The federal government insists it will be business as usual in the senate despite Jacqui Lambie’s rift with the Palmer United Party threatening to derail its legislative agenda.
A spokesman for Government senate leader Eric Abetz denied he was seeking to personally meet with crossbench senators on Monday ahead of the final fortnight of parliament for the year.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten taunted the coalition by saying a Senator Abetz charm offensive was “creepy” and wouldn’t work because of his history of bullying the crossbench.
However the spokesman said only senator advisers would meet on Monday – as they had ahead of every sitting week for the past eight months.
“It’s normal procedure,” he said.
Parliament is set to debate counter-terrorism legislation, university funding reform, visa crackdowns and the free trade agreement with Japan.
But Senator Lambie and her future in the Palmer United Party is likely to dominate the week.
A war of words between Senator Lambie and party leader Clive Palmer has dragged on for weeks, with the outspoken former soldier expected to announce she is quitting the party.
Previously, the government has focused on securing support from Mr Palmer’s block of four votes – which included Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party senator Ricky Muir.
However Senator Lambie’s defection could spell interesting times for the government’s legislative agenda.
The Senate will debate the coalition’s unpopular university funding overhaul, including deregulation of student fees, higher interest rates on student debt, and cuts to federal spending.
A counter-terrorism bill aimed at improving co-operation between the Australia’s overseas spy service and the Australian Defence Force in the fight against Islamic State will also come before the upper house.
Also in the frame is legislation that widens government powers to cancel or refuse visas to non-citizens guilty of criminal or unlawful conduct.
Meanwhile, the lower house will scrutinise customs and tariff amendments in the Japan-Australia free trade deal signed earlier this year.