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PM faces key week on energy, citizenship

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October 13, 2017

There could be a by-election in Barnaby Joyce's electorate if the High Court rules against him.

The Turnbull government will stare down Labor on university reform and energy policy when parliament sits next week, while keeping an eye on the High Court.

The court has adjourned its consideration of the eligibility, due to their dual citizenship, of seven sitting and former MPs until Tuesday, one day into a fortnight of sittings.

The group includes Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who's potential disqualification would trigger a by-election in his NSW seat of New England and potentially threaten the government's one-seat majority.

Labor says it could also raise legal problems with decisions he has made as minister.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham will continue talks with crossbenchers to get a win on university reforms.

He said there was $50 billion of debt owed to the government under the existing student loan programs, with about quarter not expected to be repaid.

"That's why we do need to proceed with reforms through the Senate to ensure more of that is repaid to maintain sustainability of student loans, whether they are for ... university education or vocational education and TAFE into the future," Senator Birmingham said.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is keen to secure Senate passage of his bill, listed for debate on Tuesday, to tighten English language requirements for citizenship applicants and make migrants wait longer to apply.

However, Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon Team say the changes are unfair and the government has failed to show why they are needed.

Even government senators who scrutinised the bill in an inquiry said the tougher English language standard should be reconsidered, as well as the proposed two-year ban on applications following three failed attempts of the citizenship test.

Also listed on the program are reforms to energy markets - which are the subject of a Senate committee report to be tabled - and incentives for first home buyers.

There's been speculation the coalition party room on Tuesday will consider a proposed energy and climate policy.

Inquiry reports are also due on the protection of personal Medicare information, laws to set up the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, road safety, the rail industry and online poker.

On Monday, Greens MP Adam Bandt will present a private member's bill to ban commonwealth support for coal-fired power stations and independent Cathy McGowan will seek new laws to promote community-based renewable energy.

Debate will continue in the lower house on laws to impose tough new penalties for union misconduct and powers to deregister unions for repeated breaches.

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