Former Palmer United Party senator Glenn Lazarus
Former Palmer United Party senator Glenn Lazarus Valerie Horton

Senators on the warpath after Abbott labels them 'feral'

TWO key Senate crossbenchers have rejected Prime Minister Tony Abbott's labelling of the independents and minor parties as "feral" in a party room meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Abbott reportedly told the joint party room meeting the Senate was "feral", sparking Senator Glenn Lazarus to ask who he was referring to in the "appalling and disrespectful statement" late yesterday.

MORE POLITICS: Abbott passes metadata laws with Labor support

Sen Lazarus asked Leader of the Government in the Senate George Brandis in the Upper House whether he could clarify who the Prime Minister was referring to, and if he would "apologise to each and every one of us" over his comments.

Sen Brandis said that it may be Mr Abbott had "some senators in mind", but if he did "it wasn't you", suggesting Sen Lazarus look "to your right and to your immediate left".

After defending her colleagues in the Senate last night, Greens leader Christine Milne this morning told ABC Radio Mr Abbott's comment showed the Prime Minister's inability to negotiate properly with the Senate.

Sen Milne also cited the government's negotiations over the higher education deregulation bill this week as an example of the failure to negotiate, after Education Minister Christopher Pyne effectively threatened a $150 million cut to research funding in recent weeks, before backing down on the proposal on Monday.

That and other changes Mr Pyne announced however failed to get a majority of the eight key crossbenchers on side with the reforms for the second time.