Stand by for a fresh round of personal attacks from both sides of the House

THE climate of personal attack is set to intensify with the government unperturbed by Margie Abbott's defence of her husband against claims of misogyny.

Equally, the opposition is trying to turn the tables on the government, accusing it of rank hypocrisy for supporting the ''vile misogynist'' Peter Slipper.

With Parliament set to resume tomorrow, the federal Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, said yesterday the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, was ''fair game'' and she repeated her claim he had ''an issue with capable women''.

On Friday, Mrs Abbott mounted a media blitz and gave a speech defending her husband against claims, pushed hard by Labor, that he had a problem with women.

Public and private polling shows Mr Abbott is more unpopular with women than men and Friday's exercise underscored in the minds of many that the problem was worse than thought.

''It must be really bad,'' said one shadow minister surprised at Friday's appearances by Mrs Abbott.

Mr Abbott said yesterday he was the victim of a ''nasty, personal campaign'' because Labor could not attack him on substance. Mr Abbott has long had a perceived problem with women. Labor, which also detects this in its internal polling, seeks to reinforce the negative perception at every opportunity.

It used the recent unearthing of allegations that Mr Abbott physically intimidated a female political rival at university 35 years ago to label him a misogynist bully.

Ms Roxon said Mrs Abbott obviously loved her husband but he was ''not running in some election to be husband of the year or father of the year''.

''He wants to be prime minister and what I think is fair game for me, or any other senior minister, to do is to hold him to account for his public behaviour and his public comments,'' she said.

''I don't think because I am a woman minister I should be prevented from being able to do that, which seems to be what the opposition are suggesting. There's a bit of reverse sexism in this.''

The government may learn today whether the sexual harassment claims against the Speaker, Mr Slipper, will proceed to trial or be thrown out of court.

If it is the latter, then Mr Slipper must still await clearance from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions over allegations that he used CabCharges before he can return to the Speaker's chair.

But the opposition is seizing on a fresh round of text messages between him and his accuser, James Ashby, to not only fight Mr Slipper's return to the chair, but to blunt the attacks on Mr Abbott. A batch of private texts released last week included Mr Slipper using a vulgar euphemism for female genitalia.

The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, said the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was to blame.

''Julia Gillard is the principal protector of Mr Peter Slipper, who has been revealed, in evidence read in the court last week, to be the most vile, misogynistic person it is possible to imagine,'' he said. ''The fact that Julia Gillard, Nicola Roxon, and all the leading women in this government continue to protect his position now that he is exposed for what he is just goes to show how hypocritical their criticisms of Mr Abbott are.''

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