MPs up in arms over wheat and welfare
In support of deferring the deregulation of the national wheat market ... Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. Photo: Andrew Meares
JULIA GILLARD and Tony Abbott face unrest when Parliament resumes today, with Labor backbenchers up in arms about proposed welfare cuts while a Coalition split over wheat market deregulation is worsening.
Mr Abbott moved yesterday to try and stifle dissent over wheat, saying the Coalition would stick with its about-face decision to defer the deregulation of the national wheat market for two more years.
Despite Liberal MPs threatening openly to abstain or cross the floor, and the West Australian Liberal Party in turmoil, Mr Abbott said there would be no change.
''I accept that this is a difficult issue and I accept that there are strong feelings on both sides,'' Mr Abbott said. ''But look, we've made a judgment call and I'm confident that we'll stick with the judgment call that we've made.''
The issue is set to be thrashed out inside the Coalition joint party room. The Nationals and some east coast Liberals oppose deregulation, whereas the West Australians are leading the push for deregulation, which, until recently, was Coalition policy but was changed to head off a split with the Nationals.
The WA Liberal senator Alan Eggleston, who supports deregulation, proposed a compromise yesterday in which states that wanted regulation could set up a state-based regulator but senior Coalition sources shot this down.
Ms Gillard also faces unrest inside caucus today. A group of MPs is determined to mount a final push to reverse a budget decision that will strip single parents of parenting payments and put them on the dole when their youngest child turns eight.
The plan would cost parents $60 to $100 a week and save the government $728 million over four years. Senate debate is set to start today. Many backbenchers feel the policy is unfair.
''Labor has to look after those who can least look after themselves,'' the NSW senator Doug Cameron said yesterday.
Single parents are planning to rally outside Parliament. The Australian Council of Social Service and eight other welfare organisations have written to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, Magdalena Sepulveda Carmona, seeking a deferral. With the government battling to find savings to achieve its promised budget surplus, there is little prospect of a change of heart.
The wheat issue will have added urgency with debate on the legislation to resume this week. Labor may bring it to a vote by Thursday to exploit the divisions in the Coalition but it is more likely to be later this month or in November.