The federal opposition will steer away from controversies surrounding the Gillard government when parliament resumes later on Tuesday.

Instead the coalition will focus on more positive issues, its manager of business has promised.

MPs have returned to Canberra for the start of the new parliamentary year with both major parties looking to consolidate their standing with voters ahead of the September 14 election.

Senior Liberal Christopher Pyne says the opposition has moved into the third phase of the parliamentary cycle, after holding the government to account and developing new policies.

Now voters could expect to see how an Abbott government would be different from Labor, especially on the cost of living, job security, economic management and border protection.

"They're the policy areas the public want to know answers to," Mr Pyne told ABC radio.

When asked whether the coalition would pursue Prime Minister Julia Gillard over her actions as a lawyer nearly 20 years ago, he said: "The AWU slush fund scandal and the Craig Thomson affair, and the the Peter Slipper affair ... are legitimate areas for questioning.

"But there's no plan at this stage to make them the focus of the opposition's parliamentary tactics."