Geoff Shaw arrives back in Parliament after his three-month suspension. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer
It was perfunctory and business-like, but in the end Geoff Shaw probably did the bare minimum required of him to ensure his survival for the eight sitting days remaining before the November 29 election.
The grenade-lobbing MP said sorry.
Technically, Shaw was not apologising for the misuse of his vehicle, but rather for breaching the code of conduct for MPs, which demands behaviour that does not bring discredit upon the Parliament.
Judging by the silence from the government following Shaw's brief statement, Parliament now seems satisfied that Shaw has technically complied with the motion passed in June, which saw him suspended for 11 sitting days and ordered him to pay almost $7000 for misusing his Parliament vehicle and fuel card.
There were two schools of thought within government ranks about the relative merits of expelling Shaw. One view held that the MP's ongoing presence in Parliament would benefit Labor more than the government, given the chaos linked to Shaw. Better to be rid of him once and for all, allowing the government to sell its agenda in the remaining days before the election.
Napthine had also demanded Shaw show genuine remorse both inside and outside the Parliament. Shaw said the right words inside the parliament, but outside he continued to antagonise (as recently as Monday he said Napthine should consider resigning because of a lack of leadership and he has previously likened the demand to apologise to scolding a naughty child).
The other view held that expelling Shaw permanently would merely generate more controversy for the government. A MP has not been expelled from the Victorian Parliament since Edward Findley, who was kicked out in 1901 for libel of the king.
In other words, expelling Shaw would have been a bold move, which could have set a dangerous precedent for future parliaments, particularly since Shaw had technically met the conditions of the motion to suspend him.
Now that the government (for now) appears to have accepted Shaw's apology, it need only put up with him for another eight days until Parliament winds up. There is probably little left on the government's legislative agenda, ensuring Shaw's capacity to inflict pain will be limited.
Accepting Shaw's apology was the most sensible course of action. It was the least-worst result. This does not make it a good result for the government. As long as Shaw remains in the Parliament, chances are the circus will continue.