PRIME Minister Julia Gillard's giddy rush to hoist the Mission Accomplished banner has blown up spectacularly in her picture-perfect face.
Just two weeks ago she announced that she had resolved the mining super tax fiasco only to see the secret deal she had personally brokered with the big three multinationals of ore extraction explode.
Gillard had bought only temporary peace at the expense of thousands Australian mining operations with a new, improved tax that would undercut the going company tax rate and leave other miners (and superannuantion investors) uncertain of their fate.
Even Treasury boss Ken Henry, who devised the initial dud super tax on mining profits and who stood four-square with Treasurer Wayne Swan, another super-tax spruiker, has distanced himself from the Gillard Government's cobbled-together new tax, saying it will be worse for jobs and investment than the tax it replaced.
The media who cheered Gillard's intervention have been left looking like fools.
The Sydney Morning Herald's Phillip Coorey wrote last Saturday: "Julia Gillard has done in a week what Kevin Rudd was unable to achieve in two months."
As Gillard modestly said: "I deliberately brought a new approach ... and that new approach has seen us make the breakthrough agreement we made last night."
Swan was there, too, nodding like a circus pony, just as he did when he stood beside Gillard's assassinated predecessor Kevin Rudd, cheering on the deal and new leader.
"Her intervention changed the tone of this debate and led to the breakthrough," Swan said. "She gets things done."
Nonsense. Far from getting things done, she had, as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said, been "moving seamlessly from debacle to debacle". Gillard has, in the past two weeks, performed infinitely worse than anyone could ever have predicted.
Hailed as a great communicator on her rise to the PM's office, her attempts to appropriate former prime minister John Howard's Pacific Solution and co-opt East Timor into accepting a huge regional refugee processing centre have revealed her to be as lacking in diplomatic skills as Kevin Rudd.
Though she plucks embattled MPs from marginal seats to use as handbags as she dashes from state to state and interview to interview, her policy performances have revealed an individual with far less of an intellect and far weaker management skills than she was reputed to be gifted with.
In a humiliating blizzard of contradictory statements in the past four days Gillard claimed to have discussed the establishment of the regional refugee centre with the East Timorese, then protested she had never suggested a specific location, then agreed she had had a brief talk about the matter with Jose Ramos Horta, the East Timorese president, who holds no real authority.
Having had her own remarks flung back at her, her office then charged that Brisbane's 4BC interviewer Mike Smith was unfair, disrespectful and unprofessional.
Utter codswallop, but Gillard probably expected Smith to roll along with her mendacious claims to adequacy as the majority of the Canberra press gallery has.
She has tried to bluster her way over her blunders but in reality she had no discussion with the public servants in the relevant section in Foreign Affairs before trying to bluff the nation into believing she had achieved a coup through discussions with the titular head of East Timor and Prime Minister John Key, of New Zealand.
Just when it was thought that Rudd had sunk Australia's regional reputation to an all-time low, Gillard has managed to trash it even further with her inflammatory and ignorant attempts to cauterise the boat people issue before the looming election.
To show how ridiculous Gillard has been on illegal people-smuggling operations it is worth remembering that she was once a champion of turning the boats back, as Rudd was, in the lead-up to the 2007 election.
In 2002, at a press conference with then Opposition leader Simon Crean, Gillard said: "We think that it is important, important from a humanitarian perspective and important from a security perspective, that we do everything we can to disrupt people-smuggling. And we think turning boats around that are seaworthy, that can make the return journey, and are in international waters, fits in with that."
Last Tuesday, she was trying to vilify the Opposition for suggesting the same process. "The Opposition is trying to sell the Australian community a fairy tale in which all you have to do is go out to an asylum-seeker boat and turn it around and everything will be fixed - but this fairy tale is not the facts," she said.
"The facts are the boat will be scuttled and start to sink. The facts are that this nation would then be confronted with a stark choice: either we could leave the scene in the certain knowledge people including children would drown or we could rescue the asylum-seekers from the water.
"Let me say one thing loud and clear: our nation would not leave children to drown. We are Australians and our values will never allow us to embrace this kind of evil."
To imply, as Gillard does, that the Opposition would endorse drowning children at sea because of a policy which she so recently championed demonstrates nothing but her own total lack of propriety.
We should have known after the laughable Medicare Gold, the wasteful BER, the Green loan fiasco and the deaths of more Australians killed while installing dodgy insulation than there were in the Iraq war.
Rudd was a dud, Gillard is showing herself in less time to be far worse.