OPINION – ROY REEKIE
[dropcap style=”color: #A02F2F;”] A [/dropcap]s someone with a keen interest in politics and a local political profile, I’ve recently been asked my thoughts on Geoff Shaw, State Member for Frankston and parliamentary recalcitrant.
Ex-Liberal Shaw holds the balance of power in State Parliament and seems to hold something of Premier Denis Napthine’s political destiny in his hands. Personally, I think that we – the people of the South West – should decide Dr Napthine’s political destiny.
What are my thoughts on Shaw? Precious little as it happens. My thoughts are focused on more substantial, positive and progressive things, about our region, community and its future, rather than the fate of a parliamentary representative of an outer suburban seat.
However, I do have some thoughts about the process that seems to be unfolding around him.
This Tuesday (10/6), Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews and his Labor parliamentary colleagues are likely to present a motion that might result in Shaw being expelled from Parliament. The pressure will then be on Denis Napthine and his coalition colleagues to either support that rather moral motion or oppose it and save Shaw’s bacon.
Liberal member and ex-Speaker of the Assembly, Ken Smith, may cross the floor to vote with the Labor Opposition. In this case, the motion would succeed and Shaw would be tossed out, perhaps heading immediately to the Supreme Court to lodge a writ challenging his expulsion.
Crikey recently published an excellent analysis and critique of the situation. I tend to agree with Crikey’s William Bowe’s view that Parliament voting to expel a member, even one as scurrilous as Shaw, creates a dangerous precedent on a slippery downhill slope towards a potential political cesspool.
[dropcap style=”color: #A02F2F;”] T [/dropcap]he Geoff Shaw situation mirrors that in Federal Parliament recently when the Coalition Government attempted to use its parliamentary majority (and an accommodating Speaker) to have comments made by an Opposition member excised from Hansard and replaced with words that the Government saw as more acceptable.
Here was a Government that espouses free speech as an inalienable right seeking to exploit its numerical advantage on the floor of parliament to put words into an Opposition member’s mouth in place of her real views.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, the State Government may join with the Opposition to form a super-majority to expel a member, someone from their side of politics no less. This is a government that decided to drop criminal charges against that member, most probably for political expediency and survival. So, Shaw’s future will now be decided by a parliamentary vote. Criminal charges remain a genuine alternative to this intensely political process.
This is my point: it is dangerous – and morally murky – to use a parliamentary political process to solve what is arguably a criminal issue and inarguably a moral question that society, rather than Parliament, should judge.
If anyone of us committed a serious fraud against our employer, we’d most likely face two consequences – criminal charges and dismissal by our employer.
[dropcap style=”color: #a02f2f;”] S [/dropcap]haw’s employer is not the Parliament, but the people; in this case, the people of Frankston.
One genuine option now might be for Daniel Andrews’ motion to be re-framed so that Geoff Shaw’s fraudulent actions are the subject of criminal charges, rather than seeking to expel Shaw from Parliament.
Let the courts decide on his criminality.
Let the people of Frankston judge him in November.
Focus our politics on the most meaningful issues that impact on our communities – jobs and training for our young people, health services for our ill and aged, emergency services to keep us all safe – rather than on the criminality and morality of individuals. Lift our political discourse to the intellectual and moral heights that the issues our society faces deserve.
Let’s realign our political compass.
While Spring Street sorts itself out, I’m going to continue to try to realign the politics of the South West. Frankston electors can sort out their own member.
[box] Warrnambool lawyer Roy Reekie is a member of the ALP and stood for the now-defunct seat of Warrnambool in 1999. He then contested the new seat of South West Coast against Denis Napthine in 2002, coming within a few hundred votes of victory. Reekie last ran against Dr Napthine in 2006.[/box]
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