While the national press gallery and a gathering of hacks from throughout the nation are locked up tight trying to pull apart Wayne Swan's Great Austerity Budget today, the real action is likely to be taking place on the floor of the House of Representatives.
IN FULL: Peter Slipper's statement to parliament
Peter Slipper denies all allegations made against him, saying a "trial by media seems to have become the order of the day".
There, Julia Gillard and colleagues will be endeavouring to stare down Tony Abbott and his Merry Men and Women over a surplus of that most delicious of political stews, the sex scandal.
LIVE FROM 7.30PM: Full coverage of the 2012 federal budget here including all the winners and losers, live video from Parliament House, and analysis by Michelle Grattan, Phillip Coorey, Lenore Taylor, Tim Colebatch and Ross Gittins.
Two, actually, if we are to count the apparently never-ending saga of Craig Thomson and his amazing union credit card journey through various bordellos and the even more mysterious workings of Fair Work Australia. Mr Thomson insisted yesterday that he would defend strenuously any charges that might be laid as a result of Fair Work Australia's years of investigations. A strenuous defence, you'd imagine, would be appropriate against the sort of strenuous activity he is claimed to have pursued.
More intriguing, and rapidly becoming more convoluted, is the scandal swirling about the currently defrocked Speaker, Peter Slipper. You may recall that Mr Slipper promised on his elevation to the Speaker's chair to return the Australian Parliament to its Westminster roots. The Speaker's Parade, the flowing robe, the barrister's bib, the silken bow tie … we stood agape as the gorgeous accoutrements of Westminster marched in.
Alas, there seemed always something missing. Lacking the Old Etonian and Oxbridge traditions and the occasional life peerage of those who inhabit the real Westminster, the Australian Parliament still appeared to suffer a paucity of quality hijinks that in the Old Country tends to have so enriched the sort of newspapers Rupert Murdoch once took delight in publishing. Why, we haven't seen a newspaper picture of a male Australian politician wearing fishnet stockings since Alexander Downer. In the real Westminster, if a chap wasn't caught wearing fishnet stockings and armed with a feather duster he wasn't anybody, really.
Mr Slipper's travails - getting himself embroiled in allegations of sexually harassing a male staffer - have at least a faint whiff of Westminster about them, though fishnet stockings haven't made an appearance, so far as we are aware. There are nothing but allegations by a youngish chap who apparently shared Mr Slipper's lodgings where, he claims in court documents, the door to the shower recess tended to stay open.
But still. Suddenly, there is Christopher Pyne, forgetting (until the actual email turned up on Fairfax's National Times website) that he'd emailed Mr Slipper's office in the late hours to get the phone number or email address of the said staffer for purposes unexplained.
And now, the former Howard government minister intent on taking Mr Slipper's seat, Mal Brough, has been forced by the same website to admit he'd been breaking bread with the aggrieved staffer, advising him on the business of taking court action against Slipper.
Surplus released... but Thomson takes headlines
Craig Thomson saga steals headlines across today's media despite a pre-release of the federal budget surplus, Tim Lester reports.
Mr Brough, very sensibly, declined to answer the phone to Fairfax's The National Times and The Age, preferring instead to confess to a grateful Murdoch newspaper, which, having previously failed to get a sniff of the story, generously photographed him with his arm around his wife. All very Little Britain.
How does poor Swan compete with all that, even if he spices up his budget by swinging a cat o' nine tails and tossing around the occasional bribe?
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