Welcome to our live coverage of politics from the national capital. All times in AEDST. You can also follow me on Twitter @murpharoo

5.30pm: My colleagues in the print editions of our newspapers are typing furiously for their evening deadlines.

It is time for The Pulse to retire for the evening. I've enjoyed your company.

I look forward to doing it all again tomorrow.

 

5.05pm: Liberal Steve Ciobo was just cranky with the activist group GetUp, (who have showered blooms around Parliament House to advance their advocacy of same sex marriage.)

— steveciobo (@steveciobo) February 14, 2012

5.00pm: Olga, Maria and Macarina were thrilled with Mr Abbott's 'roses for the Parliament House cleaners' gesture earlier today.

But not everyone saw a bit of Valentines Day romance and goodwill in the overture from the Opposition leader, evidently - not a big day for love everywhere.

Here is blogger Possum Comitatus on Twitter:

4.45pm: Ah yes, those really were the days, a President and a Prime Minister, having a good old chuckle.

The circle of life.

4.20pm: And President Nasheed in happier times - before deputy Mohamed Waheed intervened.

4.10pm: Some quick interweb-based research has uncovered the fact that the ousted President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, pioneered the underwater press conference.

This practice is believed to be world first.

Watch and learn Australia.

Crack operatives closely associated with The Pulse, (with better capacity to remember recent events than The Pulse), also remind us that Kevin Rudd met President Nasheed three weeks before he was ousted by Julia Gillard.

Back in the day.

The meeting is believed to have taken place on dry land, on June 3 2010.

3.40pm: The Bishop foray has divided Canberra's tweeting political editors.

Here is The Age's political editor, Michelle Grattan:

Here's Paul Bongiorno, from Network Ten:

3.35pm: Labor's Mike Kelly is, like Ms Plibersek, unimpressed with the Maldives coup sortie of Ms Bishop.

3.25pm: As usual, one perfectly framed shot from Fairfax photographer, Alex Ellinghausen, is worth a thousand words.

3.21pm: Prime Minister Julia Gillard says enough already on the Question Time circus.

She's called it quits - catching Speaker Slipper slightly off guard.

"I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper," Ms Gillard says, crisp.

"Right," Mr Slipper says, slowly.

3.20pm: Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, is less than impressed with Ms Bishop's little frolic.

Here she is on Twitter:

3.10pm: The Kevin question today reached new heights of imagination.

Liberal Julie Bishop inquired what the Foreign Minister thought of a recent coup in the Maldives, where the leader had been overthrown by his deputy.

Did Mr Rudd think the deputy should account for his treachery?

The Foreign Minister didn't miss a beat.

Mr Rudd:

"The last time I was asked a serious question by Ms Bishop on foreign policy, Wyatt Roy was not yet of legal drinking age."

Mr Rudd was of course, absolutely across recent events in the Maldives.

He'd spoken to the relevant personages only a couple of nights ago.

An elegant timeline was produced to underscore his efficiency in the portfolio.

No funny business in the Maldives would be tolerated, Mr Rudd assured.

A second question, inviting Mr Rudd to comment directly on his relationship with Prime Minister Julia Gillard - was ruled out of order by Speaker Slipper.

3.00pm: Mr Pyne has gone now to the Labor backbencher Craig Thomson.

How, Prime Minister, can you justify $1 million in legal fees for the Australian Government Solicitor - assisting in the Thomson investigation by Fair Work Australia?

Mr Pyne asks how much is too much? How long is too long (for an investigation into whether Mr Thomson abused his credit card while at the Health Services Union?)

The Prime Minister:

"It might be the culture of the Liberal Party to stand over independent bodies, and the police, but that's not the culture of our political party."

2.45pm: Droll that new Speaker.

A moment ago, Liberal Christopher Pyne objected to the Prime Minister's "shrill bluster."

Speaker Slipper intoned:

"That's an example of the pot calling the kettle black."

The Prime Minister didn't seem to absorb the endorsement. 

Ms Gillard thundered the Opposition might consider stopping their "idiot interjections."

2.35pm: Headache Kevin?

Best to pace yourself.

Liberal Julie Bishop hasn't asked the question yet!

(Labor's Dick Adams meanwhile, is praiseworthy of Speaker Slipper.

"Your skills continue to impress the House," Mr Adams says.)

2.27pm: This picture of the Prime Minister in Question Time speaks for itself.

2.25pm: Liberal frontbencher Greg Hunt is now asking about aluminium. Does the Prime Minister stand by her previous statements on the aluminium issue?

Labor's Stephen Jones is keeping his interjections to Twitter.

Here he is:

2.20pm: Labor's Bill Shorten is struggling to be heard above the din.

Mr Shorten blasts an opponent, arguing the MP is guilty of "premature interjection."

Note to Mr Shorten.

Don't go there.

Ever.

Please.

The Treasurer Wayne Swan is now trying to remind the voters that decisions by this government kept Australia out of recession.

Those opposite have been fumbling and bumbling away from their commitment to run a budget surplus, Mr Swan says.

2.15pm: Structural adjustment in the economy.

Never easy. Never pretty.

"These are days of change and days of pressure," the Prime Minister says - citing job losses in manufacturing and other sectors of the economy.

"We won't leave those workers behind."

2.10pm: Tony Abbott opens on the carbon tax.

It's bad. For aluminium. He says.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is unimpressed.

Ms Gillard predicts we'll see a lot of "dirt from the henchmen sent in for the Opposition" but "what we won't see is a sensible debate on the economy."

The Prime Minister says the economy is in a period of transition - it's got nothing to do with a carbon tax that hasn't started yet.

"You can't do the job making facts up," she says to Mr Abbott.

2.00pm: Question Time?

Already?

1.40pm: No pressure or anything, Prime Minister.

Absolutely no pressure.

We demand perfection from our elected representatives, and perfect professionalism from politics.

No slips or screw ups, no mis-steps. No emotion.

But in the end, politicians are just people.

Politics is the human condition. In all its glory.

Nothing more, nothing less.

1.35pm: And to matters of transparency.

The Coalition says it will not do its normal formal briefing for journalists on the outcome of today's joint party room discussions.

The Liberal senator who normally briefs after the meeting can't be spared from Senate Estimates apparently.

Big day for sharing the love?

Not so much, it seems.

1.30pm: Now to matters of legislative note.

All the horse trading on the Gillard Government's private health insurance rebate measure looks to be coming to a positive conclusion.

The Greens have picked up a $165 million dental agreement on the way through, and will now support the means test.

Independent Rob Oakeshott is now expected to fall in behind, when a House of Representatives vote comes on, either later today, or tomorrow.

1.20pm: Now over to The Age's national editor Tony Wright, who with this snippet of reportage, takes you ring-side on Speaker Slipper's grand procession earlier today.

Here's Tony:

"Speaker Peter Slipper, who has performed a sort of reverse striptease during the first days of this year's parliament, adding first a QC's gown, then a white satin bow tie to his regalia, startled visitors to Parliament House yesterday with a formal procession not seen in Canberra for three decades."

"With an attendant leading and the Serjeant at Arms armed with the golden ceremonial Mace, the Speaker glided at slow-march pace through the Members Hall to the front door of the House of Representatives."

"Mr Slipper added to his robes an arrangement at the throat resembling a split dangling bib of the sort regularly sported by barristers."

"The procession, last performed regularly by Speaker Billy Snedden in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the old Parliament House. Snedden went a few steps further than Slipper, favouring the full-bottomed wig and ruffles, declaring it would restore the dignity of the office of Speaker."

"Mr Slipper believes the same thing, and plans to perform the procession every Tuesday when Parliament is sitting."

1.05pm: Forget roses.

Forget rose recycling.

I love to read.

(Me too, Prime Minister.)

12.55pm: Pulse readers, prepare yourself for a shock.

Who is this lady being courted just a moment ago by the Opposition leader Tony Abbott in his office?

Intrigue? Scandal. Alas, not so much.

This lady is Olga, one of the Parliament House cleaners.

Valentines Day.

Big day for love.

Activist group GetUp has sent dozens of red roses to Mr Abbott and the Prime Minister as part of their advocacy for gay marriage.

Mr Abbott told The Pulse he had no use for those gay marriage inspired blooms.

(Sorry Mrs Abbott. We deny all responsibility. Sorry chief of staff, Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott's right hand lady. We think you had a strong case, but don't sweat it, we move on.)

"I don't think I can use them," Mr Abbott told Olga a moment ago, (with The Pulse and photographer Andrew Meares looking on.)

"My tears .. Mr .. my tears is coming," said a swooning Olga.

Big. Day. For. Love.

You know it.

12.40pm: The Prime Minister has been cornered by journalists at the National Library.

Did she know her staff had written a victory speech?

"These events are in the past. I'm focused on the future."

Ms Gillard says she had been sounded out for the leadership in the days before the coup against Kevin Rudd.

But she made up her mind to challenge on the day.

"I'm not going to go into individual conversations. I didn't direct anyone to write a speech for me. I made up my mind on the day."

How can you not be aware of a victory speech being written by your staff in your office - when another person, not you, is the serving Prime Minister?

"Political staff prepare for contingencies. They work on things they are concerned about and think might happen. That was a tense period of time. I dont have a clear recollection of when the speech was brought to my attention. But the important thing is here I didnt direct the speech be written."

12.10pm: Meanwhile, feeling good at the National Library.

Here's the Prime Minister.

And friends.

12.05pm: Oh dear, initial feedback suggests the Speaker's grand procession was underwhelming.

We'll bring you some pictures as soon as we can.

11.50am: Much anticipation ahead of the procession by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Peter Slipper, which will happen very soon.

Mr Slipper is bringing a touch of sparkle back to parliamentary procedure - sweeping into the House of Representatives chamber with a modest entourage.

Stay tuned.

It is Mr Slipper's time to shine.

11.45am: And reading, evidently.

11.40am: We've just had the official Labor caucus debrief.

Journalist: "Any talk of the Four Corners program?"

Caucus spokesman: "No."

[Some laughter in the room]

Caucus spokesman: "What's Four Corners? What is Newspoll?"

The Prime Minister has told her colleagues she intends to continue the debate about the economy.

11.05am: Tardy of me not to note that Coalition MPs have gathered this morning for their weekly party-room, and Senate Estimates continue to grind on in worthy fashion.

10.55am: The question in Labor ranks this morning is what impact Ms Gillard's Four Corners appearance will have on the one third of the Labor caucus that can't quite make up its mind whether to defect back to Kevin Rudd.

Wither the undecideds.

Wither indeed.

One caucus member, not a fan of Ms Gillard, has branded last night as a "Nixon" moment for the Prime Minister.

Rudd supporters see last night as a perfect case study of why Ms Gillard lacks the political judgment to win the next election.

The argument is she shouldn't have gone on the program, but if she did, she should have had better answers to key questions, rather than giving the Opposition more fodder for their relentless credibility campaign against the Prime Minister.

Will this be a tipping point?

Events are very fluid.

Impossible to say.

10.35am: The Labor caucus is having its weekly meeting now.

Tony Abbott meanwhile is trying to peel some television cameras away from the Prime Minister to do one of his field trips to Queanbeyan.

Mr Abbott is off to a place called Monaro Windows.

10.30am: I've made my view clear.

I can't understand why the Prime Minister did Four Corners last night; why she thought that would help.

But it would be very unfair of me if I didn't note that if Ms Gillard had declined the interview - that would have been a story too.

There is no perfect way through the current imbroglio, no perfect wisdom at times like this. And given what the program turned up, she still would have been out on radio defending herself early this morning.

The Prime Minister can't win at the moment.

It's reached that point.

Ms Gillard will be pursued by a large press pack to her public event this morning.

The Prime Minister is off to the National Library of Australia at 11.30.

She's launching the national year of reading.

10.20am: Why so grave Tony?

Here's the Opposition leader last night with his great mentor, John Howard, who breezed in to bless a new batch of portraits in the Liberal Party room in Parliament House.

Leaders.

They come and go.

It's all a circle of life in politics.

9.50am: The Prime Minister has done radio this morning to try and deal with the fallout of the Four Corners program last night.

Why did she do a sit down interview with Four Corners given Kevin Rudd did not? 

Ms Gillard has been busy implying to all and sundry the leadership ructions are a fiction from over excited journalists - so why undercut your best defence by elevating the leadership story?

Appearance on the program looked, in good part at least, like a validation of its central thesis.

Ms Gillard argued this morning she consented to an interview because the program pitched a general show on the government's progress since 2007.

The implication here is the Prime Minister didn't know it was a show about leadership tensions.

Ms Gillard:

"I'm not someone who runs away from questions."

But this of course begs the question, if she didn't know what the program was really about - why didn't she know?

Ms Gillard is also continuing to dance around the "new" material in the show: that her staff wrote a victory speech weeks before her challenge to Kevin Rudd.

Previously the Prime Minister has said she only made up her mind to challenge Mr Rudd on the day it happened.

Ms Gillard was sticking to that this morning.

9.20am: Good morning.

There is no better way to kick off our rolling political coverage than with today's Quotetoon from photographer Alex Ellinghausen.

Here is Kevin Rudd, saying, well ... nothing at all.

It's a study in contrasts.

While Prime Minister Julia Gillard is interviewed by the ABC's Four Corners program - then follows up that interview with some damage control on early morning radio this morning, the Foreign Minister is content to be a happy little vegemite.

Floating above the fray.

Silence doing all the talking necessary.