In the culmination of a fast-moving crisis that appeared on the radar less than 48 hours ago, Ted Baillieu has stepped down as Victorian Premier. More on that to follow, but for the time being here’s a thread to discuss it.
UPDATE (30 SECONDS LATER): Denis Napthine?!
UPDATE 2: Lacking any substantial understanding of my own concerning Victorian Liberal factional politics, I await further explanation as to why Denis Napthine in particular was left holding the parcel when the music stopped. As Lefty E relates in comments, Barrie Cassidy has apparently told Lateline that Baillieu threatened he wouldn’t go quietly if it was anyone but Napthine. Leadership talk had been primarily focused on Planning Minister Matthew Guy, but this was presumably predicated on some scheme to move him to the lower house, which events have moved far too quickly to accommodate (on which note, PB’s resident legal authority Graeme Orr argues in comments that while it’s purely a convention that leaders come from the lower house, it’s sufficiently entrenched a convention that a Governor faced with swearing in a leader from the upper house would likely be advised not to proceed).
Also yet to be explained are the substantial reasons why Baillieu felt resignation the best course of action available to him, and what exactly Geoff Shaw had to with it. For the time being, we are left to suspect that it may have involved Shaw flexing the muscle he has fortuitously acquired as a result of the delicate parliamentary balance. John Ferguson of The Australian offers the following exhaustive list of Shaw’s accomplishments in public life:
Police late last year launched a criminal investigation into Mr Shaw after he was allegedly found to have rorted his taxpayer entitlements over the use of his parliamentary car. In other controversies, Mr Shaw made lewd gestures at the opposition during a question time; likened legalising homosexuality to legalising child molestation, speed driving and murder; was involved in a roadside punch-up with a young motorist in 2011; was fined and put on a good behaviour bond after being charged over a 1992 assault at a Frankston nightclub; and allegedly called Labor MP James Merlino a “midget” in question time.
Having been supported through all this by the leadership of the government, Shaw announced today he could no longer support the leadership of the government, taking it upon himself to diagnose a general loss of confidence Victorians are feeling.
The situation raises thorny questions about the circumstances in which one should advocate an early election. Although I criticised Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott for overlooking the wishes of their constituents when they cut their deal with the Prime Minister, I have been of the view that their transparent arrangement provided a workable basis for the government to go about its business and answer to its constituents in due course. It seems quite a different matter for a government to be at the fickle mercy of a single opportunist with all manner of question marks surrounding his probity.
That’s not to say an election is realistically in prospect, at least for now. Presumably Shaw will need to stand by the government if he wants to see out his term, and a government that badly needs to right its ship will be entirely content to tolerate the arrangement.