Using legislation for a building industry watchdog as a trigger for a double-dissolution election appears to be off the Table for the Turnbull government.
The Senate on Thursday voted to send the legislation to an inquiry by a Senate committee and have it report back on March 15.
That’s only two days before parliament rises for the pre-budget break and therefore might not allow enough time for a vote to be taken on the legislation.
The next opportunity for a vote would be budget day on May 10, the day before a constitutional deadline expires on any double-dissolution of parliament.
The government already has a valid trigger in the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill.
Attorney-General George Brandis slammed the move as an “excessive indulgence” to delay debate and a vote until after the May budget.
The laws had already been scrutinised by the same committee Labor wanted it referred to, he said.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the move was a delaying tactic – “nothing more and nothing less”.
She accused Labor of misusing the powers and processes of the Senate, saying the bill was in exactly the same form as when it was previously rejected by the upper house.
Labor won the vote 34-33, with the support of the Greens and crossbenchers Glenn Lazarus, Dio Wang, Jacquie Lambie and John Madigan.
The government had wanted the Senate to vote on its legislation by March 3.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon, who voted with the government, said the bills had been subject to extensive inquiries already.
“To me that seems like a stalling tactic,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.