The final sitting fortnight of the year is set to be chaotic, with Coalition senators set to cross the floor in protest of this issue.
Federal parliament’s last sitting fortnight of the year is on track to be plagued with roadblocks and chaos, with Coalition senators set to cross the floor and side with Pauline Hanson in protest of vaccine mandates.
The Senate will take centre stage over the coming two weeks, with Liberals Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic on track to withhold their vote on all legislation unless the Prime Minister takes stronger action on vaccine mandates.
They are expected to be joined by Nationals senator Matt Canavan in crossing the floor to support One Nation leader Pauline Hanson’s anti-vaccine mandate private members Bill.
All four senators are hoping to send a clear message to Scott Morrison that vaccine mandates are cruel and unnecessary.
The move could cause major headaches for the government, which is hoping to introduce controversial voter identification legislation and the Religious Discrimination Bill.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said all senators needed to “do their job” as they were elected to do.
“That means they need to look at the legislation that is before the House and before the Senate. There is some pretty significant legislation that will be in the Senate this morning, including the Critical Infrastructure Bill (which is) a national security matter,” she said.
“Now, there is nothing more important in terms of keeping Australians safe and secure than passing national security legislation.
“So I would encourage all members and senators to focus on the job they were elected to do, which is to turn up to parliament and look at the legislation and give their views on it.”
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said it was a “time honoured tradition” for Coalition MPs to be able to cross the floor, but it should “be used sparingly”.
Country Liberal Party Senator Sam McMahon said Senator Hanson’s “hijacking” of the senate would cost her Northern Territory constituents greatly, with the Northern Territory Rights Bill 2021pushed off the notice paper amid the chaos.
Senator McMahon had hoped to have the Bill debated in the sitting fortnight, but will not be able to given Senator’s Hanson threat to withhold passing any government legislation unless her bill was given priority.
“I am extremely disappointed this has occurred to all Territorians,” she said.
“I was pushing, along with other Senior Government leaders for this to occur, however Senator Hanson made it quite clear where her priorites were, and they aren’t Territorians.”
The sitting fortnight follows a weekend of anti- vaccine mandate protest action across the country, most notably in Melbourne.
Mr Morrison last week said the government did not believe in making vaccines mandatory, saying Australians are “sick” of being told what to do.
While the federal government has only legislated vaccines for aged care workers, individual states and territories have gone further, with unvaccinated residents restricted from numerous activities in Victoria and NSW, with Queensland to follow suit.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Australians were frustrated.
“You can’t say every person in the crowd is somehow a mad person, they are not … They are frustrated,” he told Sunrise.
Of the two key pieces of legislation on track to be derailed by the senate chaos, the Religious Discrimination Bill is gearing up to be among the most controversial.
The Bill, set to go before the Coalition party room on Tuesday before being introduced to parliament, would seek to prohibit discrimination in public places such as workplaces, schools, clubs and healthcare settings on the basis of religious belief, including if a person does not have a religious affiliation.
Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon said the Religious Discrimination Bill should have been introduced for debate years ago.
“We shouldn’t be having this important debate in the shadow of an election campaign,” he told Sunrise.
“The Prime Minister promised this legislation at the last election and here we are, five minutes to midnight, to another election and we are having this very difficult debate.
“Now he has been hijacked by members of his own party who are trying to conflate or mix up two issues, the other being vaccination mandates.
“It’s disappointing because this is really important, we need to ensure people of faith and faith-based institutions don’t feel threatened by an excessively progressive agenda, but at the same time, I’ll fight with everyone determined to ensure people are not discriminated against.
“It’s a fine and difficult balance, one we need to get right, and it’s a debate we should have been having at least two years ago.”