Things are pretty miserable for Labor at the moment but Tony Abbott's plebiscite stunt should give Labor MPs brief reason to smile. Just for once, it says a lot more about Liberal thinking than it does about the Government.

For one thing, it was handled with almost Labor-like ineptitude. If the plebiscite idea had seen daylight months ago, it would have made for a nice hand grenade chucked into the carbon price debate. Instead, it was left until the valedictory speeches were already flowing in the soon-to-be-rather-Greener Senate. There was no consultations with the independents in the Reps or Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding; the latter declared the proposal a stunt and rejected it this morning, after Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott rejected it yesterday.