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Let's (not) talk about sex

BREAK out the vanilla sarsaparilla! The word misogyny was barely mentioned in Australia's House of Pain today.

Christopher Pyne, for whom too much is never enough, managed to spit the word once, but whatever he was trying to say was promptly swallowed by Labor's Anthony Albanese moving that he no longer be heard.

Australia's parliamentarians had scared themselves witless with a word that has had half the country scrambling for a dictionary.

Worse, just when the shouting had settled to a dull moan, an alleged comedian had managed to push the language alarm to code red with an alleged joke that fell flatter than a stale beer at a union smoko.

After a week of Labor accusing Tony Abbott of rampant sexism and the Abbott troops dishing it back over the government's unfortunate choice of a texting Speaker, the Prime Minister and several senior colleagues dragged themselves to a dinner organised by the CFMEU in Parliament House on Wednesday evening.

The star turn was a wisecracker rejoicing in the stage name Fair Go For Billionaires. Ms Gillard and several colleagues, happily for them, had left before Fair Go let fly with a "joke" that would make a Peter Slipper text message blush.

It concerned Abbott and his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, and was so odious — and defamatory — no sensible newspaper would repeat it.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Housing Minister Brendan O'Connor were unfortunate enough to have remained in the audience. They recognised they were in a pickle only slightly less appalling than if they had blundered in to an Alan Jones prawn night.

As word of the horror slowly seeped out, Ms Gillard and her team went on to the highest alert to distance themselves from Fair Go's loathsome view of humour. Ms Gillard called the CFMEU's national secretary declaring the comments so offensive and so wrong they should never have been made.

CFMEU officials said that if they'd known such a jape was to be made, they'd have torn Fair Go off the stage before he got to it.

The agency representing Fair Go, Manic Studios (of course) issued a grovelling apology to Abbott and Ms Credlin, pleading "poor judgment" and offering that "the joke was a last-minute inclusion and crossed the line".

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz suggested Ms Gillard arrange a boycott of CFMEU publications — the sort of thing that had happened to Jones and his radio show after his bout of septic mouth.

By question time, no one was joking about anything and most of the hollering was confined to safe old standards like the carbon tax and employment figures. The Coalition tried to revive the Slipper text affair, but it never got off the ground.

Fair Go had finally killed any appetite for jibes about misogyny in the House of Pain. For which, perhaps, he ought to receive some credit. Or not.

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