Abbott's budget measures in the hands of new senators
THE FUTURE of the Abbott Government's key budget savings measures will now come down to eight new Senators, who officially took office on Tuesday.
While 12 new senators took office on Tuesday, it will be those most maligned by the major political parties who will hold the cards for the remainder of the Abbott Government's first term.
The key new players came to office on the back of the lost votes controversy, a re-election in West Australia, and sharp criticism from both Labor and the Coalition on "gaming" the Senate preferences system.
The most urgent government legislation awaiting their arrival will be some $600 million in budget savings, already factored in to government finances, from cuts and changes to family and welfare payments.
Each week the legislation is delayed from passage through the Senate, the government will effectively be foregoing savings - an issue complicated by opposition to several cuts from Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer, Labor and The Greens.
For the government, the eight key votes lay in the three new PUP senators, Motoring Enthusiasts Party Senator Ricky Muir, Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm and Family First Bob Day.
The new senators will join seasoned crossbench negotiator in South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon and the first-term Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan.
But the shape of the new senate has also increased The Greens presence to a record 10 votes in the Upper House, with the election of Victorian Senator Janet Rise.
Despite declaring before the election he would not do any deals with minor parties or independents, Prime Minister Tony Abbott's first nine months in office have not been free of such deals.
Mr Abbott had to get the agreement of The Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne to pass a multi-billion increase in the deficit in its early months, courtesy a failure to do so by the previous government.
And his key election promise, to scrap the carbon tax, was in some doubt until last week, when Mr Palmer publicly confirmed he would support its abolition, on condition savings would be passed on.
While Mr Abbott, in Opposition, was highly critical of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's need to negotiate in minority government, he faces a similar, although potentially more volatile, situation with the new Senate.
He told his latest Cabinet meeting in Canberra on Monday that his government "do want to work constructively and respectfully with the new Senate", after last week all but abandoning electoral reforms to put a stranglehold on the minor parties.
Tuesday also marked the beginning of a front-of-house political career for LNP Queensland Senators Matthew Canavan and James McGrath and Liberal Linda Reynolds, while Labor's Chris Ketter and Joe Bullock join them on the red leather.
The new Senate will sit for the first time next Monday, with a backlog of government legislation, and key budget savings, likely to be top of the agenda.Key new crossbenchers:
PUP: Glenn Lazarus, Jacqui Lambie, Zhenya (Dio) Wang
LibDem: David Leyonhjelm
AMEP: Ricky Muir
FF: Bob Day
AG: Janet Rice
New major party senators:
LNP/LP: Matthew Canavan, James McGrath, Linda Reynolds
ALP: Chris Ketter, Joe Bullock