JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Labor on Geoff Shaw: right call, wrong reasons

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Government seeks to expel Shaw

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine announces he will seek Geoff Shaw's expulsion from Parliament, questioning the sincerity of the Frankston MP's apology on Tuesday.

PT0M0S 620 349

ANALYSIS

The political equation that convinced Labor to oppose a government motion to expel Geoff Shaw – despite demanding expulsion in June "because Victoria deserves better" – is probably as simple as this: Geoff Shaw = chaos. As long as there is chaos in the parliament, it damages the government more than the opposition.

Labor is clearly prepared to cop a short-term hit for, in effect, ensuring Shaw's survival, despite demanding his head just three months ago. The opposition may be vulnerable to claims of hypocrisy, it may be accused of a backflip and it may be accused of running a protection racket for Geoff Shaw.

Premier Denis Napthine.

Premier Denis Napthine. Photo: Andrew Meares

But politics is an assessment of risk versus reward, cost versus benefit. Over the longer term (three months represents the longer-term at this sharp point in the political cycle), Shaw's survival is bad news for the Coalition.

First, he commands a not unsubstantial support base in his seat. How he directs preferences could play a crucial role. Second, if Shaw was annoyed before, the MP's fury is now white hot. Labor's decision to reject the motion to expel Shaw has given him a green light to lash out. Any legislation not supported by Labor in the seven sitting days remaining is now in doubt.

Despite all of this, Labor has probably made the right call, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Geoff Shaw is a difficult character, but the idea that he should be expelled because of something he said to a newspaper outside of the Parliament is problematic, even alarming.

Denis Napthine's argument is simple: a process was set place in June requiring Shaw to genuinely apologise and repay almost $7000.

The controversial MP repaid the money and, on Tuesday, it appeared he had met the other key requirement, having told Parliament he sincerely and genuinely apologised.

But it was not to be. According to Napthine, the problem was not what Shaw said in the parliament, but what he said outside.

As recently as Wednesday, Shaw was quoted by a newspaper saying the process was a "political farce".

Napthine was arguing that despite appearing to meet technical requirements of the June motion, Shaw's comments outside Parliament were "absolutely contrary" to the motion because logically Shaw could not be genuinely sorry if he believed the process was a farce.

The argument is semantically shaky: it is perfectly possible to believe a process is a farce, but still be sorry.

To state the obvious, MPs are elected by the people. The usual threshold for expulsion is a high one: an MP is automatically kicked out if convicted of an indictable offence carrying a minimum five-year jail term.

After an ombudsman's investigation, a police investigation and a Department of Public Prosecutions investigation, the best Parliament's privileges committee could come up with is that there was no evidence Shaw's misuse of his vehicle had been "willful".

Like many politicians, including an alarming number of Napthine's colleagues in Canberra, Shaw was in trouble over entitlements. Abuse of entitlements probably should be a sackable offence for politicians, like it is for other employees.

But the sad reality is that Australian MPs seem to be free to rort their expenses so long as they repay the money when they get found out.

Napthine's argument is not that Shaw should be kicked out for abusing his expenses, per se, but for failing to express genuine contrition as required by the June motion.

A process was followed. It may be imperfect, but this should be what Parliament relies on, not a value judgment about whether Shaw was genuinely contrite.

Napthine's claim that politics had nothing to do with the process is bunkum. Politics had everything to do with it, for both the government and for Labor, although the political ramifications are far from clear.

The bottom line is that Shaw's ongoing presence in Parliament is probably of more benefit to the Labor Party, which has been able to hide behind the chaos that seems to dog Shaw and seemed to frequently hamper the government's ability to gain political traction. There are now only seven days of Parliament remaining. The government, lagging in polls, cannot afford to lose even a single day to yet more chaos. Yet, almost unbelievably, the sideshow continues.

19 comments so far

  • Labor wanted to expel Geoff Shaw, but the Liberals said no.
    Liberals wanted to expel Geoff Shaw, but Labor said no.
    Have I got this right? Have these people any idea how silly they look. Have they any idea of how unworthy we believe them to be to hold office? Somewhere in the midst of all of this political opportunism there is a state to run. In all honesty, I could not cast a vote for any of them.

    Commenter
    Big Al
    Location
    Monty
    Date and time
    September 04, 2014, 7:20AM
    • Rather simplistic analysis Big Al.......Napthine should have expelled Geoff Shaw long ago....now let the people of Frankston speak. The ALP would be be wise not to solicit preferences from Geoff Shaw or have anything to do with him. Napthine must not sign any contracts for East West hole before election and people and chance to speak on the number one issue which has the potential to bankrupt our state for many years to come.

      Commenter
      Andrew
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 04, 2014, 7:42AM
    • As a Labor supporter the faux outrage of Desperate Dan on the loon from Frankston issue is leaving me completely cold. If, as I'm convinced is actually the case, he stood on the steps of Parliament with a big grin on his face and said 'we oppose most of the legislation the Libs are trying to push through in advance of the election and this is the best way to get at least some of that voted down while causing maximum discomfort to the party that spawned this idiot' I'd have a deal more respect for him. Babbling on incoherently about a principal we all know NONE IN SPRING STREET actually honestly subscribe to might be good for the one-eyed but anybody with an IQ greater than their shoe size will see it for exactly what is is .. awful manufactured unprincipled nonsense.

      Commenter
      TT
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 04, 2014, 8:06AM
    • @Big Al: don't skip the details!
      Labor wanted to expel Geoff Shaw for his misuse of taxpayer money, but the Liberals said no.
      Liberals wanted to expel Geoff Shaw for not seeming sorry enough after he apologized as per their orders, but Labor said no.

      This was the obvious outcome from the beginning, but going from the moral high ground to the low ground as the liberals have done always looks worse. If they didn't want to kick him out at the first and arguably best opportunity then they would have been better off simply accepting his apology and letting it end at that.

      Commenter
      Don't oversimplify; reasons are important
      Date and time
      September 04, 2014, 8:16AM
    • Unfortunately what's lost in all of the weasel words and political posturing is that Geoff Shaw stole from the people of Victoria and then lied to try to cover it up. Strong words yes. He has form, and everyone can see it. He had his junkets to the US to learn about abortion laws (hasn't heard of the internet apparently) and to England to watch cricket at Lords. He should be out, as should any politician who does the same. He only apologised to go to the election and get his 35,000 relocation allowance when he loses his seat.

      Commenter
      David
      Location
      OutEast
      Date and time
      September 04, 2014, 8:29AM
    • I seem to recall Napthine telling us earlier this year that their legal advice was that if they expelled Geoff Shaw and he contested the expulsion the government would most likely loose. So what has changed since then?

      Commenter
      ICSBSS
      Date and time
      September 04, 2014, 8:40AM
    • Napthine and the LIE-berals who relied on Shaw's "tainted" vote for the last 4 years
      all need to be thrown out of office at the upcoming election.

      This secretive and incompetent government has no right to continue governing for another 4 years and the $18 billion dollar E-W toll road is an example of their secrecy and lack of transparency.

      Commenter
      Get Real
      Date and time
      September 04, 2014, 11:15AM
  • Dennis is such a fool. He walked straight into the trap that Shaw left wide open, again.

    With a week to go, all he had to do was ignore Shaw's comments, instead he just confirms exactly what Shaw stated, the whole thing is a farce.

    He should have been kicked out years ago, not for making Dennis look like an idiot now, (not that he needs any help). This is hardly going to save the LNP from the inevitable.

    Commenter
    Sambo
    Date and time
    September 04, 2014, 7:47AM
    • Exactly @Sambo. The Libs had their chance in June to expel Shaw for stealing - this is a legit reason to expel him as most of us would lose our jobs if we did the same.

      Now Geoff's apology has been deemed insincere. The process is farcical! Who else would have to do this at work?

      The Libs should have expelled him for theft. He can't be expelled for behaving like a petulant child.

      Commenter
      Peaches
      Date and time
      September 04, 2014, 9:35AM
  • You could tell this was coming from the original suspension - Napthine pouting and posturing about how it would be unfair to chuck him out, with the sole reason to avoid a by election that might see him out of office. A convenient suspension length that would remove the by-election problem, then a trumped up charge to now kick him out. It was so obvious.

    I would have put my house on it - Napthine is a disgrace, and is about to be kicked out after leaving Vic with a new white elephant road that he has no mandate for, and is rushing to sign a contract for. What an abuse of office.

    Labor is quite within their rights not to be a part of this.

    Commenter
    davemac
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    September 04, 2014, 7:50AM

    More comments

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

    Related Coverage

    Featured advertisers

    Special offers

    Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo