Drawing eccentric rogue Victorian MP Geoff Shaw back into the Party fold will do nothing to change the fate of the Liberals as a one-term Government, says Tess Lawrence.
Tell that to the Ombudsman, Geoff.
Then again, there is that oft-quoted phrase:
“God helps those who help themselves."
And when it came to taxpayers' money, as the Ombudsman Report confirms, Shaw did indeed help himself.
His particular brand of evangelical Christianity appears to exclude homosexuals.
In April of 2011, a 20 year old health sciences student Jakob Quilligan sent an email to his local member Geoff Shaw objecting to the then pending legislation renewing exemptions for religious organisations and their commercial enterprises that enables them to discriminate against people on religious, sexual, marital and gender grounds.
On May 8, The Age's Michael Bachelard wrote a compehensive article about the consequences of that email and Geoff Shaw's offensive and bigoted response to his young constituent.
In his letter, Mr Quilligan told Mr Shaw that churches should not be allowed to "impose their beliefs on others … in non-religious/mainstream or secular settings".
"I'm 20 in a week. I'm able to vote. I want to work, live and love freely during the course of my life, and I want to do that without thinking that I can't," he wrote.
Mr Shaw replied the same day, quoting Mr Quilligan's line back at him and adding: ''What if I loved driving 150kms per hour in residential areas?
"What if there was a convicted sex offender who stated that, or a child molester? Can they still do what they want? Under your statement the answer is yes. What if one wanted to get drunk, take drugs, steal and murder? What if one loved this? Can they also do what they want without thinking that they can't?"
...Mr Quilligan told The Sunday Age that he " went cold" when he saw Mr Shaw's email.
"His response took what I said completely out of context, and I felt a bit dirty being compared to what he mentioned … I kind of didn't expect a response like that from a local member. Regardless of what party you come from it's just astounding," he said.
...Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke described the comparisons in Mr Shaw's email as ''wrong and potentially dangerous''.
She said: "In Victoria, homosexuality is legal, and those other things are not."
Dr Szoke urged Mr Shaw and others with his beliefs to be careful about what they said because same-sex-attracted young people fared worse on almost every indicator of health and well-being than their peers.
The next day, in the official Sydney Mardi Gras Media Partner, the influential Star Observer, Drew Sheldrick published an article revealing that the Baillieu Government claimed that Geoff Shaw's comments had been misinterpreted. Sure.
The Premier’s office released a statement to Star Observer about Shaw’s email this afternoon; a government spokesman saying that impressions that were portrayed in the weekend’s media did not reflect the views of the Coalition Government.
Geoff Shaw has sincerely apologised to Mr Quilligan for the offence he caused. The Government shares the same concerns as Mr Quilligan regarding higher rates of depression, anxiety, self harm and suicide attempts amongst young, same-sex attracted people,” the statement read.
Liberal MP Clem Newton-Brown said he’d spoken with his colleague yesterday afternoon and that Shaw said weekend media reports of the email exchange did not reflect his views.
Shaw has so far refused to answer direct media inquiries regarding the comments.
The month after the above fracas, Geoff Shaw admitted that in 1992, whilst a bouncer at the former 21st Century Nightclub, he had been charged by police with assault.
Writing about this in the Sunday Herald Sun on June 11, Peter Rolfe pointed out that:
The Constitution Act declares a person is not qualified to be elected to the Victorian Parliament if they are convicted of an indictable offence punishable by imprisonment for five years or more.
With the Government holding only a one-seat majority, Premier Ted Baillieu summoned Mr Shaw for a "please explain".
But a spokesman for Mr Baillieu, Paul Price, said Mr Shaw had assured the Government he had escaped conviction.
"Mr Shaw has provided assurances that no conviction was recorded in relation to the 1992 incident," Mr Price said.
"Mr Shaw received a fine and a good behaviour bond."
He was also found guilty of unlawful assault.
Two months after the above assault charge was revealed, Geoff Shaw found himself again involved in a physical altercation with a motorist.
On June 25th last year, the Frankston Standard Leader's Deborah Morris compiled a handy Shaw timeline that only goes up to June 2012:
* November, 2010: Voted into office as Frankston state Liberal MP, his maiden speech acknowledging "the original owner of the land on which we stand pi1137 God, the Creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible".
* April, 2011: Makes headlines when he compares homosexuality to child molestation, but later says he was misquoted.
* April, 2011: Separates from wife Sally (the mother of his four children, aged between 12 and 21). Police called to the family home over a domestic dispute.
* June, 2011: Admits he had been charged with assault in 1992 while working as a nightclub bouncer. He was found guilty, but no conviction recorded.
* August, 2011: Involved in an altercation with a motorist in Playne St, Frankston.
* April, 2012: Erects a banner on Golf Links Rd, pleading for forgiveness from ex-wife Sally.
* May, 2012: Allegations are made over the use of Mr Shaw's parliamentary car and fuel cards for business relating to his Carrum Downs' hardware factory.
* June, 2012: Victorian Ombudsman begins investigation into claims.
* June, 2012: Mr Shaw is accused of breaking three of eight conditions of the Members of Parliament (Register of Interests) Act.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="410"] (Image courtesy Herald Sun)
In an Age article on June 9, 2012, referring to Shaw's marital dispute and the erection of the 'forgiveness' banner to his wife Sally, Ian Munro rightly drew attention to the fact that:
Shaw again made a public stance of his religion when he erected a sign alongside a local roadway, pleading for Sally with whom he has four children, to reunite with him. On the sign which appeared this autumn, Shaw asked for her forgiveness and offered a reference to Psalm 42: ''As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you.''
Indeed, his overt religiosity was influential in his comprehensive preselection victory, according to a source who says the backing of the party's ''religious right'' aided him.
Prominent conservative Liberal MP, Bernie Finn, has said Shaw shared his values on social issues, but that he had not taken a role in the preselection: ''I went down there and campaigned for him after he had been preselected [but] I didn't get involved in the preselection.''
I quote now from Hansard's Questions without Notice for 1 May 2012, where Shaw was yet again involved in a dispute with a marginalised member of our community, this time involving the mother of a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome:
Member for Frankston: conduct
Ms GREEN (Yan Yean) — My question is to the Minister for Community Services. I refer the minister to the appalling treatment of Deborah Walsh, the mother of a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, by the member for Frankston, and I ask: how is it appropriate that a mother seeking affordable accommodation for her 19-year-old disabled son is told, ‘Don’t bug me’; ‘I have given you more than enough of my time’?
Dr Napthine — On a point of order, Speaker, the question contained an imputation. I ask you to rule the question out of order. Imputations can be made only by way of substantive motion, and I ask that the question be reworded by the member to remove the imputation.
Ms Hennessy — On the point of order, Speaker, we suggest that you do not accept the submission of the Minister for Ports submission that there was an imputation. That was in fact a direct quote from the Herald Sun. ‘Don’t bug me’; ‘I have given you more than enough of my time’ was a quote. That is not an imputation.
Mr O’Brien — On the point of order, Speaker, the member for Yan Yean used the term ‘appalling’. If that is not a clear imputation, I do not know what is. The standing orders are quite clear that there is only one way in which an imputation can be made against a member of this place, and that is by way of substantive motion, not by asking a question. I ask you to rule the question out of order.
Mr Merlino — On the point of order, Speaker, there was no imputation. There is a direct quote, ‘I have given you more than enough of my time’, and the article goes on to say, ‘A spokeswoman for Mr Shaw confirmed the conversation took place’. There was no imputation. The behaviour was appalling.
Mr Clark — On the point of order, Speaker, standing order 118 says in relevant part:
Imputations of improper motives and personal reflections on … members of the Assembly or the Council are disorderly other than by substantive motion.
It is in order to ask a factual question on the matter concerned, but it is not in order to include imputations of improper motives or personal reflections in the way the question is put.
The SPEAKER — Order! I uphold the point of order. I ask the member for Yan Yean to — —
Ms Thomson interjected.
SUSPENSION OF MEMBER
Member for Footscray
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Footscray can leave the chamber for half an hour.
Honourable member for Footscray withdrew from chamber.
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Member for Frankston: conduct
The SPEAKER — Order! I ask the member for Yan Yean to quickly look at the question and take the imputations out of it.
Ms GREEN (Yan Yean) — My question is to the Minister for Community Services. I refer the minister to the reported treatment of Deborah Walsh, the mother of a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, by the member for Frankston, and I ask: how is it appropriate that a mother seeking affordable accommodation for her 19-year-old disabled son is told, ‘Don’t bug me’; ‘I have given you more than enough of my time’?
Dr Napthine — On a point of order, Speaker, my understanding is that the way the question has been worded this time is seeking an opinion from the minister, and I ask again that you suggest that the member reword the question according to the standing orders, rather than seeking an opinion.
Ms Hennessy — On the point of order, Speaker, if government members wish to identify the grounds upon which they object to this question, they ought to have done so earlier before you requested that the question be reworded. It clearly does not ask for an opinion. It clearly asks whether or not that is acceptable behaviour.
The SPEAKER — Order! I uphold the point of order. I ask the member to reword the question.
Ms GREEN — My question is to the Minister for Community Services. I refer the minister to the reported treatment of Deborah Walsh, the mother of a young teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, by the member for Frankston, and I ask: is it government policy that a mother seeking affordable accommodation for her 19-year-old disabled son should be told, ‘ Don’t bug me’; ‘I have given you more than enough of my time’?
Ms WOOLDRIDGE (Minister for Community Services) — I am glad that — third time lucky — we have finally got a question that is acceptable to this house.
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms WOOLDRIDGE — I reject the premise of the question. For the member’s benefit I remind her that this is a public housing issue and that as such the community services minister does not have responsibility for housing; that is something that perhaps the honourable member should learn in relation to ministerial responsibilities.
I understand the Minister for Housing is working proactively with the family to try to resolve the housing issues, as the government will continue to do with anyone, including those with a family member with a disability who needs accommodation and support. We are dealing with years of neglect and gaps in relation to disability housing — —
Honourable members interjecting.
The SPEAKER — Order! The member for Monbulk was warned earlier. He will not be warned again.
Ms WOOLDRIDGE — As a result of years of neglect there are significant gaps in our capacity to support people with a disability and provide appropriate housing and supported accommodation. We will continue to work with people with a disability and their families and carers to make sure they get the support they need. We will have an appropriate response to and support for them so they can have good prospects in relation to future housing and accommodation.
From the above, you will see that Premier Napthine has already been blooded in dodging questions directed about Geoff Shaw's conduct.
It is likely that the Member for Frankston will be indecently courted to lure him back into the Parliamentary Liberal Party. Shaw and colleague Bernie Finn are avowed anti abortionists.
Whilst Denis Napthine will not be capitulating to Shaw on this point, he will offer him a fatted parliamentary superannuation scheme.
This is a bribe by any other name and will further alienate an already alienated electorate.
Meanwhile, Shaw's needy ADHT personality and high maintenance feed on demand ego will enjoy his new-found political relevance and power.
Napthine's appointment will do little to prevent the Liberal/National Coalition from its one term doom — if the Government does not collapse before then.
Bringing Shaw back in from the cold will simply compound its fate.
No matter how much the nascent Napthine Government tries to incubate Shaw from 'the outside world', it will ultimately be held responsible for changing the bandages and attempting to rebadge the Frankstonstein Monster.
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