Geoff Shaw has been suspended from the Victorian parliament after former Liberal Speaker Ken Smith changed his mind about backing Labor in its bid to expel the balance-of-power MP.
Mr Smith had pledged to support the opposition in expelling Mr Shaw from parliament but had a change of heart and backed a government motion to suspend the Liberal-turned-independent for 11 sitting days.
Mr Smith, whom Mr Shaw helped oust as Speaker, says the suspension will ensure Mr Shaw pays the price for misusing his parliamentary entitlements.
“The member for Frankston has trashed the reputation of this parliament over the past three and a half years,” Mr Smith told parliament on Wednesday.
“I believe that the government’s proposed motion would in fact see that he pays the price for the trashing that he’s carried out.
“Expelling him would set an unnecessary precedent in this parliament.”
But Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said premier Denis Napthine would be condemned for taking weak action against Mr Shaw after talking tough words.
“He should have been punished. Instead, the premier decided to protect the rorting member for Frankston,” Mr Andrews said after the vote.
He said Labor would wait to see what the government’s approach was to trying to get legislation through parliament without a majority.
“We’re going to see continued tied votes and the Speaker being called upon to use her casting vote,” Mr Andrews told reporters.
Mr Shaw was not in the chamber for Wednesday night’s vote on his future.
A Labor amendment to expel Mr Shaw was lost after the vote was tied with Labor and the coalition both on 42 and the Liberal Speaker used her casting vote to side with the government.
A further vote to approve the government motion to suspend Mr Shaw was backed by a majority.
Mr Smith’s backing of Dr Napthine’s motion helped ensure it got up, while Labor’s attempt to amend the government’s motion to find Mr Shaw in contempt and expel him failed.
Dr Napthine told parliament expulsion was a serious matter that should only be done in the most extreme circumstances.
He said the matter was not about political expediency or personality.
“This is not a political star chamber and it is not the Big Brother house. This is the parliament of Victoria,” Dr Napthine said.
Mr Andrews said Mr Shaw had engaged in deceit and conspiracy.
He accused Dr Napthine of being motivated by his own political survival and of driving a motion which ensures the government avoids a by-election before the November 29 state poll.
But Mr Smith said the Labor motion was “a nakedly unprincipled and opportunistic attempt to achieve political advantage”.
It was Mr Smith’s declaration that he would back a Labor push to find Mr Shaw in contempt of parliament that sparked the current political turmoil, with Mr Shaw retaliating by withdrawing his support for the government when it would not assure him he would be protected from further sanction.
Mr Smith last week said he wanted Mr Shaw “out of the place”.
A government-dominated parliamentary privileges committee found Mr Shaw breached the MP code of conduct by misusing his parliamentary car, but its Labor members wanted a contempt finding.
Dr Napthine referred to a number of examples where federal Labor MPs misused their parliamentary entitlements but said in those instances no Labor members called for their expulsion.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan called on the Labor opposition to now co-operate with the government so it can run smoothly.
Mr Ryan said the government intended to run a full program of legislation, 171 days from the state election.
“To do that it would assist to have the co-operation of Mr Andrews and the Labor party,” he said.
“It’s only when they choose to play games that difficulties arise.”
Mr Ryan said Mr Shaw was aware he faced “dire consequences” if he failed to comply with the government’s motion.