Geoff Shaw to be expelled from Liberal Party
Liberal Party finally loses patience with Geoff Shaw, announcing plans to expel the Frankston MP from the party. Nine News.PT1M53S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-329ek 620 349 February 9, 2014
By the time State Parliament adjourned on Thursday afternoon, the big question among government MPs was this: when would the Geoff Shaw soap opera end?
The balance-of-power MP had wanted Speaker Ken Smith's scalp, and by 2.10pm on Tuesday, Smith was gone. He wanted his friend Christine Fyffe promoted instead, and by 3.15pm that day, she was.
And yet within hours, Shaw was at it again, siding with Labor to sink the government's business program, complaining that no one briefed him on it. Later, when Attorney-General Robert Clark briefed him on a bill for a new parliamentary budget office, he voted against it anyway. As one senior Liberal told The Sunday Age: ''We are sick to death of this.''
The many moods of Geoff Shaw: the Member for Frankston during the past week. Photo: Angela Wylie
That's the thing about Shaw. He's unpredictable, erratic, hard to read. He says he despises Labor, yet will happily collude with them to flex his political muscle. He claims to hate the ''vulture'' media yet clearly thrives in the limelight, even telling colleagues last week that he hoped his new beard would guarantee front page coverage. And he makes bold demands - a chauffer-driven car to guarantee safe passage to work was the latest example - but doesn't like it when his needs aren't met. Just ask Ken Smith.
Supporters of the Frankston MP say he's misunderstood; a victim of the vicious media cycle; and someone who has done good things for his electorate: boosting police numbers; securing hospital funding; upgrading schools. But what exactly is the psychology behind Shaw - a man who helped bring down one premier and has become a perpetual headache for another? And in such a delicately hung parliament, how does the government deal with him?
Psychologist and social commentator Lyn Bender suggests it comes down to a number of traits: defensiveness to the point of hostility; a self-centred sense of justice; a mix of fear and grandiosity.
''It's also a classic example of too much power, and someone who is quite childish in the way he manages it,'' she says. ''The problem is, he's got the power to withhold the budget. If you had a three-year-old saying what was going to happen to the money, imagine the family trying to placate that three-year-old.''
But trying to understand Geoff Shaw is like trying to put together the pieces of very complex puzzle - colleagues admit they don't get him, nor did he respond to calls for this article.
The record shows he's a social conservative, loves the bagpipes, attends church, plays footy for his local team, and according to one MP can be ''utterly charming'' sometimes. But since entering politics in 2010, the former nightclub bouncer has
attracted headlines for all the wrong reasons - comparing homosexuality to murderers; intervening in a bizarre road rage dispute; making lewd hand gestures in the chamber; misusing his taxpayer funded car.
Damien Foster, who mentors international sportsmen and corporate chief executives on how to manage public life, suspects that Shaw revels in his notoriety, particularly in his local community.
''The interesting thing about Geoff Shaw is that his unpredictability is giving him an enormous profile and that can't be a bad thing for a man and a suburb that might have once struggled to have had much relevance to the daily political news cycle,'' Foster says. ''This will place his demands for the people of Frankston - a place I suspect he still has some credibility - front and centre in the minds of a much larger audience. And this is surely not a bad thing if you live there and you care little for issues or priorities outside your own backyard.''
Perhaps Foster has a point. Last year, in an interview with The Sunday Age before he faced court for alleged fraud (the charges were eventually dropped), Shaw was typically defiant. Despite an Ombudsman's report finding he had misused his parliamentary car, he insisted he had done nothing wrong - but also seemed to suggest that the controversy had helped put his community in the public spotlight.
''Weren't we employed to have a voice for our community?'' he asked. ''If we were employed to have a voice for our community, what electorate stands out most in this state? Frankston. There's no other electorate that you guys report on more - not that I read your papers.''
The problem is, Shaw's notoriety had become a growing headache for the government, which relies on his support to pass legislation. Until Friday night, 11 months after he precipitated Ted Baillieu's resignation by resigning from the parliamentary team, the Liberal Party had also allowed him to remain a rank-and-file member. Initially, he had promised to support Premier Denis Napthine on confidence and supply. Last week, he appeared to be wavering, requesting fresh talks - as well as an upgrade to his local netball and basketball courts - in return for his ongoing support.
Some have described Shaw as the Liberals' own version of Craig Thomson, the former Gillard government MP who moved to the crossbench amid allegations he rorted union credit cards. But unlike Thomson - who spent much of his life wedded to the union movement and the Labor cause - Shaw was only elected in 2010 and is not a lifelong devotee of the Liberal Party. That makes him far more unpredictable.
Shayne Hanks, a director at Performance Boost, which specialises in sports psychology, likens Shaw to Kevin Pietersen, the English batsman sacked from his country's cricket team after a string of controversies. ''You've got someone who's essentially been a maverick, not working well with the rest of the team,'' says Hanks.
''He obviously sees himself as not answerable to the party, but to the public. In his mind, he'd feel justified in what he's doing, because I think he'd be trying to relate it back to his constituents.''
So how, then, can you manage someone like Shaw? As former Speaker Smith put it last week: ''What's he going to do tomorrow? What's he going to do next week? Next sitting week? What's he going to vote for? What's he going to vote against? He doesn't know, so we don't know.''
Clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller says the first step is knowing what you're dealing with. A few years ago, he wrote a book, Tricky People, which divides difficult people in the workplace into categories such as ''white-anters'', ''blamers'', ''whingers'', ''tyrants'', and ''controllers''. He classifies Shaw as an ''avoider'': someone who is charming, plays to his biggest audience, but doesn't like being pinned down and can't be relied on to do as they say.
''Words don't really mean a lot for avoiders, so any agreement you make with them has to be rock solid,'' he says. ''Otherwise they'll shift at a moment's notice.''