News State Victoria News Parliament divided over MP

Parliament divided over MP

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Rogue balance-of-power MP Geoff Shaw will be suspended from Victoria’s parliament under a move by the premier but Labor says it is a weak punishment and will push to expel him.

The independent MP will be suspended for 11 sitting days, must apologise and repay money for misusing his parliamentary car, or be expelled from parliament, Premier Denis Napthine says.  

But there is no guarantee the motion will be passed on Wednesday, with Labor saying it won’t back it and vowing to push for a second day running to have Mr Shaw found in contempt of parliament and expelled.

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It is not known if former Speaker Ken Smith will support the government motion, given the Liberal MP has signalled he will side with Labor to have Mr Shaw found in contempt and booted from parliament.

It is also unclear whether Mr Shaw will be able to vote on a motion involving himself, but there is at least one recent example where a MP voted against his own suspension.

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine.

Dr Napthine says if his motion is passed on Wednesday, Mr Shaw will be suspended until September 2 and lose daily payments totalling $4246.

He will be ordered to repay more than $6800 for misusing his parliamentary car, fuel card and parliamentary entitlements and apologise to the parliament for breaching the MP code of conduct.

Dr Napthine said he expected Mr Smith would give serious consideration to the government’s move.

“This is genuinely dealing with wrongdoing by the member for Frankston,” Dr Napthine told reporters on Tuesday.

“I think this is fair and reasonable to hold him to account.”

Dr Napthine said his motion went above and beyond the penalties set out by the privileges committee into Mr Shaw’s misuse of his taxpayer-funded car.

If Mr Shaw doesn’t abide by the premier’s motion, then he will have crossed the line and be in contempt of parliament and face expulsion, he said.

“At this stage the member for Frankston has shown no remorse and no understanding of his wrongdoing with regard to misuse of taxpayer funds,” he said.

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Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews.

But Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the premier’s motion is weak and amounted to “barely a slap on the wrist” and “gardening leave” for Mr Shaw, who would retain the use of his office and other entitlements.

“There was a chance today and we will hold fast tomorrow to again push for the expulsion of Mr Shaw,” he told reporters.

Dr Napthine said expulsion of a MP is a serious issue only reserved for the most serious of offences.

“These are people who are democratically elected members of parliament and for the majority to use their numbers against a fellow member of parliament is a very, very serious issue.”

Dr Napthine said the government will continue to make parliament work if Mr Shaw, who holds the balance of power in the Legislative Assembly, is suspended.

Mr Shaw withdrew support for the Napthine government after it failed to guarantee he would not be penalised further for misusing his entitlements.

o   Who is Geoff Shaw?

  • Liberal-turned-independent MP
  • Holds balance of power in Legislative Assembly
  • Misused parliamentary car for hardware business
  • Privileges committee found breached MP code of conduct; recommended repay $6838.44
  • Already paid back $1250
  • Shaw withdrew support for government after it didn’t guarantee he would not be sanctioned further
  • Government will move to suspend Shaw, force him to apologise and pay back the money
  • Suspension to last 11 sitting days until September 2
  • Shaw to lose $386 for every sitting day he misses
  • If Shaw doesn’t comply, he will be expelled
  • Labor says suspension a “slap on the wrist”, will move to expel Shaw
  • Motion to be debated on Wednesday
  • Last MP expelled from Victorian parliament in 1901
  • If suspended by the house, Mr Shaw still receives parliamentary salary.

– with Melissa Iaria and Genevieve Gannon