Senator Mark Bishop.

Had enough: Retiring senator Mark Bishop. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Labor should allow the Abbott government to legislate its budget so the public can experience its harsh consequences, says retiring Labor senator Mark Bishop.

Throughout the past week The Sunday Age has conducted ''exit interviews'' with senators retiring at the end of June. It was an opportunity for the senators to speak candidly about their careers, without fear of political consequences.

West Australian Senator Bishop said he thought Labor was unduly influenced by a ''Green-Left'' view of the world and that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was strategically wrong to block the unpopular Abbott budget.

Senator Alan Eggleston giving his valedictory speech.

Senator Alan Eggleston delivers his valedictory speech. Photo: Andrew Meares

''My own view is that you either improve legislation or you allow it to go through,'' he said.

''If you tend to improve it, you cut off the hard edges; you cut off the deliberate consequences; you make things better for the government of the day.

''So it's not just [supporting repeals of the] mining tax or carbon tax … it's pensions and it's family allowances and it's all the welfare cuts they want to make.''

Senator Bishop's view has a historical precedent with Paul Keating, leading into the 1993 election, promising to wave through Liberal leader John Hewson's controversial policies including the introduction of a 15 per cent goods and services tax.

There remains a minority view within the Labor Party that the opposition allowed John Howard to stay in power for 11 years by sanding the sharp edges off his policies.

Senator Bishop, who joined federal Parliament in 1996, has spent most of his political life in opposition. He worries that Labor will endure another long stint in the political ''wasteland'' unless it listens to the communities he believes it has neglected in Western Australia and Queensland.

This need to reflect and represent views outside of inner-city Melbourne and Sydney, was also emphasised by retiring Coalition senators Alan Eggleston and Ron Boswell.

Senator Eggleston said he believed the Coalition had done a good job of supporting the regions in many of its policies, but he had concerns about the recent budget.

''I do think we have this egalitarian streak in us, us Australians, and we like to give everybody a fair go,'' he said, adding that he had observed a community backlash against the Coalition's GP co-payment and higher education policies.

''I think perhaps some of the things in this budget have been directed at people who are seen as vulnerable.''

Senator Eggleston described Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a ''saga in progress'', who was correct to emphasise the importance of reducing government debt but had misread the public mood on some issues, such as the reintroduction of knights and dames and pursuing American-style policies.

''Some people think we are perhaps going down a pathway that may lead to differentiation in society on the basis of income … and following the American way,'' he warned.

''John Howard used to say that the reason why the US has such a high crime rate was because their social services [were] so poor … Having a safety net has always been one of the basic philosophies of the Liberal Party … we have to be careful that we don't give the impression that we are weakening the safety net.''

Boswell, the retiring Nationals senator, said he thought his party ''didn't do too bad'' in the budget, and was pleased that the Abbott government was investing in roads and bridges and had decided against cutting the diesel fuel rebate.

After 31 years in Parliament, Senator Boswell said he was ''in denial'' about leaving a place he still held in high regard, a sentiment mirrored by his wife, who was in his Parliament House office reading a booklet on ''life after Parliament''.

Before entering the federal Senate in 1983, Senator Boswell had been a travelling salesman, selling paintbrushes, garbage bins and sanitary pans, among other items. He said all major parties should be careful not to promote too many ''professional politicians'' - young men and women who had no life experience and who had simply graduated from university politics to federal politics.

With Simone Ziaziaris