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Labor turns the tables on Bishop

November 19,  2012
Michelle Grattan

Michelle  Grattan

Political editor of The Age


Acting Opposition Leader Julie Bishop

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop. Photo: Andrew  Meares

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.

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