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View from the Street: So we DON'T need that marriage plebiscite after all, then?

And how's Clive Palmer planning to spend his last days in politics? Your news of the day, reduced to a snarky rant.

Voting: apparently still for jerks

Just in case you thought that maybe the outcry over the tragic death of Englishman David Bulmer-Rizzi in Adelaide a few weeks ago might see some progress toward recognition of same-sex marriage in Australia, then dumped minister Eric Abetz has some news: nope!

What's more, we apparently don't need a plebiscite on it either, since he has no intention of respecting the result.

You might recall that after several bills ratifying same-sex marriage were looking like being tabled in Parliament last year, including a cross-party one spearheaded by Liberal MP Warren Entsch, then-PM Tony Abbott decided to kick the can down the road by declaring that there wouldn't be a Parliamentary vote until there was a public vote on whether the Australian people really did think that all adults deserved the same civil rights under the law, or - as he, Abetz and others on the conservative side of the Coalition apparently believe - that only heterosexuals do.

This was a great way to avoid progress, because plebiscites are hugely complicated, expensive to mount, and - more importantly - not binding on Parliament, so that no matter what the public said, the government could still ignore the result if they didn't like it.

Now, a referendum would be binding, but can only be held regarding a matter covered in the Constitution, which marriage is not. Indeed, as we learnt when the High Court slapped down the ACT's brief attempted legalisation of same-sex marriage, the only body that can determine the laws on the subject is the Federal Parliament. So ultimately this is going to have to go to a vote - you know, like literally every other law in the country does.

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Current PM Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly insisted that the government would respect the outcome of the still-to-be-determined plebiscite, despite that being legally impossible. But Abetz has helpfully weighed in to confirm that he's not about to vote in favour of civil rights even if literally the entire nation does.

Grown man throws tanty

"Everyone knows my view is very strongly that a marriage between a man and a woman is the foundational institution for socialising the next generation," Abetz told The Guardian on Wednesday in a flurry of meaningless verbiage.

"It would be up to each member to decide whether the plebiscite accurately reflects the views of the Australian people, whether it reflects the views of their electorates and whether it is good or bad public policy in their view. There will be people in the Parliament who could not support the outcome of a plebiscite whichever way it went." So, in other words: it's a complete waste of time and an estimated $157 million.

Fellow power-free attention-fan Senator Cory Bernardi also declared that "there's no way I'm ever going to cast a vote in favour of changing marriage" - the opposite of what he said a mere six months ago when he claimed he'd "respect the will" of the people on the subject. Bless.

A baffled Entsch spoke for the entire nation when he responded: "It makes you wonder why we would spend millions of dollars on a plebiscite if you're not going to respect the result. I find it rather bizarre."

And, as we mentioned yesterday, by pure coincidence Abetz and Bernadi's little cage-rattling comes as their leader-in-exile Abbott jets off to the US to speak at an event for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a strongly anti-gay/anti-abortion/anti-women's-rights group, just in case his position on such matters hadn't been adequately clear.

This sort of divisive rhetoric makes the Coalition look less like a united government leading Australia and more like a cauldron of angry vipers provoking one another, and so you might think that the PM might use his position as leader of the party to demand that Abetz and Abbott maybe pull their heads in since there's an election coming before too long.

So how did Malc lay down the law?

Law, laid

"There are people in the Parliament, there are colleagues, there are, you know, fellow members of the Coalition, who have different views," he said on The Project, "and they are… entitled to express them, and I respect their right to do so, just as they would respect my right to disagree with them."

And that's just super-nice and all, but the issue isn't "may people say things if they want?" so much as "why are high-profile party members actively defying your position as leader?"

And the answer would appear to be nothing - heck, even Kevin Andrews is skipping Parliament to speak to a right-wing US thintank The Heritage Foundation about "Australia's Global Security and Defense Challenges", which is obviously more important than doing his actual job - since, as he clearly keeps forgetting, he has been dumped as defence minister.

Still, the Coalition always did its best work in opposition. It's just weird seeing it opposing itself.

Palming off

Speaking of leaders facing self-created problems, it looks like Clive Palmer's going to be uncharacteristically busy during the final days of his political career.

You'd likely be aware that 237 workers were laid off from Palmer's company Queensland Nickel just under a fortnight ago, with Palmer immediately demanding that the Queensland government guarantee him a loan to keep the business afloat.

The reason that this looked a mite suspicious was that the supposedly-broke company had still managed to donate around $21 million to Palmer United (including $209,000 on December 31, days before handing out the pink slips) which seems an awful lot for a company supposedly going through rough financial times.

Queensland Nickel is currently under voluntary administration, leading to speculation about whether Palmer would be bankrupted and therefore have to leave Parliament. And the answer is no, for two reasons.

One is that Palmer could be leaving Parliament whether he likes it or not: a Galaxy poll of his electorate of Fairfax found that he enjoys a whopping 2 per cent primary support. Just as a reminder, he initially roared to victory over Liberal challenger Ted O'Brien in 2013 by a total of 56 votes.

Secondly, given the way that he's structured his companies, he's probably not going to lose anything of value himself.

Insulate them assets!

See, the Palmer company that is in receivership doesn't own any of the assets.

That's because Palmer ensured that two more of his own companies - QNI Metals Pty Ltd and QNI Resources Pty Ltd - own the actual nickel refinery that Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd - the bit that's in administration - operate. It's merely a shell company with no physical assets, which employed (and laid off) the workers.

However, the case is muddied by the fact that Palmer claimed to have relinquished his director's duties with Queensland Nickel but in actual fact did still sign off on expenditures using the clever fake name "Terry Smith", which would potentially leave him personally liable as it shows that, despite his claims, he was still acting as a director of the company.

So it's dark days for PUP. Maybe they should tap this Terry Smith fellow as a possible leader instead?

The cocktail hour: the best song in the nation?

Then again, elections are unpredictable. For example: the Rubens took out Triple J's Hottest 100 last night with their song Hoops, which was picked as the winner by pretty much nobody. We live in uncertain times, friends.

See you back here tomorrow, team, and cheers.

The top stories on smh.com.au on Wednesday were:

1. NSW universities taking students with ATARs as low as 30
2. China's 'daigou' shoppers leading Australian retail drive
3. Bizarre and extraordinary': Coalition tensions flare over same-sex marriage
4. Problem gambling's curse strengthens its hold on individuals and the nation
5. Channel Nine 'caused' Steve Smith's dismissal in Australia's Twenty20 loss to India

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