Another week in Australian politics has ended, with carbon tax and asylum seekers legislation introduced and bogged down, and rumours of an impending coup against Julia Gillard once again bubbling to the surface.
Behind it is Tony Abbott, the Opposition Leader who increasingly looks like a Prime-Minister-in-waiting, manipulating both Parliament and media to hew down Gillard at the political knees, and doing it pretty well.
Abbott made no secret of his scalp-hunting as Gillard tried to scrape up the numbers she needs to pass amendments to the Migration Act required to bypass a High Court ban on her plan to swap 800 asylum seekers for 4000 United Nations-accredited refugees from Malaysia.
He wants Gillard to fall on her own sword, telling Parliament: "If in fact she can't command a majority for the important legislation of this Government, there are options open to her, and she should take them.
"If she cannot command the confidence of this House and of this Parliament on an issue as important as this, the question then arises: should she have the confidence to remain as Prime Minister?"
Gillard faces an almost insoluble conundrum: if as is likely she squeezes her migration law amendments through the Lower House, they will fail in the Senate without Abbott's support because the Greens are immovable in their opposition to offshore processing of asylum claims, and they control the balance of power in the Upper House.
Abbott is not budging an inch, because he can smell blood. And when Gillard's amendments are killed by the Senate, she will be left without a policy on asylum seekers apart from the default option of processing claims on the mainland, which is anathema to most voters.
On her other major front, the carbon tax, Gillard will win because she has the support of the Greens and independent MPs. But it will come at a deep political cost, given the depth of feeling against it in the electorate.
Abbott has sharply focused his strategy on these vulnerabilities. Riding on the wave of polls that show Gillard and Labor at record lows, he is bent on displaying the Prime Minister as weak and incompetent, simultaneously further damaging her in voters' eyes and pushing Government MPs toward panic.
It is politics at its most cynical and dangerous. Abbott is not a popular leader, despite his blokey charm, his passion for sport and fitness, and his intelligence. He leads Gillard as preferred Prime Minister by default rather than choice.
Abbott has also blown with the political winds, publicly flip-flopping on climate change, and has been just as ruthless as Gillard in shedding loyalties to gain power, in his case by knifing former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull.
Nor is his declared moral superiority on asylum seekers anything but transparent.
Abbott has been right in accusing Gillard of a complete about-face on offshore processing, a policy she deplored in Opposition, and of planning to send asylum seekers to a country that has not signed the UN Refugee Convention and which has a record of ill-treatment of refugees.
But his position now appears little more than opportunism, supported by his own proposal to turn boats back at sea, despite the dangers.
He is also stoking fears within Labor that the embattled Prime Minister is driving the Government to disaster, aided by rumours of a challenge from a Rudd reinvigorated by polls repeatedly showing him as clearly preferred Labor leader.
Northern Territory Country Liberal Party Senator Nigel Scullion was the latest to go public, telling the Sydney Morning Herald he had been present during a telephone call in which he claimed Rudd had told Labor Senator Trish Crossin he was only nine votes short of ousting Gillard. Abbott added fuel, telling reporters that Labor backbenchers had told Coalition MPs they were being canvassed by Rudd.
Labor has fired back. Rudd has denied he is aiming for Gillard's head, Crossin denies the conversation alleged by Scullion, and party power-brokers have declared unflinching support for the Prime Minister.
But commentators, including former Labor Senator and heavyweight Graham Richardson, believe that while Gillard is under no immediate threat, time is running out. "While wholesale panic has not yet set in, there is movement at the station on the leadership question," Richardson wrote in the Australian.
"Rudd always had some supporters and the prospect of losing 40 seats has seen that support base grow from about 10 to somewhere in the early 20s."
High winds are rocking Gillard's tightrope.