Date: June 29 2012
JULIA Gillard has rescued something from the wreckage of parliamentary gridlock, and all but committed herself to enact what her expert group recommends in the coming weeks.
Had she failed to do something substantial after the Senate predictably blocked her solution to the problem of unauthorised boat arrivals, she - not Tony Abbott - would have paid the biggest political price.
The arrival of every boat would have represented an opportunity for Abbott to implore Gillard to pick up the phone to the Nauru government and reopen the processing centre on that tiny, remote and impoverished island.
Instead, Gillard is banking on the expert group to be led by Angus Houston agreeing that the highly contentious Malaysian people swap has a crucial role to play in stemming the flow of boats.
But everything is on the table.
If her plan is backed, those Liberals who are pining for a bipartisan approach will find it even more difficult to stand by the Abbott edict that the Malaysian agreement will never, ever be supported.
For 48 hours, the three main combatants - the government, the opposition and the Greens - have clung tenaciously to their entrenched positions, while those on the crossbenches and a growing number of backbenchers have pressed the case for compromise.
The initiative unveiled by Gillard last night is their achievement.
At worst, it will draw out the debate while the boats keep coming.
At best, the expert group might just be the circuit-breaker that this debate desperately requires.
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