JULIA Gillard, on the world stage this week, will be able to leave the grubbier work to her ministers. Judging by their performance so far, they will be trying their hardest while she's away to keep the heat on the Coalition over who did what when in the saga of Peter Slipper and his staffer.

In the Thomson affair, the government constantly admonishes the opposition for not leaving it to the legal process. In the Slipper case, it's another story.

Ministers justify this dubious behaviour by saying the Commonwealth is a participant - Ashby claims he did not get due care from his employer - and they are just repeating what was said in court. The Commonwealth alleged that Ashby was in league with a fellow staffer, Brough, and News Ltd's Steve Lewis as he sought to discredit the Speaker.

The ministers are drawing a long bow to defend their strong interventions. Roxon's Friday press conference was anything but a dry summary of proceedings. Craig Emerson yesterday was asserting Brough ''had plenty to hide'' - it was ''rubbish'' for him to assert otherwise. On the other side, Brough was also on television attacking the government.

The players with skin in the game have no intention of waiting for the court's verdict. There are points to be scored or countered. Forget ''sub judice''.

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