Justin Langer pounded 10 fours to end the session unbeaten on 68 and in great touch with his captain Ricky Ponting not out 11 after winning the toss on a hot and sunny day in Brisbane.
Australia lost opener Matthew Hayden for 21 with the total on 79 when he was caught by Paul Collingwood at second slip off the bowling of England skipper Andrew Flintoff.
Hayden made 197 in the last Ashes Test at the Gabba four years ago when Australia crushed the tourists by 384 runs to set the tone for the series but was more subdued this time.
The left-handed Queenslander survived a close call on nine when he slashed a delivery from Matthew Hoggard past the outstretched hand of Ian Bell at gully and managed just two boundaries before Flintoff found the edge to send him on his way.
Flintoff bowled two spells after introducing himself into the attack earlier than expected after his main strike bowler Steve Harmison made a nervous start.
The Durham speedster bowled a huge wide with the first ball of the series, which went straight to Flintoff at second slip, and conceded two boundaries in his first over.
He was taken out of the attack after leaking 17 runs in his first two overs and replaced by seamer James Anderson, whose first over cost 10.
Hoggard bowled a much tighter line with his first five overs costing just 17 runs while Flintoff also briefly slowed the scoring when he came on in the 12th over.
Langer, who was under pressure to retain his place in the team ahead of New South Wales opener Phil Jaques, was in sparking touch as he raced to his 30th test half-century.
The left-hander flicked Harmison's fourth legitimate ball off his toes for four then cut the last ball of the first over to the ropes to signal his intentions.
He brought up his fifty off 66 balls when he scrambled through for a quick single off Flintoff but his joy was short-lived when the Englishman dismissed Hayden with his next ball.
Ponting took 11 balls to get off the mark but opened his account when he pulled Harmison to the boundary then punched the next ball through the covers to force him out of the attack again.
Brief Scores: (At lunch on day one
Australia 109 for 1 (Justin Langer 67 n o, Matthew Hayden 21; Flintoff 1 for 22)