In the daily, m’esteemed colleague Keane takes the left to task for berating Rudd and refighting the battles against the ‘Howard’ government on the refugees and boats issue. I don’t see a lot of berating or refighting going on – I see the same battle as occurred during the Howard years.

And the Left is winning it.

And the idea that the issue of boats is minor because the numbers are small is an elementary misunderstanding of politics.

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As i noted yesterday in partial response to Jeff Sparrow, I think it’s utterly incorrect to say that there’s no real shift in the Rudd government. Long-term mandatory detention has ceased. TPVs have been abolished. The govt is speaking of refugees as fellow human beings, not child-chucking martians. These are all clear gains at a time when much of the world, such as southern Europe, is travelling in the other direction. Far from a total victory, but a real one.

That was won by many groups but the engine room of it was the Left, and the message was a simple one – universal common humanity.

There’s been losses too – the entrenchment of offshore processing, and this new wrinkle of the Indonesian solution.

So that’s what we push on against. The question of how hard one pushes Rudd Labor on its good cop bad cop strategy is purely strategic. The only reason to avoid a moral showdown is simply the assessment that we can’t win it yet.

Yes, boats are the issue. Just as David Hicks was the issue. And the Jena Six in he US. And the Birmingham Six in the UK. And Sakharov was. And so on back through Dreyfus and beyond. It’s the particular case that bears the general issue, that tests the principles, and provides the focus.

The idea that you assess these issues on quantities rather than qualities is circular logic. To a counter everything looks like a bean.

Win or lose, we’ll keep pushing. Refighting? We’re still at the bottom of the card.