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C-bomb colours chamber in MP's race for cover

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Parliamentary Sketch Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Jacqueline Maley

Andrew Laming is ejected from the chamber during question time on Wednesday.

Andrew Laming is ejected from the chamber during question time on Wednesday. Photo: Andrew Meares

Queensland Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming wants it known he would never shout, "You are corrupt!" to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Sure, he might have shouted the word "corrupt!" in the midst of a parliamentary hubbub over a question about Gillard's former career as a lawyer, about which the opposition questioned her this week.

But that's different. That's not a serious accusation, it's more like a thought bubble.

It could happen to anybody. Laming might have been thinking about former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, or reading an article about planning procedures in NSW in the mid-1990s, and the word just slipped out.

People who thought they heard the full accusation — including the Hansard editor sitting in the chamber at the time — must have been having an auditory malfunction. (It does happen — Kevin Rudd once had a question-time earwax problem so severe it turned into a YouTube phenomenon.)

Perhaps, as Laming shouted "Corrupt!" during question time on Wednesday, another of his parliamentary colleagues shouted "You are!" at exactly the same time. Unfortunate coincidences happen all the time.

Whatever. Laming insisted he did not utter the full statement, even though it was recorded in Hansard and by many scribes in the press gallery, and he was chucked out of parliament over the incident.

He protested his innocence and sought a change in Hansard, but by close of business, he didn't have one.

The C-bomb hung in the air during question time on Thursday, when Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop continued her interrogation of the Prime Minister over Gillard's involvement with an AWU "slush fund" she established as a young solicitor. Gillard insists she did nothing wrong, but Bishop was unrelenting.

The problem with using question time for cross-examinations over old lawyerly dealings is that all the infernal detail is difficult to fit into the minute-and-a-half MPs have to spit their question out.

Bishop's question was so lengthy she was forced to speed up her delivery and ended up sounding like a race-caller. Which was precisely the impression the Climate Change Minister also sought to make when he rose to answer a question about carbon pricing.

Combet contrived to give a political field guide on members of the opposition front bench he would like to see take over from Mr Abbott as leader.

"What about the Member for Wentworth? A classy thoroughbred if ever there's been one ... the Member for North Sydney, he's hungry for a win!"

The Member for Cook (Scott Morrison) was a "promising weight-for-ager" but was "spooked by foreign horses every time", and the Member for MacKellar (Bronwyn Bishop) was "a favourite in 1994 ... what a stayer".

Fascinators for the entire front bench!

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