Labor has questioned the long-term impacts of an ugly spat between Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and a crucial crossbench senator.
Mr Dutton attacked the integrity of Senator Rex Patrick over comments he made about press freedom following Australian Federal Police raids on two media outlets.
Senator Patrick is one of six crossbenchers the Morrison government will need to negotiate with over the next three years in order to pass its legislation.
"I have to shake my head and wonder what kind of very odd negotiating tactic is the government trying to open up with a key Senate crossbencher here," Labor senator Kristina Keneally told reporters on Wednesday.
"Perhaps it's a reverse psychology move, I do not know.
"But I cannot believe that Mathias Cormann, as the government leader in the Senate, is going to be very happy about the intemperate language and the picking of a fight that Peter Dutton has engaged in."
The row has erupted in the middle of delicate talks over the Morrison government's signature tax cuts, with Senator Patrick playing hardball over the $158 billion package.
Hostilities flared after Senator Patrick accused Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo of trying to intimidate him when he called to complain about his commentary about police raids on the ABC and a News Corp journalist's home.
Senator Cormann, who is leading negotiations on the tax cuts, criticised Senator Patrick's remarks.
"I think his comments were wrong, they are uncalled for, and they do imply that somehow there was inappropriate political interference in the decision making by our police," Senator Cormann told Sky News.
"That is, of course, not the case. The AFP is an independent agency which makes independent decisions.
"He (Senator Patrick) is a big boy, he can talk for himself, he's going to have to defend his assertions, as all of us have to defend our assertions."
Senator Patrick on Wednesday stood by claims Mr Pezzullo and Mr Dutton "hated" media scrutiny, but declined to provide any specific examples to support his suggestion.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the phone call between Senator Patrick and Mr Pezzullo as "concerning".
Mr Dutton launched an extraordinary counter-attack on the senator while confirming he'd spoken to his top bureaucrat.
"Like me he is disgusted at some of the outrageous lies and slander he and I are regularly subject to," Mr Dutton said.
"But nonetheless I advised the secretary it was inappropriate to contact Senator Patrick even if just to point out the inaccuracies in the senator's press release.
"Further I advised it was counter-productive because I have always found Senator Patrick to be a person of the sort of character who would seek to misrepresent the secretary's words, and the secretary agreed the contact was not appropriate and that is where the matter ends."
Australian Associated Press