WHAT an ugly spectacle.
The government and the Coalition can agree on the bad guys, conspiring to rush through retrospective laws to firm up the definition of a "people smuggler" in the face of a court challenge.
But when it comes to the victims — and this latest tragedy again proves that is exactly what asylum seekers are, the victims — the parties keep up their petty squabble, draped with a cloak of sympathy and moral indignity.
Advertisement: Story continues below There is real poison here. Kim Beazley was nailed back in 2001 when he claimed the sinking of a boat carrying more than 530 people was a "failure of policy" and the two parties were yesterday careful not to fall into the same trap.
But they certainly hoped the other might stumble in.
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor appeared last night with a sombre message and a barely concealed barb.
"This is tragedy," he said, "something that the government foretold."
But he won't say if Labor is working on a Plan B. Malaysia is the only deterrent according to "the best advice" and "some bipartisanship" was needed to stop this terrible trade.
Out trotted opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison to affirm this is a terrible tragedy, for "those who have survived and the families of those who have tragically been lost."
But he won't be engaging in a political discussion, he said. No, "our record on these matters goes back over a decade."
Just in case you missed it.
So this is the impasse. Labor wants its Malaysia swap and the Coalition won't give it.
In the meantime, people — either too desperate or too foolish to know better — will believe the people smugglers' false promises of safe passage to Australia on wretched, leaking boats. Some solution.