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Greens double dare Abbott -

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TONY JONES, PRESENTER: The Prime Minister has been handed the Government's first trigger for a double dissolution election.

The Senate has blocked the abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for a second time, giving the Government the option of calling a fresh poll.

But there are no signs the Coalition is contemplating such a move.

Anna Henderson reports from Canberra.

ANNA HENDERSON, REPORTER: At State of Origin time, federal MPs sort out their differences on the field.

The camaraderie turned to dust by Question Time.

BILL SHORTEN, OPPOSITION LEADER: Why is the Prime Minister wasting taxpayers' money writing a letter when he should be re-writing his whole Budget?

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER: When it comes to dodgy newsletters, what about the Leader of the Opposition?

BRONWYN BISHOP, SPEAKER: We're not having a competition in props. There will be none.

TONY ABBOTT: His newsletter, his newsletter - I say, he looked a bit younger in the photograph in that newsletter.

(Laughter from Government benches)

ANNA HENDERSON: The two leaders are hardly pen pals, but Tony Abbott's main detractor in recent days has been a member of his own backbench. Ian Macdonald has criticised the deficit levy and could be a roadblock on fuel excise in the new Senate.

TONY ABBOTT: Obviously there are some things that occasionally get said that I would prefer weren't said because I don't agree with them, but we are a broad church.

ANNA HENDERSON: Much of the Budget will rest in the hands of the new Senate next month and crossbench positions remain difficult to pin down.

One solution to break a potential deadlock is taking the nation back to the polls.

The Senate has for a second time rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

CHRISTINE MILNE, GREENS LEADER: But here we've got a Prime Minister who is effectively barking mad on climate change.

ANNA HENDERSON: In the process, Tony Abbott's been handed a trigger for a double dissolution election.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Go to an election on it. That's what I say: go to an election on it.

ANNA HENDERSON: Labor's also goading the Prime Minister. Bill Shorten's released a statement saying, "If he wants an election ... he should bring it on."

The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's shot down any chance of that.

JULIE BISHOP, FOREIGN MINISTER: Just because you're given a trigger, it doesn't mean you have to pull it.

ANNA HENDERSON: Some Budget measures don't need the approval of the Parliament, like the Government's multibillion-dollar decrease in foreign aid. The Foreign Minister's laid out the ground rules for new spending benchmarks and a focus on the immediate region.

JULIE BISHOP: When projects don't deliver the results we expect, they'll be put on a rigorous path to improvement or be terminated.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, OPP. FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESWOMAN: So, talking about a refocus on the Pacific is a bit rich when we're actually cutting our aid funding.

ANNA HENDERSON: MPs have laid down their arms for one of the most notorious evenings of the parliamentary calendar. The Mid-Winter Ball brings together politicians and the press gallery for an off-the-record event.

It's all for charity, but with billions of dollars in Budget measures hanging in the balance, the good will is unlikely to last until tomorrow.

Anna Henderson, Lateline