Date: June 23 2012
WHEN she replaced Kevin Rudd - two years ago tomorrow - Julia Gillard immediately nominated border control as one of the problems she pledged to tackle.
Thursday's drowning tragedy is a wrenching reminder of her failure to fulfil that pledge. While she can argue immovable obstacles have stood in her way - most dramatically, the High Court's unexpected dismissal of the so-called Malaysia solution, and then Tony Abbott's unwillingness to cut a deal on offshore processing - her inability to deliver is symptomatic of the wider difficulties that have beset her leadership.
If it was amazing that Rudd was knifed by his party less than three years into his prime ministership, it is remarkable that two years into hers, Gillard's hold on her job is a matter of constant speculation. Almost all of her tenure has been trouble and struggle and there is little prospect of respite ahead.
She returns tomorrow from the G20 and the Rio environment conference for Parliament's final week before the winter break. It will see another Newspoll, likely to show Labor's primary vote still parlous.
Caucus sources do not expect any move against her next week. Her critics are again pushing forward their D-Day, to some point after the party sees how the carbon price goes. The truth seems to be that switching back to Rudd - the only viable alternative - still remains too hard to organise. The impasse continues. It may never be broken - or something could come to a head at some point, as caucus members stare at the prospect of a massive wipeout.
After Parliament gets up, we will be into a fortnight's ''faux'' campaign, with Abbott and Gillard racing around the country talking carbon. Who is seen to win the mini-campaign will set the scene for the next phase of the political battle.
The government's intention is then to drop off talking about carbon, and switch the emphasis to other items on its agenda. These include disability insurance, aged care reform and promoting the better skilling of the workforce.
Abbott will want to keep front and centre the negatives of the carbon price but knows that pressure will increasingly fall on him to spell out more of what he will do and, given the difficulty of repealing the carbon and mining taxes, how he will do it.
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