Joe Hockey's extraordinary, grovelling apology is a measure of just how seriously his Wednesday gaffe suggesting “poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far” was viwed in the highest reaches of the Abbott govermment.
Hockey deserves credit for admitting he stuffed up and apologising.
In fact, the Treasurer used the words "sorry" or "apology" eight times in about six minutes on Friday. More than 48 hours after misstep, it was hard not to wonder why it had taken so long.
The apology came after Prime Minister Tony Abbott had directly rebuked his Treasurer, declaring "Well plainly, I wouldn't say that" when asked about the comments, and after senior colleague Christopher Pyne offered Hockey his "full support" while declining six times to endorse the gaffe.
Hockey's spectacular mid-week own goal on the proposed rise in fuel excise made his job of passing key budget measures that much harder when Parliament resumes in 10 days time.
Facing a hostile Senate, Hockey and his colleagues already faced an uphill battle to pass about $40 billion in savings measures and cuts.
After criss-crossing the country for two weeks to meet with the balance-of-power MPs - and eating several large helpings of humble pie - Hockey's disastrous comments on Wednesday were a significant setback.
As Fairfax Media revealed on Friday, the gaffe - the latest misstep in a series for an under pressure Treasurer - had caused colleagues, advisers and allies to round on him and question his judgement and the quality of advice has been receiving, as key staff have left in the wake of the budget.
"I'm sorry about the interpretation, I am sorry about the words," Hockey said.
"I want to make it perfectly clear to the community that if there is any suggestion that I don't care about you or that I have evil intent towards you, I want to say that couldn't be further from the truth."
There have been few bigger clangers from a senior politician in recent years - Julia Gillard's "real Julia" moment was worse - and it's hard to imagine Peter Costello or Paul Keating apologising for 'evil intent', as reviled as they were by some sections of the community (arguably both men had, at times, more to apologise for too).
Hockey's comment was lethal because it confirmed the suspicions of those voters already prepared to believe the worst of the Coalition government.
There is, actually, a straightforward argument for re-starting the indexation of fuel excise - it is economically virtuous and will cost households on average about 40 cents per week.
But coming after a budget that delivered pensions changes and swingeing cuts to health, education and family benefits, all while attempting to push up Medicare costs and university fees, Hockey's comments about the (albeit small) rise in petrol prices confirmed suspicions that the government did not understand the "lived experience" of families.
And for families, read "Howard's battlers", that group of middle Australians that John Howard held in the palm of his hand for 11 years, and which the Abbott government hopes to keep onside for even longer.
It's hard not to feel a little sorry for Abbott who has seen his ministers make a series of gaffes while he has dealt ably with the MH17 crisis and looked assured on the world stage while delivering a key election promise to repeal the carbon tax.
It's a bit harder to feel sorry for Mr Hockey.