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Turnbull: Early election a 'live option' -

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ELEANOR HALL: To politics back home now, and the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told his party room that an early double dissolution election is a "live option".

This contrasts with Mr Turnbull's insistence only last week that the public should expect an election in the second half of this year.

Parliament resumed for its first sitting of the year today and it hasn't been a smooth start for the Government; with a damaging leak and suggestions it's mishandling its campaign to pass legislation.

Political reporter Tom Iggulden has more from Canberra.

(Sound of singing)

TOM IGGULDEN: The new legislative year opened with the traditional church service just down the road from Capital Hill, with MPs from all political stripes joining in voice.

After the service, hostilities were quickly resumed.

This morning's government talking points, issued to government MPs from the Prime Minister's office last night, were leaked to the ABC only hours later.

In the churchyard, Opposition leader Bill Shorten was quick to capitalise.

BILL SHORTEN: Clearly there is great division within the Liberal Party, that is a matter for the Liberal Party. But Australians know that a party which can't govern itself can't govern the nation.

TOM IGGULDEN: Mr Shorten himself was the subject of much of the leaked talking points, especially to do with his union past, despite being cleared of wrongdoing by the Heydon Royal Commission into union corruption.

LEAKED DOCUMENT (voiceoer): Why did Mr Shorten do a deal that got rid of penalty rates in return for money for his union?

BILL SHORTEN: Last week we were preparing talking points for the future of schools in Australia and how we make sure that every child in every school gets every opportunity. Meanwhile, it would seem that Mr Turnbull is copying Mr Abbott and going the low road of negativity.

TOM IGGULDEN: Government front benchers are playing down the leak.

Speaking on News 24, Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg insisted its significance is being overblown.

JOSH FRYDENBERG: There are many people in the party room obviously, you know, some are probably still disgruntled but that is not any different to what the Labor caucus is like. And somebody might leak some talking points but I don't think that reflects a broader sense of disunity in the Government at all.

TOM IGGULDEN: Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, speaking with AM presenter Michael Brissenden this morning, suggested the passing on of the talking points to the ABC was simply a case of over-exuberance.

MICHAELIA CASH: We want our members to be out there telling the good story of this government, so if we had a particular member that wanted to be out there slightly earlier than the rest of them...

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Is that how it was, do you think?

MICHAELIA CASH: ...talking about, I don't know who it was.

TOM IGGULDEN: Much of the Government's election-year strategy hinges tying Labor to corruption in the union movement, perhaps even down to the timing of the election itself.

Legislation to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission is being introduced today.

Failure by the Senate to pass it would give the Government a double dissolution trigger, the use of which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told his party room this morning is a live option.

But Josh Frydenberg is playing down the prospect.

JOSH FRYDENBERG: All options are on the table at the same time the Prime Minister has made clear he wants his government to run full term and that's his expectation.

TOM IGGULDEN: Threatening the Senate crossbench with an election is not the only arrow in the Government's quiver to get its legislation passed.

It's also agreed to allow four of them to view a secret volume of the Trade Union Royal Commissions findings under strict conditions that they not take notes or even discuss it with anyone else.

Now the Government's offered to allow one Labor and one Greens MP to also view the volume, reversing a recent decision to deny them access.

MICHAELIA CASH: I said no last week based on the fact that it was a wide ranging request. We've now looked at how we can get a pathway forward if they really want to see the report, if they are genuine that they need to see this report to actually inform themselves.

I don't believe they are. They've made their positions pretty clear.

TOM IGGULDEN: Both the Opposition and the Greens say they'll refuse the Government's offer.

BILL SHORTEN: The Royal Commissioner himself said these confidential volumes should be just that, they should be confidential. But the Government playing politics has said people can see it and others can't.

TOM IGGULDEN: Two senate crossbenchers have also refused an offer to access the confidential volumes. One is Senator David Leyonhjelm.

DAVID LEYONHJELM: I don't see how releasing that information to senators, wether it's crossbench Labor or Greens, is constructive. I don't think it will change anything.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s the independent Senator David Leyonhjelm ending Tom Iggulden's report.