A Dreyfus affair of Julie Bishop's making
Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop exchanges with the Speaker Anna Burke. Photo: Andrew Meares
It was not exactly the Dreyfus Affair - the near-impenetrable cause celebre that split France in the latter years of the 19th century when an unfortunate army officer named Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of treason for selling secrets to the Germans - but it seemed at least curious.
The first question to be lobbed at Mark Alfred Dreyfus in his new role as Australia's Attorney-General had nothing at all to do with Australian law.
No. Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop wanted to know his attitude to Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
It seemed unlikely that Mr Dreyfus would have been asked such a question if he happened to be, say, a Baptist named Smith.
And as Ms Bishop is the Opposition's foreign affairs spokeswoman, you might have imagined she'd have directed her question to the Minister responsible for foreign affairs in the House, Craig Emerson.
Ms Bishop, if we were to be generous, may have been genuinely seeking a long-range legal view of Jewish settlements in West Bank from Australia's first law officer in some estoteric belief he had jurisdiction.
If so, she proved mistaken. Speaker Anna Burke ruled the question out of order after strenuous objection from Labor's frontline scrapper Anthony Albanese, with Mr Emerson vainly waving his hand for the question to be re-directed his way.
Mr Emerson later tweeted that ''as Trade and Foreign Min rep I've never received a question from JBishop. It's 1093 days since I got one from Opposition''.
Mr Dreyfus, of course, is neither a Baptist nor a Smith.
He happens to be Jewish and he's spent some days in a fury over the Opposition yapper Christopher Pyne's comparison of the Gillard Government's recent difficulties with a movie scene about the demise of Adolf Hitler.
The Opposition, in retaliation to his complaints about Pyne's comments, has all but accused him of hypocrisy because he once compared Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's anti-carbon tax campaign to Joseph Goebbel's Nazi propaganda.
Mr Dreyfus lost three of his German great-grandparents to the Holocaust and his own father was sent to Australia to escape the Nazis.
All of which might or might not offer some context to the reason why an Australian Attorney-General might be greeted to his new job with a peculiar question about Jewish settlements..
The original Dreyfus Affair, which ran hot for 12 years, complete with anti-Semitic baiting and the scalding J'Accuse, a still-famous letter by the novelist Emile Zola attacking Dreyfus's accusers, led to the formal separation of church and state in France.
Australia's rather paler Dreyfus affair ended with Julie Bishop arguing with Speaker Burke - and being tossed out of the Chamber.