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Olive branch snapped as marriage laws near

Even the most hardened gluttons for punishment struggle to pay attention to federal politics at times.

But as parliament edged closer to passing historic marriage equality laws, the house on the hill was bursting at the seams with enthusiastic onlookers.

Same-sex couples who spent the morning dancing outside spilled into the public galleries to watch politicians pave the way for them to marry.

So full were the galleries that the building's custodians took the unusual step of inviting advocates, allies and families into an adjoining theatre to watch proceedings on a big screen.

Failed amendments fell away throughout the morning and the final vote edged ever closer, but debate on the bill had taken much longer than expected.

Suddenly, the Speaker pointed to the clock, for question time had arrived.

Crowds in the public galleries thinned out and those who remained dressed in rainbow scarves and shirts slouched in their seats, folded their arms and chatted restlessly among themselves.

And then, a glimmer of hope.

Bill Shorten rose to reveal he had contacted the PM to propose canning the hour-long interrogations to crack on with marriage equality instead.

"Will the prime minister join with Labor to get this done as soon as possible?" the opposition leader asked.

Spectators thrust forward on their seats. An olive branch for the weary on the last sitting day for the year.

"This must be the first time the leader of an opposition has asked that question time be abandoned - I wonder why?" the PM pondered aloud.

The hours of Labor's "fancy footwork" stirring trouble in deputy Barnaby Joyce's absence were evidently still fresh in his mind.

No deal, Turnbull declared.

Few eyebrows were raised in the hour that followed, as Labor raked over old coals about internet connections and the coalition spruiked their candidate for a Sydney by-election.

Backbenchers scribbled away at Christmas cards and twiddled away on Twitter, keeping their heckling to a dull roar.

A raucous "wall of noise" which had erupted throughout the week when embattled Senator Sam Dastyari's name was uttered had obviously fallen down.

Even a cheeky "Senator Double Agent Sam Dastyari" sledge failed to attract much attention, save for a few audible groans.

A brief moment of excitement came deep in the play when Mr Joyce - without a hint of irony - derided the opposition for allowing an MP to continue casting votes while facing questions about his foreign ties.

A few minutes before tea, Turnbull knocked off the bails and declared it was time to return to the main game.

Marriage laws retook centre stage and the finish line returned to sight.

© AAP 2017

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