MPs warm up for the big game

Question Time before the Budget is simply the warm-up act to the main event.There’s little point in getting worked up in the parliamentary session before the budget.

However telling the point or smart the phrase, it will all be smothered by Scott Morrison’s opus in a few hours. And, in the meantime, there’s a good pre-budget dinner to contemplate.

So what goes on during the afternoon is like a footy team warming up before a big game, with the whistle for the start going at 7.30 pm.

Credit to shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, who threw himself into a motion condemning the government’s failure to deal with debt and deficit with such animation that he must have risked pulling the vocal equivalent of his hammy.

However the government thought so little of the matter that it put up a bench player, assistant minister Alex Hawke, to lead the counter-attack.

Labor’s question time text was Peter Costello’s gloomy pronouncement on television on Monday night that he would be dead before ‘s debt was wiped out.

Costello, who’s 60 and looks healthy, was having a go at both sides.

But as a Liberal luminary and John Howard’s treasurer-forever, he was ammunition for Labor.

Malcolm Turnbull was unconcerned, sneering that Labor shouldn’t be lecturing on debt and deficit and urging everyone to be patient as all would soon be revealed.

So it was hardly surprising that the warm-up lost its venom and its focus.

The most exciting moment was the roar and faux applause with which the Labor ranks greeted Liberal Julia Banks when she rose to ask a question.

Banks recently reckoned she could live on $40 a day, an incautious and widely-condemned claim.

The government will be hoping that Morrison’s national budget will be more credible than Banks’s domestic one.