JULIA GILLARD has an in-tray piled high with policy issues in need of attention as she pledges to refocus on Labor's agenda, rather than its leadership war.
Her first priority will be the budget in May - critical to Labor's economic management claims because it must deliver the promised return to surplus and explain how spending cuts fit with Labor's ''fairness'' reforms in the future.
It could include aged care reforms in response to last year's Productivity Commission report, including measures that would make the elderly pay a greater proportion of their nursing care costs. The government is facing a $1.9 billion blowout in aged care funding over the next four years.
And it will reveal Labor's timetable for the introduction of the Medicare-style disability insurance scheme, which Ms Gillard has said is her top social reform but which will eventually cost $6 billion a year.
In April, Ms Gillard will seek state support for her proposed skills training deal - using an already budgeted $1.7 billion to persuade them to provide more basic training courses while the Commonwealth provides HECS-style loans for vocational education. Labor hopes the change will help ease unemployment caused by the two-speed economy, which the Coalition has sought to link to the ''job-destroying'' impact of the carbon tax.
Delivering the tax by its start date in July means Labor can finally begin the ''good news'' job of delivering the payments, benefit increases and future tax cuts to compensate for power price rises, as well as the more difficult task of defending its $23 starting price, which some of Ms Gillard's senior ministers have conceded could be too high.
Ms Gillard yesterday ruled out any change to the starting rate or date. ''I am absolutely convinced that the legislation is right, that starting carbon pricing on 1 July this year at a $23 price per tonne, with all of the money going to families that we have decided should go to families, is the right way of our nation seizing a clean energy future,'' she said.
Labor is in the middle of negotiating a new ''co-investment'' deal to persuade Holden to produce a new model in Australia, which is understood to be funded from already allocated industry funds.
The Gonski report, proposing a total overhaul of schools funding, will also be discussed at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April and the government has said it will legislate some aspects of its response by the end of the year.
And several vexed political issues are still hanging. The mining tax has yet to pass the Senate - although it is expected to - and the long-delayed Murray-Darling basin reforms are part-way through yet another consultation phase.
Also, the impasse with the Coalition over how to implement offshore processing of asylum seekers means Labor cannot implement its so-called ''Malaysia solution'' and is continuing to face increasing numbers of boat arrivals being processed in Australia.