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View from the Street: Will Barnaby Joyce be our last ever Nationals leader?

And maybe Greg Hunt's "Bestest Minister in the Whole Wide World!" award isn't quite as prestigious as he's suggested. Your news of the day, reduced to a snarky rant.

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Curiouser and curiouser

So, you remember that award for Best Minister in the World with which "Environment" Minister Greg Hunt was honoured the other day at the World Government Forum in Dubai, and about which we spent a large slab of yesterday's column discussing?

Well, the award was supposedly the work of Thomson Reuters, the Canada-based international media and finance conglomerate, but now the company would like to make clear that it wasn't them.

Hunt told Australian radio that the award had been created by Reuters who "then commissioned the World Bank, the OECD, Ernst & Young and an international strategic firm called Strategy and Co to draw up a list of 100 – they then winnowed it down to 10."

Which sounds very impressive, except that the whole thing was in fact the invention of the summit organisers with Reuters "responsible for assisting in the administration of the award, to a set of criteria approved by the World Government Summit organisers," according to their head of corporate communications in Middle East, Africa and Russia, Tarek Fleihan.

And to be fair, it's not hard to see why an oil-based economy such as, say, that of the United Arab Emirates might be delighted to celebrate the work of a man who prevented a carbon tax being implemented on energy companies, and who oversaw an impressive 1.3 per cent rise in greenhouse gas emissions for the 12 months to June 2015.


Hunt is still supposedly in the running to become Trade Minister now that Andrew Robb has decided that his work pushing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership is done.

But at least the award did result in the video below from Greens senator Scott Ludlam calling for February 10 to be declared Greg Hunt Day.

Love, winning

All snark aside, there's been some genuinely wonderful news from South Australia. And it handily illustrates the biggest problem for those who oppose marriage equality using the popular argument "B-B-But What About The Children?"

It's normally phrased as "children deserve a mother and a father" or some variation thereof, which appears to rest upon the peculiar premise that a child's emotional wellbeing is somehow dependent on proximity to a diverse range of parental genitals.

However, there's the fairly important fact that legalising same-sex marriage involves changing a couple of words in the Marriage Act - and the Marriage Act doesn't have anything to do with parenting whatsoever.

Indeed, the Marriage Act 1961 (amended in 2004 to explicitly exclude gay people, thanks to PM John Howard and then-Attorney-General-now-Ironic-Human-Rights-Ambassador Philip Ruddock) is comprehensively concerned with the legal definition of marriage, the conditions under which marriages can take place, what people are authorised to perform them, that sort of thing.

Kids are not mentioned at all, beyond making clear that they can't get hitched since "marriageable age" is 18 years.

Conversely, the vast majority of laws regarding parental rights aren't under the purview of the federal government at all. They're covered by laws passed by the states.

Which brings us to today's excellent news: South Australia just passed laws allowing both same-sex partners to be recorded as a child's natural parents on birth certificates, thereby giving legal protection and certainty to parents and children alike.

For the record, joint parental rights (under adoption law) is already the case in NSW, the ACT, Victoria, Tasmania and WA, and while joint adoption's not legal in Queensland, individual adoption is.

So about your above-mentioned argument, marriage equality haterz: if you genuinely were super-gosh-darn concerned about the special precious rights of the children then a) you're opposing the wrong legislation, and b) you've already pretty much lost.

Truss Issues

It's never been a more exciting time to be a Turnbull government frontbencher, as the number of ministers dropping out has risen to four with yesterday's announcements that both the aforementioned Andrew Robb and Deputy Prime Minister and National Party Leader Warren Truss won't be challenging at the next election.

Truss, you might recall, has been contributing much to the national conversation of late, including declaring that the PM call a Double Dissolution to "sort out" the Senate (by, um, all-but-guaranteeing a crossbench of even more independents and microparties since the quota for election is halved?) and catching a little nigh-nighs in Parliament during Question Time. So he's left an exceptionally high bar for any new leader to clear.

Nationals deputy and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is the natural candidate to become the final ever federal Nationals leader before the party ceases to exist in any meaningful way, especially since Michael McCormack has confirmed he won't stand for the role.

Barn's expected to be rubber-stamped during the party's meeting on Thursday night, and this is going to be interesting for a couple of reasons.

One is that Joyce was not exactly backwards in slamming the Liberals when he was overridden by "Environment" Minister Greg Hunt, who approved the massive Shenhua Watermark coal mine amid the prime agricultural land of the Breeza Plains in June last year - an area in Joyce's electorate of New England, which said much about the respect that the government had for him both as MP and Agriculture Minister.

There's also an enduring theory that Ian Macfarlane's attempted (and failed) defection to the Nationals in December was orchestrated by both the Liberals and Nationals as a way of potentially preventing Joyce from becoming leader.

The bigger problem for Joyce, though, isn't whether the Coalition has been actively working against him. It's the ghost of New England: independent former MP Tony Windsor.

He's Like the Wind(sor)

The much-loved Windsor held New England with a staggering 21 per cent margin until his retirement before the 2013 election.

Joyce comfortably won the seat in the absence of any serious challenger, but after the Shenhua Watermark debacle Windsor started appearing in the media again, suggesting that he might return.

He was talking it up as recently as January, telling Farm Weekly "I'm still contemplating it and I'm not ruling anything out", while castigating Joyce for his absence in the electorate and lack of action over local concerns.

And that has to be at the forefront of the Nationals contemplations. It's not a good look for an already-struggling party to have their leader lose his seat at the election - which would be a genuine possibility if Windsor ran.

Even Windsor's great potential weakness - he made more than $4.5 million when his former property was bought by Werris Creek Coal in 2010 - is a strength in this campaign: firstly because Joyce can't bring the subject up without reminding constituents of his own more recent coal-related shenanigans, and secondly because it means that Windsor has a nice fat war chest to fund a political run.

So this race might be about to get very, very interesting.

The cocktail hour: get set, go!

Of course, as races go, this one might be a bit more fun. See you back here on Sunday, friends, and cheers!

Andrew P Street's book The Short and Excruciatingly Embarrassing Reign of Captain Abbott is out now, and available through Booktopia.

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