PM to be focus of fiery final session
This will be the last sitting week of the year for Parliament. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax
Federal politicians return to Canberra on Monday for what looks set to be a fiery week before Parliament rises for the Christmas break.
The last parliamentary sitting week of each year is usually marked by an elevation of aggressive tactics and last-ditch attempts at point scoring.
But debate has been particularly nasty throughout this year, sparking concerns by some MPs that this session will result in an even sharper escalation of personal attacks.
''It's usually called the silly season, but this coming week might more resemble a killing season,'' one MP said. ''Not to put it too crudely, but the smell of blood is in the air.''
The opposition is determined to pursue the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, over her involvement as a lawyer in the establishment of a 1990s fund for the Australian Workers'' Union that was subsequently allegedly defrauded.
Despite assertions at the weekend by Ms Gillard's former boyfriend Bruce Wilson - who was a union official at the heart of the scandal at the time - that she knew ''absolutely nothing'' about it, the Coalition is not satisfied.
Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop said Mr Wilson's claims do not change a thing and called on the Prime Minister to give a full explanation to Parliament.
She said Mr Wilson's account did not tally with the recollections of others involved in the incident.
''And it's certainly not supported by the documents that we have seen,'' Ms Bishop said. ''So I would urge Mr Wilson to go to the police and give a full and frank assessment, description, confession of what went on about this 17 years ago.''
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, however, described the debate as little more than ''Liberal Party muck-raking''.
''It's sort of getting to the point that, I think, Julie Bishop is applying to be Miss Marple,'' she said. ''She's running around the country, trying to solve something, but at the end of the day she can't actually tell us what it is she is trying to solve. There is still no allegation of impropriety or illegal conduct by the Prime Minister.''
The issue is set to dominate Parliament this week, as will the contentious topic of asylum seekers. The opposition plans to introduce a bill to reinstate the temporary protection visas of the Howard era, which Labor abolished four years ago.
The Coalition won't secure the numbers to pass the legislation, but opposition leader Tony Abbott dismissed any suggestion the move was a stunt.
''This is an attempt to offer people an alternative,'' he said. ''This is an attempt to let the Australian public know that it doesn't have to be as bad as this, that while the current government has completely lost control of our borders, there is a better way and they would get a better way under the Coalition.
''Now, we have got fundamentally to deny the people smugglers a product to sell and the best way to do that is to well and truly establish the understanding that if you come to Australia illegally by boat, you can't ever expect to get permanent residency and that's what these temporary protection visas are designed to ensure.''
But while he continues to hope for an early election, more Coalition MPs are quietly expressing concerns about his leadership and his declining popularity in opinion polls.
''This time last year and for most of this year there has been only one political leader living in fear of losing their job and that has been the Prime Minister,'' an opposition MP said. ''If things continue as they are, Tony might soon be joining her in that wonderful realm of job insecurity.''