricky Muir works. Photo: Mal Fairclough
Mr Abbott has begun to meet crossbench senators who will be critical to the success of his government's first budget.
Mr Muir's spokesman Keith Littler had told Fairfax that he was working at Heyfield sawmill to help feed his family.
''He has to work for a living. He has a mortgage, he has to feed his family. He just can't take time off at the whim of the Prime Minister,'' Mr Littler, the founder of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, told Fairfax on Thursday.
Ricky Muir. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
But staff at the Australian Sustainable Hardwood Heyfield Greenmill told Fairfax Media that Mr Muir only worked at the site "sometimes" and that he was not on shift on Friday.
At the company's other mill in town the receptionist said "no comment" when asked if Mr Muir was at work.
ASH employs over 200 people.
Illustration: Matt Golding
Other staff, who did not wish to be named, said Mr Muir worked at the Greenmill site, but also added that it was "only sometimes".
Heyfield is a small town in Gippsland over 200 kilometres east of Melbourne that is supported by the timber industry.
At the Heyfield Bakery locals said they had never heard of Mr Muir until he won a Senate spot, which had surprised everyone.
Customers were pretty happy for Mr Muir to "stick it to Abbott'' but were more interested in talking about the huge pay raise he will enjoy when he becomes a senator in July.
From July 1, Mr Muir earn a salary of $190,000 - much more than the $500-a-week basic wage for a timber process worker.
Most people in town said the huge pay rise would change the Muirs' lives as they currently "had nothing".
It has been reported that earlier this month Mr Muir and the other PUP senators travelled to the US to participate on a political study tour.
On Friday, Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan said Prime Minister Tony Abbott should travel to rural Victoria to meet Mr Muir.
"Ricky Muir is like a lot of Australians. Ricky Muir has children. Ricky Muir is going to be subjected to a family-bashing budget. If the Prime Minister had a bit of understanding of what Ricky is experiencing, along with other Victorians, he would actually go down there - because Ricky probably doesn't have the money to fly up here [to Canberra]," he said.