That said, the Coalition believes it can turn the loss into a political positive by banging the drum between now and election day that Labor has again gone soft on boats by colluding with the Greens and other so-called “do-gooders” to weaken border protection laws.
“The same wreckers who destroyed it last time have come into this place and whispered in the ear of the crossbench and convinced them to u6ndermine it again,” Morrison told Parliament as the walls closed in late Tuesday.
“Imagine what they will do in government.”
The deal with the crossbench nearly fell apart after Labor backed down from the original proposal and insisted on three changes in response to national security advice. It believes the changes to be sound.
From its perspective, it can never win on boats and is banking on several factors – that the mood in the electorate has shifted and there is scope for a little more compassion.
Kerryn Phelps, who pushed the issue hard, will regard the win as crucial if she is to hold her seat of Wentworth at the election.
Labor will also be hoping to change the subject quickly. The government risks another defeat this week – a motion to add extra parliamentary sittings next month to start dealing with recommendations from the Hayne royal commission.
That is less certain with Bob Katter, whose vote is pivotal, not yet across the line.
If the motion fails, Labor will go to the election banging the drum that the Coalition has gone soft on banks.