(Transcript from World News Radio)
Clive Palmer’s grip on political power has all but disintegrated after the surprise resignation of PUP Senator Glen Lazarus from the party to join the ranks of Independent Senators.
The resignation leaves just one Palmer United Party Senator, Dio Wang, on the crossbench and means Mr Palmer’s ability to shape legislation in the upper house is gone.
But as Amanda Cavill reports while Senator Lazarus’ defection strips Mr Palmer of any real power it doesn’t necessarily make things easier for the Government who has to now deal with an even more fractured Senate.
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Describing it as a difficult decision, Glen Lazarus thanked party leader Clive Palmer for the opportunity to have been involved with PUP and has wished him the best for the future.
But the former rugby league international has hinted at a fractured party room, saying he has a different view of how teamwork operates to his other colleagues.
He’s told 2GB he’s made the right decision.
“Look I just felt that in order to be able to serve the people of Queensland and to do my job like I played footy. I just wanted to do the best job I could. And I felt that if I could do the best I didn’t dissappoint myself or the other people who were team mates or I guess fans. And I just felt I had to resign and move forward as a Senator.”
PUP is now left with just two federal representatives – Mr Palmer in the lower house and Senator Dio Wang.
Clive Palmer says Senator Glenn Lazarus dumped him by text message.
It’s since been revealed the party had sacked Senator Lazarus’ wife Tess just hours before the resignation.
Mr Palmer has told Fairfax Radio the former rugby league international had been angered by his wife’s dismissal.
“It’s true that Glenn Lazarus has spat the dummy * and as Peter Bourke** says in his announcement, he did that a couple of hours after Peter Bourke had terminated his wife’s employment with the party for reasons best known to them but, you know, that’s not what it’s about, it’s about ideas and protecting the people of Australia.”
Mr Palmer has denied his party was a spent political force, saying observers need only look back at its history for evidence of that.
He says it took the Greens 30 years to win a seat in parliament and he won one just six weeks after nominating.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten says while there are clearly a few problems in the PUP camp it’s too early to write Clive Palmer off as a power broker.
“There certainly seems trouble at the Palmer mill, doesn’t there? I deal with Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang, the Palmer affiliated senators. They are people of conscience. I don’t know what happened there. We will deal with the senators on the issues rather than necessarily every twist and turn of the Clive Palmer show. Clive Palmer is still in Parliament. Anyone who counts him out is premature. What we want is for the Senate to support good laws and a better future for Australia.”
The defection comes at a critical time for the Government with just two sitting weeks left to get important legislation through the Senate before it hands down its second budget.
It means the government now has to negotiate separately with all eight Senate crossbenchers, in order to get six of them on side to pass legislation.
In the next two weeks the Government is hoping to have its higher education reforms passed, as well as its controversial Data Retention Bill.
While the latter is likely to pass, the former does not yet have crossbench support.
The leader of the Government in the Senate, Eric Abetz, says he’ll happily work with Senator Lazarus.
But Senator Abetz admits the task of garnering crossbench support just got harder.
“Glenn Lazarus has made his decision for his own reasons and as a government we respect that. As a government, we will always work with the cross-bench Senators on the basis of individual Senators, if that is the way they want to be treated, or as party grouping, so from our point of view it’s business as usual other than, of course, we now have to make eight representations to the cross-benchers as opposed to seven.”
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the challenge for the government is the same as it was before, and that is to talk in good faith to all Senate crossbenchers.
He says the government only has to deal with the crossbench because Labor and the Greens take what he calls a feral attitude to the coalition’s legislation.