Roberts was scathing of the government in its handling of big business and said this was a factor in the surprise One Nation decision to side with Labor, the Greens and Lambie in defeating the workplace bill.
“We want action on white-collar crime … But we want to see actions, not just words,” he said.
“Scott Morrison has been a marketing man, not a governor, and what we need is government in this country.”
The One Nation warrior sounded eerily like Labor and the Greens with that line.
But there is a warning to the unions, too. If union leaders keep breaking the law, in the way made famous by construction union boss John Setka, then Hanson and Roberts will reconsider their positions.
Lambie expressed a similar frustration with the way the government negotiated on this bill. She wanted to focus the changes on leaders like Setka and was worried the government was going too far.
It looked like the government took Hanson’s support for granted and did not try hard enough to keep Lambie on side.
The bill failed when the Senate was asked to take it to its final stage. The vote was tied, 34 to 34. Tied votes are lost in the upper house. (In the lower house, the Speaker has a casting vote). While the government gained the two votes from Centre Alliance as well as conservative Cory Bernardi, it needed Lambie or one of the One Nation duo as well.
Now the government is in trouble on refugee medical transfer laws, too. Lambie has presented a big demand to Morrison and the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, to secure her vote. All she would say on Thursday night was that it was about national security.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.