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Govt hurries to axe carbon tax

The Abbott government will bring on a vote to repeal the carbon tax this week despite attempts to delay it, Senate leader Eric Abetz says.

The new Senate will sit for the first time on Monday, with a diverse collection of crossbenchers now holding the balance of power.

Senator Abetz said the first order of business would be the government’s carbon repeal legislation, which has been held up by Labor and the Greens in the upper house.

The move comes after the Senate had issued a July 14 deadline for a crucial report into the legislation, which needs to be tabled before debate can begin.

But the government’s leader in the Senate said the reporting date was the last hurrah of the former Senate, which was dominated by Labor and the Greens.

“We are committed to putting it up,” he said.

“We said after the election that the very first item of business we would put to the new parliament was the repeal of the carbon tax.

“Therefore, it is absolutely consistent for us to put it up as the first item of the new Senate.”

Senator Abetz said he was doing his best to convince crossbenchers to support the government’s agenda, including the budget, and the repeal of the carbon tax was the first priority.

“We would encourage the crossbenchers to join us on that exercise, then as we go down the track we will be discussing with them each of our policy positions,” he said.

But he has much to do to win over new Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie, who in a News Corporation interview on Sunday described him as “weak” and Prime Minister Tony Abbott as “deceitful”.

Asked about these comments, Senator Abetz said he would seek to “disabuse” Senator Lambie of her views about himself and his colleagues.

“What I invite everybody in the Senate to do is rather than provide gratuitous character assessments, look at the issues, look at the policies, and ascertain whether they are good for our nation or not,” he said.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt accused the Greens and Labor of going on strike in their efforts to delay debate on the carbon repeal.

Labor and Greens senators refused to take part in an environment and communications committee meeting last week, effectively stopping release of the carbon report on Monday.

Mr Hunt said the government would work with crossbenchers to bring the carbon bills back to the Senate.

“We’re not going to delay,” he told Sky News.

“We will bring them out of committee where the ALP is trying to keep them, and we will work with the Senate tomorrow and over the coming days to have the bills passed.”

Clive Palmer has said his party will back the carbon repeal if legal guarantees are in place to ensure energy companies pass on savings to consumers.

Mr Hunt said he had spoken to the MP three times in the past week, while his staff had also met regularly with PUP officials.

He described the discussions as “constructive and positive”, and said the government was fulfilling a promise to work with crossbenchers.

“We will add additional legislative safeguards and guarantees that all of the savings from the carbon tax will go back to consumers,” he said.

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