THE government has gone on the front foot against what it describes as the "smearing" of Julia Gillard, with a counter-smear against Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop.
It questions the behaviour of Ms Bishop - who has recently carried the opposition attack over Ms Gillard's involvement in the AWU affair - from when she was a solicitor acting for CSR in asbestos cases.
Cabinet minister Brendan O'Connor said on Sunday that people were sick of the smearing that was going on, in which Tony Abbott was using Ms Bishop as his "proxy". "Julie Bishop ... has her own questions to answer."
He said there were matters arising out of her role as lawyer for CSR "where she used allegedly procedural tactics to deny victims of asbestosis their day in court".
Ms Bishop said she was happy to answer any questions about any aspects of her ethical and professional behaviour during her 20-year legal career. This was "unlike Julia Gillard, who is not prepared to answer questions about her professional conduct".
The latest allegations relate to two test cases in the early 1990s involving CSR as the parent company of Australian Blue Asbestos and the West Australian State Government Insurance Office. The cases were to test if CSR had liability - after a judge found that it did, many workers' claims were paid.
Mr O'Connor told the ABC Ms Bishop was seeking "to smear the government and the Prime Minister with unsubstantiated allegations and I think there's some questions that she should be answering as well".
Ms Bishop denied any allegations of delay. She said that at all times she had acted on the instructions of clients and the advice of barristers.