Tony Abbott's seemingly innocuous "shit happens" remark issued three months ago in Afghanistan seems to have backfired into a much bigger controversy this morning -- stemming not from the incident itself but because of the opposition leader's brusque exchange with Channel 7 political reporter Mark Riley in the Parliament House courtyard.

Seven had given Abbott's office two-and-a-half hours notice of the story's angle, including the "shit" remark in relation to the death of Australian soldier Jared MacKinney, and Abbott had agreed to the interview. There was plenty of time for the opposition leader to prepare.