Could Clive Palmer's vow to abstain help the Liberals pass budget?

Clive Palmer has come out this morning and announced that the Palmer United Party senators will abstain from voting on government legislation in the Senate until leadership speculation is resolved. But, depending on whether the PUP senators choose to abstain, or “to block” voting on legislation as Mr Palmer says (but doesn’t seem to be possible), this declaration could be the best thing today’s Liberal government has heard in a long time.

Mr Palmer said the following on ABC Radio this morning:

“I can’t see our senators voting for anything the government puts up in the Senate because they don’t know who they are voting for and they could be dealing with someone else in a week’s time…We can’t have this controversy going on and on. The parliament won’t be passing any legislation I don’t believe”.

In a statement sent to media this morning, Mr Palmer said it would be irresponsible for the party to vote on any legislation until government “chaos” had ended.

“The government’s proposals seem to change daily,” Mr Palmer said.

Ad. Article continues below.

“The policies are not consistent, party infighting and conflict is ongoing and as a result our party has decided as a bloc to abstain from voting on any legislation proposals”.

Various media outlets are perceiving Mr Palmer’s claims differently, with Fairfax saying that they are seeking clarification on the party’s position. “If the abstention refers to PUP senators not attending any Senate votes – rather than voting down any government bills – then this would likely make it easier for the government to pass legislation”  and News Limited saying Mr Palmer plans to “block” rather than use the word abstain.

Fairfax has reflected on the potential action that senators can take, saying that according to the Odgers’ Australian Senate Practice manual, Senate votes are decided by a simple majority of those present and voting on bills before the Senate. Senators who wish to abstain in a vote can do so only by absenting themselves from the floor of the chamber.

It leaves us all in an interesting quandary. In order for Tony Abbott to get on with running the country he needs to pass legislation. Passing legislation requires a consenting Senate.

Could this move by the PUP be just what Abbott needs? Or do you think Mr Palmer is being unnecessarily disruptive? Share your thoughts and have your say…