Kevin Rudd

Safety first: Rudd acts quickly to prevent ambush for future Prime Ministers. Photo: Glenn Hunt

With the signing of a one-year asylum seeker agreement with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael O'Neill, Kevin Rudd has either fixed or neutralised the major policy problems bedevilling his party in government.

Labor MPs will meet in Balmain on Monday to sign off on his landmark caucus reforms designed to neuter the factions and ensure a sitting prime minister is safe from midnight ambush.

This week, he has moved decisively, first, to scrap the politically toxic carbon tax one year early, and second, to provide a substantive regional policy response to the asylum seeker problem.

Politically, Rudd's moves have been clever, methodical, and, it seems, effective.

With 10 polls taken since Rudd took over pointing to a 50-50 share of the vote with the Coalition, Labor is now in a position to contest an election believing it has a positive story to tell on education, on disabilities, and on the economy, and that its main negatives have been addressed.

An announcement is therefore regarded as imminent, with speculation rife that the completion of that party reform process on Monday, will clear the way for a quick visit to Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

August 31, or a fortnight later on September 14, appear to be the favoured Saturdays, with the former requiring Ms Bryce's assent in the coming week.

The deal to send Australia's burgeoning human tide of maritime refugees to a third-world country, a country which struggles to offer safety to its own citizens, is a move of considerable diplomatic prowess and even greater audacity.

This is effectively Julia Gillard's 2010 East Timor regional solution done properly - that is, through actual negotiation, and with the formal agreement of the foreign government involved - before the announcement. Rudd knows, however, this novel arrangement comes with financial costs and political risks and he was already taking out some insurance by signalling that its impact on the people-smuggling trade may take some time to appear. He says it will be budget neutral, but acknowledges there are significant financial incentives, for PNG, with payments for hospitals and the university sector specifically mentioned.

There are also risks that PNG will seek to renegotiate or even renege on the deal down the track particularly if there is a change of government in Port Morseby.

And there are risks a legal challenge of some aspect will scupper the arrangement as happened with Gillard's Malaysian ''people-swap'' arrangement.

But the biggest risk in the immediate term is political.

That is the danger that the tough message to people-smugglers will fail to stem the flow in the short-term and thus not alter the domestic debate in Australia.

Rudd, who said in 2010 that the ALP would not ''lurch to the right'' on asylum seekers, has orchestrated a move that does that and more effectively gazumps Tony Abbott's hardline policy of tow-backs, and temporary protection visas.

Less than one month ago, Abbott had four main arguments against Labor. Each was compelling in electoral terms: a loss of trust in Gillard's leadership; Labor's faceless men; the carbon tax; and growing voter disquiet over the party's border protection failures, most often shorthanded as ''boats''. Each of these has been addressed, although it will always be a matter of perspective as to how well.