CANBERRA -- A $1.6 billion childcare package could pass the Senate as early as today, as the Turnbull Government splits the mega $4 billion omnibus savings bill in a bid to get previous federal budget measures passed before the next budget.
The government is seeking to extend the sitting hours of Senate to midnight tonight and tomorrow and through Friday in a bid to pass the measures.
As it stands at the moment, the omnibus bill contains a $1.6 billion childcare package bundled with savings measures to cover the cost. There are cuts to paid parental leave, cuts to family tax benefits and big changes to welfare payments which will see young people get less money than before and have to wait four weeks before getting any government help.
Government does dirty deal to smash through new cuts to families but can't even tell the Senate who the target is.— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) March 21, 2017
Labor and the Greens complain they have not seen all of the savings measures the government is trying to pass.
Last month, the government offered sweeteners to the senate crossbench; two extra weeks of paid parental leave, cheaper childcare and boosts to family tax relief.
But it has not worked.
Desperation is kicking in and there is more than a touch of megaphone negotiations, but the government insists it is being "practical".
Pauline Hanson's One Nation has formed a roadblock for the government, issuing a statement attacking the $3 billion welfare aspect of the Omnibus Bill as cutting "too hard, to (sic) broadly and too deeply into the hip pockets of Australian families".
"As it stands now Pauline Hanson's One Nation will not allow this Omnibus Bill to pass," the statement read.
So the Omnibus Bill is about to lose a serious amount of weight.
And here we are with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Education Minister Simon Birmingham just happening to visit a childcare centre bright and early on Wednesday morning.
"We are working through you to make sure we get an outcome," Birmingham told reporters in Canberra.
"We face challenges in workforce productivity and participation where childcare costs are a barrier. We are fixing that through these childcare reforms.
"We face problems, though, in terms of the size of the debt and deficit scale we face and we are addressing that through spending restraint and through the types of savings measures identified and we are seeking to progress them both."
Simon Birmingham won't reveal which cuts the Government will pursue to pay for the $1.6b childcare package #auspol— Jane Norman (@janeenorman) March 21, 2017
Turnbull also pressed on.
"As Senator Birmingham has said, we continue our discussions with the crossbench," he said.
"We've had a lot of success in the past in circumstances where even members of the press gallery have predicted that we would have no success, so we will continue."
And the Treasurer also talked up the childcare reforms, without confirming the imminent splitting of the Omnibus Bill.
"We're a practical government"— Charles Croucher (@ccroucher9) March 21, 2017
-Treasurer Scott Morrison on splitting the omnibus savings bill
"We are a practical government. We've demonstrated that," Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
"We work with the Senate that the Australian people have elected.
"We have been very upfront with the parliament about the savings measures that we believe are necessary and they will ultimately make a decision on those."
"We are practical government. We will just get on with it."
Asked specifically by HuffPost Australia if the government has a deal sorted to ensure the passing of the childcare package, Morrison indicated negotiations are still underway.
"We will continue to pursue that outcome that I have set out," the Treasurer said.
"The outcome we want is to ensure that Australian families have more affordable childcare and that we achieve that without driving up debt and driving up deficit."