THE focus on Nick Xenophon's being barred from Malaysia has been on the senator's calculated outrage, but the story behind it is the Malaysian government's emerging re-election strategy: a return to proud recalcitrance.
Rowan Callick, The Australian
Prime Minister Najib Razak was educated largely in England, had a brief commercial career and then, inevitably, turned to the family business. His father, Abdul Razak, was Malaysia's second prime minister, and his uncle, Hussein Onn, its third.
His public political style is almost one of reluctance, of gentility, rather than that of a cynical son of one of Asia's great party machines. His party, UMNO, has ruled Malaysia for almost 55 years.
Four years ago, Najib was ushered into the prime ministership without a contest by his predecessor Abdullah Badawi, who had been dumped by the party machine after UMNO lost control of five of Malaysia's 13 state governments.
Najib began as a reformer, removing bans on opposition newspapers and releasing 13 people held under the harsh Internal Security Act.
He introduced the Government Transformation Program to make the public service more accountable and efficient. He fostered knowledge industries and foreign investment.
He began to axe sugar and fuel subsidies and lowered the minimum ethnic Malay ownership in listed companies from 30 per cent to 12.5 per cent.
But his name has become associated with a complex, shady tale involving the death of a glamorous Mongolian woman caught up in a series of defence purchases involving hundreds of millions of dollars. He was twice defence minister.
More important, his popularity has fallen to its lowest for 16 months, and the ratings of the government are also slipping.
The party backroom is becoming increasingly anxious since a general election has to take place by mid-year, and Najib has not yet faced the voters.
Several months ago, they began to fret that tactics to prise apart the unusually unified opposition coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim were not yet working.
So besides hiring costly consultants, especially from the US, it is back to the tried and trusted stratagems so successful for Mahathir Mohamad, the fourth prime minister, who ruled for 22 years until 2003.
He remains, aged 87, a powerful presence within UMNO. On Sunday, he railed against the liberty granted new media, lamenting that "their freedom is almost total".
Thus the dramatic turning back of Xenophon at the weekend is not exactly "surprising", as Foreign Minister Bob Carr described it. It is part of a reversion to the old successful pattern of uber-patriotism and uber-Islam that worked so well electorally under Mahathir.
This is the new Malaysia Solution, tailored by Kuala Lumpur and not by Canberra.