Craig Thomson speaks to independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor.

Craig Thomson speaks to independent MPs Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor as Christopher Pyne moves a motion to force the embattled MP to address Parliament. Photo: Andrew Meares

Wayne Swan is calling it his ''battlers' budget''.

It is supposed to encapsulate the government's pitch to low and middle income mums and dads around Australia.
But it could just as easily stand for the government's battle to keep the parliamentary debate focused on the budget.

The opposition were not content to sit there and let the government claim budget victory. 

In question time this afternoon, Labor asked itself no less than seven direct budget related questions - with the phrase ''how is the budget spreading the benefits of the mining boom'' on high rotation.

Julia Gillard was poised to bring an end to question time, but Christopher Pyne beat her to the punch.

Julia Gillard was poised to bring an end to question time, but Christopher Pyne beat her to the punch. Photo: Andrew Meares

The government was particularly keen to keep pointing out that they were giving lump sum payments to parents of school-aged children - and that the opposition does not support the bonus, calling it a ''sugar hit'' that isn't linked to educational outcomes.

Julia Gillard took great pleasure in taking the Coalition to task on their stance, given it was the Coalition who introduced the baby bonus in 2002.

''Babies grow into schoolchildren!'' Gillard exclaimed. ''How out of touch can these people be?''

But the opposition were not content to sit there and let the government claim budget victory.

Joe Hockey wanted to know why the government had raised the Australia's ''credit card limit'' (net debt capacity), as Andrew Robb pressed the government on it ''net debt blow out''. For his part, Malcolm Turnbull said that when the national broadband network was factored in, there was actually a budget deficit of $12 billion (that's not a surplus!).

Swan couldn't help himself and reverted to the government's tried and tested line on the Coalition's ''$70 billion crater in their budget bottom line'' as he waded through his responses. In Anna Burke's first proper question time (there were only two questions yesterday), the deputy speaker was taking no prisoners.

She freely interrupted Gillard to bring her back to the point on several occasions and sternly warned Tony Abbott about interjecting across the table.

Burke only sent one MP packing from the chamber (Nationals MP Michael McCormack) but she did have some ominous words for the rest of the House.

Early on in proceedings, she observed she would issue a general warning if pushed - ''and there will be very few people left in the chamber.''

But as the government battled to keep question time on budget matters, there was another issue brewing.
Late in proceedings there were two questions from Christopher Pyne and then one from Bronwyn Bishop on Craig Thomson, trade unions and parliamentary accountability ... this wasn't going anywhere surplus-y.

With 19 questions done, Gillard sat poised to bring an end to question time, but Pyne beat her to the punch.
He moved a motion to suspend standing orders (that's 52 times this year), to try and get Thomson to explain himself to the House.

Gillard left the chamber as is her usual practice, but it soon became clear this was no usual motion.

Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott had words with Thomson, who was sitting nearby. Then Thomson made the long march over to government whip Joel Fitzgibbon and had a further chat, before leaving the chamber for several minutes.

The ensuring flurry inside the House - Stephen Smith conferencing with the independents, Oakeshott talking to the clerks - made it clear that something was up.

When Pyne had finished lambasting the Thomson affair as ''one of the most tawdry episodes to ever besmirch the parliament'' and Anthony Albanese's five minutes of reply (the member for Dobell is innocent until proven guilty) were over, the House breathed in.

In the gap, Thomson was on his feet, on indulgence.

The embattled independent MP - who once was Labor - said that he would say something. But not right now because it was budget week. He promised to give a statement when parliament next sits (the week after next) and with that, resumed his seat.

The independents were satisfied for now and the Coalition then lost the motion to suspend standing orders, 70 votes to 72.

And with that, Gillard could finally announce that further questions ''be put on the notice paper''.

The Scorecard:

Number of MPs kicked out: 1 (Joe Hockey was also warned)
Number of time the opposition have tried to suspend standing orders this year: 52
Number of times they have been successful: 0
Number of minutes the opposition wanted Craig Thomson to speak and explain himself: No more than ten
Headline government insult: ''They couldn't be trusted to run a chook farm'' (Wayne Swan to the Coalition frontbench)
Headline opposition insult: ''Tricky Julia'' (Christopher Pyne on the Prime Minister ... he immediately withdrew the remark)

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