You never forget your first love
A new poll of voters in the electorate of New England suggests that they would welcome former independent MP Toby Windsor back with open arms - which is lovely news for him, but possibly less so for the current local member and Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce.
Windsor had held the seat for 22 years before retiring from politics at the 2013 election, thereby allowing Joyce to easily win the seat. However, Joyce hasn't been the most kick-arse of representatives - most notably in failing to prevent the approval of the Shenua-Watermark coal mine on agricultural land despite his strong objections to the development and also being the actual minister for agriculture.
The ReachTEL poll concluded that while Joyce would get a higher primary vote than Windsor (39.5 per cent versus 32.2 per cent) the flow of preferences from Labor, the Greens and other independents would most likely get Windsor across the line.
Windsor, for his part, is yet to confirm that he'll actually challenge but if so, this will be a huge problem for the Nationals specifically and the Coalition generally. It's not exactly a great look if the leader of the party gets turfed out of his seat, and at the very least this would force the party to spend a serious amount of campaign cash defending what they'd have previously budgeted as a safe seat.
Mind you, Windsor running in New England is less humiliating than Dick Smith's threat to run in the otherwise-safe Liberal seat of Mackellar.
The Nationals at least appear to want to keep Joyce; forcing the Liberals to spend up big on an election campaign to protect Bronwyn Bishop's job just adds insult to injury.
Who's just making stupid stuff up about gay people today?
As this column has said before, there's really only one actual argument that same-sex marriage opponents can use with any honesty, and it is this: "gay people make me uncomfortable and I don't want them to have civil rights".
It's not much of an argument, obviously, so those who have a problem with gay folks have to pretend to have other concerns - even if those concerns are utter garbage.
In that spirit, former MP and ex-parliamentary secretary to John Howard, Chris Miles, has authorised and funded the printing of a pamphlet of entirely bogus claims in the hopes that, like makers of low-budget horror films, people are too busy being shocked to realise that it doesn't make a lick of sense.
Among other adorably silly claims, the leaked pamphlet declares that "Married biological parents have a better record for providing safety and development of healthy, well-adjusted adult children" and cites data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Except then you remember that same-sex marriage was only nationally recognised in all states of the US last June, meaning that federal data on the wellbeing of adult children of married same-sex parents might be a teensy bit hard to find right now.
Beware of things!
Of course, one could remove the "marriage" distinction and just talk about whether kids of straight parents do better than kids of same-sex parents. Sadly, however, such research suggests that kids of same-sex parents are happier and healthier, on average, than their straight-parented counterparts.
So Miles instead helpfully lists "potential outcomes" of gay marriage, including "sexual victimisation", "sexual transmitted disease" [sic], "drug use/abuse", "depression" and "suicidal thoughts". Which all are also potential outcomes of straight marriage, you might notice, and of human life generally.
Sadly he left off other "potential outcomes" that are precisely as relevant to the issue of changing the wording of the Marriage Act, including "having a nice lunch", "getting the sniffles", "seeing an elephant", "just narrowly missing a train", "seeing a different elephant" and "self-publishing a pamphlet filled with bigoted nonsense that reveals far more about the intellectual honesty of the people behind it than they'd probably like".
And the government once again reiterated that it's keeping a Double Dissolution option open if it doesn't get its own wa… sorry, if the obstructionist Senate continues to thwart its mandate.
"Science" and Industry Minister Christopher Pyne was making that clear on Monday morning, insisting that "If the Senate continues to refuse to pass legislation like the ABCC [building construction watchdog] well, obviously a double dissolution is a live option."
Will it happen, though? Well, it depends on a few things - most importantly, the passage of the government's proposed changes to the Senate ballot. If that passes, a DD seems likely; if not, there's no way the government would risk it.
However, there's a reason why the Greens - who reportedly support the change - might hesitate to pass the legislation in its current form. And that's because there have been no significant changes to below-the-line voting.
It's a complicated question (the ABC's electoral genius Antony Green explains it here), but the TL;DR version is that leaving the cumbersome process of numbering every single candidate in order of preference below the line makes no sense, if the supposed purpose of changing the ballot is to ensure that voters rather than parties determine where their preferences go.
Of course, this is only really an issue if you genuinely yearn to put preferencing control into the hand of citzens. If your actual aim is simply to clear independents and microparties out of the Senate, then the current plan is AOK!
And it's been fascinating to see the scrambling among the seven senators fighting for political survival, to the point where there was a brief and optimistic suggestion of an alliance between Palmer United, the Liberal Democrats and Family First - aka senators Zhenya Wang, David Leyonhjelm and Bob Day - to form a "supermicroparty". Surely the "super" cancels out the "micro", though?
"We're in survival mode now, this is an existential threat and yes, we are considering radical ideas," said Day. Radical is an understatement, though: while both Day and Leyonhjelm are devoutly right wing and have a history of voting along with the government the majority of the time, but the devout Christian and fervent libertarian have wildly different philosophies.
For example, what would be the supermicroparty line on marriage equality? Fiercely anti as per Day's religious beliefs, or strongly pro as per Leyonhjelm's strident individualism? Heck, it's the exact same schism that the Coalition is currently attempting to pretend isn't wrenching them apart along factional lines.
Then again, as the old saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows - which would be a problem in itself, right Bob?
The cocktail hour: Happy Leap Day!
Today is February 29 which - as we pointed out yesterday - is the day when Leap Day William emerges from his home in the Mariana Trench and comes to exchange candy for children's tears.
It's a true holiday, and definitely not just invented by 30 Rock for an episode in 2012 - why, just check out these clips from the absolutely-one-hundred-per-cent-real tie in family movie Leap Dave Williams, starring Jim Carrey as a man who learns the true meaning of Leap Day when he is transformed into the gill-sporting, hat wearing candy-dispensing-man-fish!
Remember, gang: nothing that happens on Leap Day counts, so get all the weirdness out of your system while you still can - and let's meet back here tomorrow. Cheers!
The top stories on smh.com.au on Monday: