Abbott wants people to believe that what worked last time will work again. Detention and processing on Nauru, temporary protection visas, and turning boats around when safe to do so.
Thursday's tragedy hangs a lantern once more on the issue.
There is little dispute that Rudd's abolition of Howard government policies has led to the situation now whereby the boats arrive regularly, filling detention centres to the point community detention is now required.
This system of onshore processing is the very situation for which the Greens and refugee groups have argued and the numbers arriving are even higher than the experts warned.
When the inevitable tragedy strikes, the Greens and others have nothing to offer, other than some utopian vision of a regional solution, something Gillard tried to start - and was burnt.
Last year, the High Court ruled Labor's Malaysia plan illegal and the government needs the opposition's help to legislate around that decision.
Abbott received the same briefing from the then secretary of the Immigration Department Andrew Metcalfe, as did the media. Metcalfe told Abbott his policies - of which Metcalfe was a principal architect - would not work again. Nauru would be no more a deterrent than Christmas Island because people now knew that once processed they would most likely be sent to Australia.
Temporary protection visas were not considered a deterrent and as for turning the boats back, the Indonesians would not permit it. Last time it was tried, it proved the most effective measure of all until the people smugglers started scuttling the boats when intercepted, endangering everybody.
As for the proposed policy of refusing refugee status to those who destroy their identification, to just where would you return them?
Abbott has been told not just by Metcalfe, but the Liberals' godfather of border protection, Philip Ruddock, that he should provide the numbers to allow Labor to adopt the Malaysia solution. Metcalfe called it ''virtual tow back''. Return 800 people to Malaysia and it would be like towing the boats back.
Labor has offered to use Nauru as well but Abbott refuses point blank to bend.
Some claim it will split the Coalition, yet Gillard had the guts to push it past the Labor Left. For Abbott, it is his way or nothing, but he should reconsider.
If he consents and the policy fails, it will be the government's failure.
If it works, it will be one less problem for him if he is elected.
And fewer people might drown.