Gillard soothes the pig-eaters as embattled MP saves his bacon

Despite the government's best attempts to leak the entire budget before it is handed down, there's always concern on budget night about hidden surprises. You know, the stuff that's not highlighted in the gleaming government brochures that comes back to bite the populace. Yesterday, as people woke up feeling a little (splutter) fatigued from budget celebrations, there was a mini-panic that Wayne Swan had left Australia with another type of hangover.

One of the most alarming factoids to emerge post-budget 2012-13 was that the pork levy has increased, with the price on each pig killed set to jump from $1.35 to $2.25. Was this another toxic tax?

Luckily, when Julia Gillard was quizzed about the bacon tax on morning radio, she was able to reassure the pig-eating punters. ''My understanding is that there's a small increase in a levy associated with our pork industry, because they want to put some more money into research. So I don't think people need to get too anxious about the price of bacon,'' she told Triple M.

In fact, the extra money will go towards marketing, but the end result's the same. According to Australian Pork, the levy won't affect the retail price of pork.

With that happy news, Gillard was free to get on with selling the budget and the blessed surplus. After about 1.5 billion radio and TV interviews, she ventured into question time, to give the Battlers' Budget a whirl. But the bevy of budget questions - the rhapsodising about spreading the benefits of the mining boom to the mums and dads of Australia - was but a prelude to another Coalition crack at Craig Thomson.

In the dying moments of question time, Christopher Pyne pounced on the dispatch box with a motion to suspend standing orders, this time to force Thomson to make a statement explaining the Fair Work Australia report. It soon became clear this was no ordinary Opposition stunt.


First, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott had words with Thomson.

Then Thomson left his crossbench bunker to talk to government whip Joel Fitzgibbon, before leaving the chamber for several minutes.

In the meantime, Oakeshott consulted with the clerks and Stephen Smith wandered over to confer with the independents. Oh oh. Were the government and the member for Dobell about to lose some serious face? The house positively wobbled with the tension.

But after Pyne, Julie Bishop and Anthony Albanese said their respective pieces on the motion, Thomson unexpectedly rose in his place. He explained that he would say something about the Fair Work report in the next sitting week. But he would stay quiet for now out of respect for the Battler's Budget.

It wasn't much, but it was something. After all, if we've waited more than three years, what's another week or so?

So, with the independents appeased, the vote was lost 70 to 72. It may have been a small step for man, but Thomson had just saved his bacon.