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Nice guys of Victorian politics finish last

  • 13 March 2013

Geoff Shaw is currently the most powerful man in Victorian politics. When he triggered Victoria's political crisis last week by resigning from the Liberal party because he 'no longer had confidence in Ted Baillieu', the Coalition Government lost its majority — if Labor wins its Lyndhurst by-election next month, each will have 43 seats. Shaw will hold the balance of power.

And who is this man? A maverick who gave his Premier two days to 'explain himself', after Baillieu referred his chief of staff's apparent role in a plot to oust the then police commissioner for investigation by Victoria's peculiarly stunted, brand-new, already compromised and quasi-anti-corruption body, the IBAC.

Shaw himself is under investigation for misuse of his parliamentary Ford Territory for deliveries from Albury to South Australia for his private business. The first inquiry by the Ombudsman found that he had done so, and recommended a parliamentary inquiry. There is now both an OPI investigation and a Parliamentary Privileges Committee investigating the matter.

Shaw is one of those big men in a small town who flourish at community cocktail events with a 'what you see is what you get' manner; a man who joined the Liberal Party only in 2009 and, after 22 years as a local accountant, charmed his way into pre-selection for Frankston (a working-class, low-cost housing former coastal resort to the South-East of the CBD) and whose win helped the Baillieu Government, unreadily, into power.

He is the new MP who deliberately tipped a bucket over the expectation that he would give the now-traditional 'welcome to country', prefacing his maiden speech by 'acknowledging the original owner of the land on which we stand', as 'the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible'.

He is also a man who put up a billboard on the main road begging his estranged wife to forgive him (for what?) in the terms of Psalm 42 ('As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you'); who publicly equated homosexuals with dangerous drivers and other 'murderers': and who, when invited into the Premier's sanctum for a quiet talk about his propensity for causing instability, apparently lectured his leader about the morality of his voting in