Eyes have it as Bishop, Burke face off in row

She's only three days into the question time gig but Anna Burke has already shown that she ain't afraid of anyone or anything. Not even Julie Bishop's atomic death stare.

As the last question time of the week kicked off, it was evident that people were in a rambunctious mood: it took less than 30 seconds for Julia Gillard to mention the words ''Peter Costello'' in a response that was supposed to be about the surplus.

The Coalition's corresponding guffaw-roar was decibel-heavy, but Burke was soon more concerned about the general level of chatter in the House.

''Can I ask people to not continue with ambient conversations,'' Burke decreed at the end of the first question. ''It's very disrespectful.''

That wasn't enough to keep the kids in the green house quiet, however. They were ready to burst at the slightest provocation, be it Anthony Albanese's mention of James Ashby, Christopher Pyne's reference to Mark Latham, Gillard's homage a` John Howard or David Bradbury's use of The Three Stooges (borrowing Wayne Swan's favourite dig at the Coalition economic team).

As the government tried to keep question time focused on how good their budget was and how woeful Tony Abbott's budget reply was sure to be, the Opposition had other plans … of the Craig Thomson variety.


Bishop asked Gillard whether the payment of Thomson's legal fees was raised with her by the member for Dobell on April 28.

''No, it was not,'' came the Prime Minister's quick reply. But that didn't stop a Thomson-related inquisition.

A few questions down the line, Coalition frontbencher Michael Keenan asked if Gillard could guarantee ''that no member of her staff'' had talked to NSW Labor about the ALP paying Thomson's legal fees.

Albanese leapt up to try and get the question disallowed. Burke initially sided with Albo but then changed her mind.

''My apologies, I did not hear the word staff,'' she said, blaming the hullabaloo.

Then, as the ambient conversations/protests continued, Burke broke out the big guns. ''It is a very serious question and the death stare will apply,'' she informed the House. But Burke was not relying solely on her peepers to keep MPs in order. The new question time umpire was not averse to brute force too.

As the Coalition moved a motion to suspend standing orders, on what the NSW Labor Party was up to around Thomson, things got predictably huffy.

Albo called Bishop a ''fool'' (he was forced to withdraw) and the Coalition benches made loud and obvious use of the term ''goose'' (the animal equivalent of ''fool'').

Then, as Albo wandered from the script - making reference to a 1978 newspaper article that involved one T. Abbott - Bishop got up to dissent. And then wouldn't sit down.

''The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat or she will leave the chamber,'' Burke boomed.

Bishop returned fire with one of her famous greasies. It seemed to go forever and didn't waver for a second. But it was no use. Eventually, a defeated Bishop was forced back to her seat. The J-Bish could keep glowering, but in Burke's book, only her own death stares need apply.