Reality bites after minister's confession

Matt Coughlan

When do strong discussions become tirades tainting a minister's reputation?

It's the tightrope Greg Hunt walked as the government ended the parliamentary week with a new senior figure in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

The now on-leave Barnaby Joyce's upcoming $150,000 tell-all interview put his face back on the front page - where it will be again after it airs on Sunday night.

And Michaelia Cash faced renewed scrutiny over her office's role in raids on union offices, with a reissued subpoena sparking a trademark salvo against Bill Shorten.

By Thursday, Hunt was in the opposition's crosshairs.

After the health minister repeated his contrition for giving Katherine mayor Fay Miller a spray, Labor prodded and pushed until another "strong discussion" was revealed.

In the same confessional vein, Hunt headed off an impending media report he blued with a senior bureaucrat by outing himself in question time.

That curbed the mirth on the government benches where earlier revelry reigned as MPs feasted on the memory of Shorten's 2012 blow-up in a Melbourne pie shop.

After a week dominated by the deeds of Joyce, Cash and Hunt, Social Services Minister Dan Tehan used the final minutes of question time to inject some dignity into the parliamentary pow-wow.

Hyperbole drained from the chamber as Tehan solemnly noted the redress scheme for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse would not erase the sinful crimes of the past.

"But it will go a long way to help," he told parliament.