Greens celebrate their new power

The Australian Greens have used a rare July sitting of parliament to make a public show of their new power in Canberra.

The minor party’s nine senators and one lower house MP gathered at Parliament House on Sunday to take part in what leader Bob Brown dubbed a “green-letter day”.

From Monday, the Greens will hold sway in the upper house whenever there is a disagreement between the Gillard government and coalition opposition.

The government hopes a less hostile Senate will allow it to push legislation through parliament more quickly and with fewer changes.

It also means the government will be tempted to try again with legislation previously stymied by the Senate, including its twice-thwarted bid to impose a means test on the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.

For this week’s sitting it has lined up a raft of legislation including a measure aimed at appeasing Australians burdened with debt.

Consumers will be given more control over their credit card debts and more information about home loans.

The move follows a ban on mortgage exits fees for new home loans which came into force on Friday.

“I’m hopeful there’ll be another win this week,” Treasurer Wayne Swan said on Sunday.

The treasurer said there were more than 15 million credit card accounts in Australia.

“Many families have two or three cards, so nearly everyone stands to benefit,” he said.

One piece of legislation unlikely to win Senate approval is Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s bid to have Australians vote in a plebiscite on a carbon tax.

A private bill failed to get backing, even in the old Senate, where the coalition needed the votes of just two crossbenchers.

With three fewer senators, the coalition now needs the support of the Australian Greens as well.

That’s not going to happen.

Mr Abbott, unsurprisingly, reckons the Greens already are flexing their muscles even before their new senators are sworn into office on Monday morning.

“It was pretty obvious from Senator Brown’s statements during the week that he now sees himself as the co-prime minister of Australia,” the opposition leader told reporters on Sunday,

Parliament takes its winter break after Thursday, returning for the start of the spring session on August 16.

Richard Lawson, AAP, July 3, 2011,

07/03/2011 – 12:00

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