Julia Gillard's challenge to the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates shows a new determination to get her government on the front foot and be seen to be responsive to ''ordinary'' Australians.
That also applies to her timetable to withdraw Australian troops from Afghanistan earlier and have them arriving home around the time of the next election.
They both play into a new narrative that Gillard is taking to the people, in the hope of rescuing her administration from annihilation.
Underlying this tactic is a bid to differentiate Labor from the Greens and develop a contrived split over the next year with the minority party, which will suit the Greens just fine.
If all this smacks of populism and desperation, then perhaps it is, but the alternative is to just give up, and Gillard is not having any of that.
She is signalling that she will fight hard and she is grimly determined to win, no matter how hopeless the task seems against Tony Abbott's three-word slogans and his constant chant that she is a liar.
Gillard's remarks that the central bank has ''plenty of room'' to cut rates border on pressuring the bank, a big no-no for successive governments which preach about the independence of the central bank. But if you look at the sum of quotes from the prime minister and the treasurer over the past couple of weeks, you will be struck by the consistent theme of pressure on the bank to act in the national interest.
That is, the bank is independent but if it does lower rates on May 1, then, nudge nudge wink wink, the government can take the credit.
There is nothing subtle or subliminal about this message, delivered by a caring government on behalf of struggling punters. Somehow, a week before the budget, the bank is supposed to take into account the promised wafer-thin surplus to be predicted in the budget - although the outcome cannot be measured for 12 months, and without knowing the extent of the cuts and how much they could dampen the economy.
However, Reserve Bank board members will recall that the mid-year re-assessment of the budget delivered late last year, contained creative accounting.
The Opposition claims the government is engaging in dodgy accounting tricks by spending more than $1 billion this financial year to support energy markets against the carbon tax, yet just $1 million in the all-important 2012-13 financial year, and returning spending to more than $1 billion in the following two years.
Gillard and Swan say it will be a tough budget but the likelihood of swinging cuts is unlikely, given the proximity of the election and the blow to the economy.
It was instructive to hear how the prime minister read this week's report card on economic conditions. The International Monetary Fund predicts the global economy will improve slightly. Australia's economy will continue to grow, but at a marginally lower rate than predicted in the Washington-based body's last forecast.
Overlooking that part, the PM was able to boast that the IMF regards Australia as a world beater. But there's nothing new about this good news.
Australia led the world out of the global recession, due in part to the strong stimulus that cost the budget so dearly, and continues to stay ahead, thanks to the resources boom. ''Stimulus was right then, surplus is right now,'' the PM says.
But this is where the credibility of the government will be tested. The deficit has blown out to $40 billion. Revenue is down by $140 million. How can the budget be turned around from such a dire position in such a short time?
Hence the Opposition's call for cuts to welfare plays into the mix. Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey reckons the ''age of entitlement'' in western countries is over. He is putting pressure on the government to cut welfare in the budget but is refusing to say which areas should be trimmed or means tested.
Gillard may not be moved on that, but she is determined to boast her economic credentials, as Labor goes on a journey to differentiate itself from the Greens. It's easy for the Opposition to paint Labor as the friend of the Greens whom they see as all care and no responsibility.
Gillard must show she can take the tough decisions and, while she's at it, scheme and steal.
Holding hands with the Greens in minority government produced the broken promise over the carbon tax and a disastrous slump in the polls. And the Greens read the national psyche better on Afghanistan.
While Gillard deliberately left the distinct impression all the troops could be home by the end of next year, she also left herself a truck load of wriggle room.
In the near future, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will confirm that Uruzgan province, when most Australian troops are based, will be among the next areas to come under the direct control of Afghan forces.
His reign is a profound disappointment for the coalition that is waging war against the Taliban. Why, then, is Gillard preparing to commit millions of Australian dollars that will make him look good?
One reason is that Gillard is keen to kill the impression that Australia is cutting and running, and leaving the Afghan people to a civil war with a barbaric opponent.
This proposed strategic partnership (and the associated monetary commitment) was not disclosed to the Australian people before it was mentioned by Karzai recently. Gillard's plan was to unveil it at the Afghanistan conference being convened by Barack Obama in Chicago in May.
The PM says Australians are ''entitled to a genuine questioning of national policies in a matter so serious and difficult as this'' which is an obvious kick-off point for the Greens.
The balance of power party says the strategic partnership should be debated in Parliament, even if the likely outcome is known, given the Coalition's support of the war.
Although Gillard's withdrawal timetable is driven by the US, she still achieves a notable political goal by stealing from the Greens who have campaigned for an immediate withdrawal.
Clearly she can't win votes from Coalition supporters, with Abbott going strongly on staying the course, so her only hope is to lure disaffected Labor supporters who have parked their vote with the Greens, particularly after the departure of the legendary Bob Brown.
She has a long way to go to convince Australians of the genuineness of her new timetable. When the war was finally debated in federal Parliament in late 2010, Gillard astounded Australians by flagging as many as 10 more years for Australian military personnel in Afghanistan.
Brown's view then was that the ''justified time of withdrawal has arrived''.
The majority of Australians contacted by pollsters agreed.
Ross Peake is Political Editor