IN A WELCOME DEVELOPMENT, rogue Liberal-cum-Independent state MP Geoff Shaw has resigned his membership of the Victorian Division of the Liberal Party; whilst the move is likely to make no difference to the comfort or otherwise of the Napthine government in Parliament, it brings to an end one of the sorrier episodes in conservative politics in this country in recent times — even if, as seems probable, Shaw continues to cause Napthine trouble.
For someone who says that he “hates Labor,” Geoff Shaw has certainly provided plenty of succour to the ALP in recent times; now he is free to continue to do so.
Feelings of relief and dread are likely to be the simultaneous sensations in state government ranks in Victoria tonight, as rogue Liberal MP Geoff Shaw’s resignation from the party becomes final; having played a central role in the downfall of Ted Baillieu as Premier, Shaw has spent the last year sitting on the crossbench as an “Independent” who has caused the ongoing Coalition government no amount of grief.
The news that Shaw has now thrown in his party membership altogether is extremely welcome, albeit little more than a symbolic gesture, as he was due to face expulsion proceedings at a meeting of the party’s State Assembly on Friday night that will now no longer need to be held.
Shaw has been a constant source of embarrassment to the government, first coming to public prominence shortly after he was elected in 2010 amid allegations he had misused his taxpayer-funded vehicle for purposes linked to his hardware supplies business, and whilst the charges were eventually dropped, the episode was perhaps an object lesson in the high requirements of probity from MPs and the ease with which poor perceptions can fester explosively around activities that might be regarded as questionable.
Even so, controversy and Geoff Shaw have never been far apart, and his antics have — unduly — caused plenty of angst for the government.
Uproar around his presence on a committee trip to Europe, altercations with taxi protesters on the steps of Parliament House in Spring Street and the like may very well have featured Shaw as an innocent and unwitting participant, but in view of what was already his history in the short time he had served in Parliament to that point all of this was publicity the Liberal Party could have done without.
Shaw — either oblivious to or hellbent on the chaos it would cause — has twice voted down the government’s legislative agenda on the floor of the lower house; the ensuing anarchy has seen the speaker, Ken Smith, resign and be replaced with Shaw’s preferred candidate in an effort to appease him, and there is no reason to think he will refrain from repeating the stunt despite engineering the removal of a Speaker he claims failed to show him adequate respect.
With the numbers in the Victorian state Parliament finely balanced — now 44 Coalition MPs to 43 for Labor, plus Shaw — the ALP and its imbecilic leader, Daniel Andrews, have sought to raise merry hell, making outlandish and childish proclamations to the effect that Premier Denis Napthine is a consort of criminals, and similar.
The irony that without the tacit advantage Shaw’s shenanigans provide Labor — and which Andrews seems happy to exploit — he would be unable to do so seems to have escaped the opposition leader. Even so, the lingering and festering stain on the institution of Parliament that Shaw represents is an isolated one and the product of a close election result in 2010, not the characteristic of a rotten Liberal Party as Andrews is wont to claim.
And whilst Napthine will remain a prisoner to the numbers, he will no longer be hamstrung by any official association with Shaw — involuntary or otherwise — no matter what fun Andrews may attempt to engage in.
Already, the Liberal Party organisation has commenced the process of replacing Shaw as its endorsed candidate for the seat of Frankston at the state election that must be held by the end of the year; that process will resolve soon enough.
Yet between now and polling day — and irrespective of today’s developments — there is no guarantee that Shaw will refrain from activities that seriously undermine the state Coalition, or jeopardise its tenure in office.
Shaw has already shown — despite stating a purported desire to rejoin the Liberal party room — that he can be neither trusted nor relied upon to support the state government in Parliament in any way, shape, or form.
There is no reason to think he will begin to do so now: indeed, his prejudicial conduct toward Napthine and his colleagues may become even more destructive now he is freed from the restrictions placed upon him by membership of the Liberal Party — not that he ever abided by them in the first place.
Even so, the move liberates Napthine from being caught in the middle of an ugly and potentially explosive brawl over abortion law reform, which seems to be the next crusade Shaw — a fundamentalist Christian — seems determined to embark upon.
And it goes without saying that it removes, at the very least, the ability for the cretinous Andrews to continue to try to smear the Liberal Party as a whole on account of the alleged misdeeds of one miscreant ex-Liberal MP.
In terms of political outcomes, Shaw’s departure changes nothing; in a difficult election year, the fortunes of the Napthine government will largely be determined by other factors, although only a fool would fail to acknowledge the ongoing potential for Shaw to continue to cause trouble.
Whether he chooses to do so or not is an uncontrollable, and entirely a matter for Geoff Shaw.
Anecdotal reports suggest that Shaw, in person and at face value, is a nice enough fellow, and I’m sure he is: and to that extent I wish him well.
But as a member of the Liberal Party for most of the time since I turned 18 back in 1990, I have been aghast (and angry) that one of the party’s MPs, who occupied a rare position of trust in receiving the Liberal Party’s endorsement for a winnable seat that he otherwise would have stood no chance of winning, should have treated the party so shabbily in return.
It would have been satisfying to see Shaw suffer the indignity of being expelled from the party, although speaking personally I’ll “take” his resignation if it’s a choice between that or nothing.