IN A CLASSIC CASE of “what goes around comes around,” a visit from the karma bus has brought Labor its own Geoff Shaw-style liability; rather than appear in Victoria — where Shaw himself caused the Coalition great angst, merrily and recklessly fuelled by an irresponsible ALP — the shipment of certain trouble has been delivered to the knife-edge Queensland government. Labor will now rue its mindlessly destructive antics south of the Murray.
The old adage about two wrongs not making a right might be a noble sentiment, but the means by which to deliver the Labor Party a taste of its own medicine has landed in the lap of Queensland’s LNP opposition, which — like Labor in Victoria between 2010 and 2014 — must scarcely be able to believe its luck.
For good measure, a visit from the proverbial karma bus has delivered the ALP ample recompense for the brazenly irresponsible and wantonly tasteless effort it invested in miscreant former Liberal MP Geoff Shaw, whose escapades and Labor’s ruthless exploitation of them went so far as to render the competent Liberal state government of Denis Napthine unelectable.
Queenslanders may or may not know the name “Geoff Shaw” but whether they do or not, a local version of this menace will soon become a household name in the Sunshine State, and — like Shaw himself, for all the wrong reasons.
In a delicious twist of fate, it is in Queensland — where Labor holds office in minority, and not in Victoria — that this liability has been visited upon the ALP.
(UPDATED, 3.50pm: Billy Gordon has (rightly) been expelled from the ALP, with Annastacia Palaszczuk demanding he also quit Parliament; whatever happens now, this mess still has a long way to run and will still cause Queensland Labor a lot of grief. We will continue to monitor proceedings with interest).
The revelation that the recently elected MP for the Queensland seat of Cook Billy Gordon failed, at all times until the past few days, to disclose a significant history of criminal behaviour lights a powderkeg beneath the minority Queensland government that — like the fraught Geoff Shaw issue faced by the Coalition in government in Victoria under Denis Napthine — threatens to derail its hold on office and potentially send Queenslanders to a fresh state election later this year.
That Gordon could pose a problem to Anna Palaszczuk’s government first became apparent a little earlier, when it emerged that he owed significant arrears in child support payments and later that he had a history as the perpetrator for domestic violence: matters that in hindsight seem to have been the trigger for the full disclosure of his sordid criminal past.
And despite Gordon’s statement apparently seeking to attribute his errant behaviour on a deprived upbringing and to distance himself from his actions on the basis they were done by a young man, the itinerary of offences he committed spans more than 20 years: adequate time, one might expect if being generous, for a rotten character to see the fault of his or her ways and to mend them.
Gordon, to put not too fine a point on it, is unfit to serve as an elected member of Parliament: a dubious character and serial perpetrator of actual physical violence and a string of other misdemeanours, there is no place for him in any house of governance in this country — and I am uninterested in excuses blathered to the contrary by the compassion babbling bullshit lobby that invariably leaps to the fore in such circumstances to explain away and rationalise what is an unacceptable pattern of blatantly unlawful behaviour.
That is the problem. It makes Geoff Shaw, with his misuse of parliamentary resources and destructively eccentric delusions of importance, look like a veritable saint by comparison.
Readers — especially those from Queensland, where all of this is just the beginning of the kind of political lawlessness (no pun intended) gleefully visited upon a Liberal government by a reckless Labor Party — can access the copious discussion pieces I published on the Victorian situation through the “Geoff Shaw” tag from the tag cloud at the right of this article.
But just as Labor took untold delight in turning the screws on Napthine — it supported expelling Shaw, then when Napthine lined up to throw him out of state Parliament, the ALP refused, thanks to the one-seat Coalition majority that rested on Shaw’s vote — it now faces a dose of its own medicine provided the LNP is willing to mete out the same treatment in Queensland as its southern cousin was subjected to over an issue that was largely no fault of its own.
And there’s the rub: Queensland Labor is not responsible, at face value, for Gordon’s misadventures.
Yes, its vetting procedures should have uncovered them, and yes, this points to deep flaws in the way the Queensland ALP goes about its business: and it’s a sure bet that given the nature of the beast (and the stakes now at hand), those processes will be overhauled in an attempt to ensure the party cannot be embarrassed by this type of unwanted surprise again.
Yet such sentiments are in no way different to the kind of talk faced by the Liberals in Victoria: why did they even preselect Geoff Shaw in the first place? Of course, Shaw was only ever a candidate because the Liberals’ intended candidate fell seriously ill and was unable to contest the seat of Frankston at the 2010 state election. In her place came the odious Shaw, ostensibly from a copybook small business background, but — like Gordon — too defective a character to merit or warrant a seat in Parliament.
But Labor in Victoria revelled in Shaw and his flaws, just as the Queensland LNP should be merciless in returning that dubious favour now.
And for her part, Palaszczuk is cornered.
She cannot engineer Gordon’s expulsion from Parliament; the ensuing by-election in Cook — despite the margin of close to 10% recorded at the January election — could not be guaranteed as a Labor win, and a loss in such a scenario would make a change of government (supported by the two Katter MPs) a virtual certainty: with the major parties then tied at 43-all, it is inconceivable Labor could retain the confidence of the House.
She cannot engineer Gordon’s expulsion from the ALP, either: as an Independent MP involuntarily removed from the Labor caucus, Gordon would be free to do whatever he liked, which would include voting down any or all government legislation he felt disinclined to support, and would extend as far — as Geoff Shaw did — as threatening to vote the minority government out of office altogether on the floor of Queensland’s unicameral Parliament.
And she cannot take the obvious course of a fresh election to confirm her “mandate:” unlike Napthine, locked into the strictures of a fixed four-year term in Victoria, an election would seem the logical way of breaking any deadlock the Gordon issue imposed on the Queensland Parliament.
But given considerations around the likelihood or otherwise of a Labor win, the cost involved, and the likely ire another state election would draw from Queensland’s poll-weary voters, in practice Palaszczuk stands to be just as locked into the same daily battle to manage an impossible situation as Napthine was.
And the LNP should be just as ruthless and unrelenting about forcing Palaszczuk to twist and dangle and contort in the wind as her counterparts in Victoria were until they won a state election — largely off Shaw’s back.
Regular readers know that despite my very high personal opinion of Queensland opposition leader Lawrence Springborg and his excellent work as an LNP minister in the Newman government, I have severe misgivings over this three-time election loser representing a winning proposition at a fourth electoral outing, and especially over the palatability or otherwise of a rural MP to the large and growing urban population that now constitutes the majority of the Queensland electorate.
Even so, what goes around comes around: and just as an otherwise hopeless Labor Party with nothing of any substance to offer Victorian voters cynically turned Geoff Shaw into a weapon of great electoral advantage over an unfortunate Premier of real substance and vision, so too should the LNP rub Labor’s nose in Queensland in the dirt thrown up by revelations of the past conduct of its MP for Cook.
Perhaps if forced to confront exactly the same unprincipled treatment it sees fit to dish out to its own opponents, Labor might think twice before embarking on the same mindlessly base course in the future.
It won’t, of course. But that is no reason for it not to be forced to rue its antics in Victoria.
As for Gordon, if he is as reformed as he claims to be, he would do the right thing and leave Parliament of his own volition — irrespective of the potential consequences for the ALP.
Just like Shaw, he won’t. And in my view, that is reason enough for Gordon — and Palaszczuk — to be regarded as fair game.
The LNP is free do its worst.