Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Suspending rogue MP will put intense pressure on speaker -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: To the Victorian Parliament where the role of the speaker could become much more stressful in the months ahead if balance-of-power MP, the former Liberal turned independent Geoff Shaw, is suspended from the Parliament.

The Napthine Government is planning to suspend rather than expel the MP for misusing his entitlements. But the Labor Opposition says a suspension is akin to a slap on the wrist.

In Melbourne, Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: The vote to suspend Frankston MP Geoff Shaw from Parliament is expected to be moved later this afternoon. The Premier Denis Napthine says it's a fair and reasonable penalty for Mr Shaw for misusing his parliamentary car and fuel card.

DENIS NAPTHINE: It suspends him from the Parliament for a number of days which is the largest suspension in the Parliament in recent times. This is a significant penalty plus he's held accountable because if he fails to comply to that, then even more extreme action is on the cards.

ALISON CALDWELL: Under the sanction proposed by the Coalition Government, Geoff Shaw would be forced to apologise, suspended from Parliament for 11 sitting days and fined over $7,000.

If he fails to meet those conditions, Geoff Shaw will be found in contempt of Parliament and expelled.

The former Liberal turned independent says it's a tough penalty.

GEOFF SHAW: I haven't looked at the whole thing yet so when I find out, I'll let you know then.

REPORTER: What do you think of it?

GEOFF SHAW: I think it's a little bit harsh actually.

ALISON CALDWELL: The Opposition wants to expel Geoff Shaw now and will seek to amend the Government's motion.

Last week the former speaker, Liberal MP Ken Smith, said he would vote with Labor to expel Mr Shaw but today he says he's keeping his options open.

KEN SMITH: I looked at what the Government put in yesterday which is the first opportunity I've had to see it and I've looked at that and I'm looking to see what the Labor Party is going to put up.

ALISON CALDWELL: If Mr Shaw is suspended, from now until early September the Government and Opposition will have the same number of votes on the floor of the House.

The Opposition is refusing to guarantee support for the Government's legislative program.

Labor leader Daniel Andrews says it will put the current Speaker Christine Fyffe in a difficult position.

DANIEL ANDREWS: But it's clearly the Government's intention to completely trash the independence of the speaker and have her vote with the Government again and again to get their legislative program through. In many respects the circus is going to continue.

ALISON CALDWELL: Former MP and speaker, Dr Ken Coghill, is now the director of the Monash Governance Research Unit. He agrees if Mr Shaw's suspension goes ahead, the Speaker Christine Fyffe will be under a great deal of pressure over the coming weeks.

KEN COGHILL: Well, it puts her in an invidious position. The important legislation, the controversial legislation, is those cases where it would be tied 43-43 and the speaker would have to make a very difficult decision which requires her to uphold the interests and the dignity of the Parliament rather than to be a mere instrument of the Premier and the Government.

So that means that she has a very difficult decision to make in some cases.

ALISON CALDWELL: What are your observations of just what's been going on in the Victorian Parliament this whole session?

KEN COGHILL: Oh look, I think it's been absolutely extraordinary and the Parliament had no choice but to act against Mr Shaw.

ALISON CALDWELL: Do you think we need some changes to the whole system?

KEN COGHILL: Oh yes, look I think there's no doubt about that and in the past few months I've been interviewing people internationally on this very issue.

And the suggestion or the proposal in the Privileges Committee report that there be an independent officer of the Parliament called a commissioner for parliamentary standards is a very important recommendations which should be pursued urgently.

ALISON CALDWELL: If Mr Shaw is suspended and he complies with all of the sanctions, he can return to Parliament in early September for the remaining eight sitting days of 2014.

The next state election is due to be held on November the 29th.

Geoff Shaw has indicated he will contest the next election as an independent.

ELEANOR HALL: Alison Caldwell reporting from Melbourne.