Clive Palmer has shown his willingness to derail the Abbott Government's legislative agenda after sabotaging the Prime Minister's attempt to enact his long- standing signature policy to axe the carbon tax.
In a chaotic end to the first week of the new Senate that raises fresh doubts over the Government's Budget plans, Mr Palmer's party embarrassed Mr Abbott by siding with Labor and the Greens to reject the coalition's carbon tax repeal.
The Government blamed the failure on a "technicality" and said the repeal legislation would be reintroduced on Monday in the Lower House, with a view to rushing it through the Senate later in the day.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt said that the coalition would accept Palmer United Party amendments to increase consumer protections.
PUP has proposed special penalties for gas and electricity companies that do not pass on savings from the carbon tax.
Power firms that failed to pass on savings to customers would be hit by penalties worth 250 per cent of their carbon tax bill.
But the broadly worded amendments appeared to suggest all companies, including airlines and supermarkets, that failed to cut prices would be hit by the new penalties.
This week, Qantas said it would not cut fares after the carbon tax was gone. Woolworths has also signalled it will not trim prices once the tax is scrapped.
Mr Palmer said last night the amendments would apply only to electricity and gas companies, saying for ordinary households to feel the end of the carbon tax there had to be special laws to ensure prices.
Mr Hunt also said it was his understanding the laws would be limited to the power generation sector.
Mr Abbott has long claimed abolishing the carbon tax will save households $550 a year.
Mr Palmer, whose party has three senators, has already exacted a heavy price for his support on scrapping the carbon tax.
His party will use its Senate numbers to disallow any attempt to dump the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Climate Change Authority, the Renewable Energy Target and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Mr Palmer, who has made much of his fortune in coal, yesterday assumed the mantle of climate change champion.
"When you are fighting climate sceptics, it's a constant battle," he said. "You don't win it every day. You have to be persistent."
Speaking in Perth early yesterday before the chaotic events in the Senate, Mr Abbott appeared confident the carbon tax would be dead by the end of the day.
"The coalition committed to scrap the carbon tax," Mr Abbott said.
"Just about all of the crossbench senators committed to scrap the carbon tax, so this is a day for people to keep their commitments." Mr Palmer announced his surprise decision to oppose the carbon tax repeal Bills during a media conference with former Liberal leader John Hewson. It was called to discuss public support for retaining the Renewable Energy Target.
Mr Palmer said he made the decision after being "doublecrossed" by the Government.
The prominent businessman is still facing questions over a series of legal actions involving his company Mineralogy by a Chinese business partner.
Pressed over the issue on the ABC's 7.30 program last night, Mr Palmer walked out of the interview.