The competence of Julia Gillard's staff is again in question after a senior staffer ordered Labor advisers to gather dirt on Opposition MPs.
The Prime Minister's director of strategy, Nick Reece, told junior ministerial staff to dig into the pasts of coalition MPs for "potential issues" such as legal actions and business deals gone wrong.
Staff got a two-page spreadsheet on where to hunt for information, including old student newspapers and company searches.
The order came despite recent complaints from Government frontbencher Anthony Albanese that the Opposition was dragging down the tone of Parliament with rumours and smear campaigns.
Ms Gillard said she had not seen the document issued to staffers but said scrutinising Opposition MPs was a legitimate practice.
She said Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was claiming the carbon tax would kill the coal industry, yet coalition members were buying shares in coal companies.
Mr Reece, a former Victorian Labor Party State secretary, recently quit the Government to work for Melbourne University.
Labor's dirt gathering on Liberal and National MPs is usually carried out by a unit within caucus.
Mr Abbott denied the Howard government ran a dirt unit but a Government staffer said Mr Abbott admitted recently the coalition kept files on Labor MPs.
Former Greens leader Bob Brown said coalition frontbencher Eric Abetz kept a dirt file on him.
In 2004, Howard frontbencher Kevin Andrews was forced to deny he ran a unit in his office to sniff around the lives of Labor MPs.