THE balance of power in state parliament might be different today if Ted Baillieu had resigned as premier nine hours earlier on Wednesday 6 March.
Frankston MP Geoff Shaw says he would not have quit the Parliamentary Liberal Party to become an independent if Mr Baillieu had been first out the door.
Mr Shaw, under investigation by police and the parliament’s privileges committee over the alleged misuse of his taxpayer-funded vehicle and fuel card, handed his letter of resignation to the Deputy Premier Louise Asher nine hours before Mr Baillieu announced he would step down as Premier.
“I was surprised, yes,” Mr Shaw told The Times. “I wouldn’t have resigned if Baillieu had gone first.”
He has not spoken with Mr Baillieu since: “That’s not unusual; Ted was not a good communicator with [MPs on] the backbench.”
As with many things political, there are fine degrees of separation. On paper the government holds power with the thinnest of majorities, but Mr Shaw remains a member of the Liberal Party and has made it clear he will not bring down the government by supporting the Labor Opposition.
He speaks highly of the new Premier, Denis Napthine, “he will be a terrific leader; he communicates with people, including backbenchers”.
Does this mean he will apply to rejoin the parliamentary party and resume his seat alongside his former Liberal colleagues?
“I’ve made my decision for now. We’ll see what happens as time goes on.”
Mr Shaw says he is “doing nothing” about establishing an election committee. “I’ll get stuff done for Frankston, that’s my major focus.”
As far as he knows, the Liberal Party is not looking for a future Frankston candidate.
“But, yes, I will be standing for the next election. I have enough support in Frankston.”
Mr Shaw said the Liberal Party branches control money raised by the Frankston electorate’s fundraising organisation, the 1500 Club.
“I can’t use it as an independent; it’s all Liberal Party money.”
On the day he resigned Mr Shaw was whisked away from Parliament House by Hastings MP Neale Burgess. While the media was trying to find Mr Shaw, he was dining with two MPs, although he declines to provide their names.
He says Mr Burgess was not one of them because “he had to go back to the party room”.
Earlier in the day journalists had been looking for him in Frankston “when I was in Parliament all the time”.
The sole explanation Mr Shaw gives for his resignation is dissatisfaction with Mr Baillieu’s leadership.
“It was my idea that if the ship was not turned we would be a one-term government and it would be best for Frankston for me to be an independent.
“People may have taken what I did and expanded on that, but that [Mr Baillieu’s departure] was not necessarily my goal.”
Mr Shaw said polls showed Victorians had “lost faith” in the government’s leadership.
Despite all the media coverage of investigations into the use of Mr Shaw’s parliamentary vehicle, a Ford Territory, he claims to have no direct or official knowledge of any investigations.
“No one has spoken to me,” he said.
Geoff Shaw seemed surprised when told that David Morris, a Liberal MP in the neighbouring electorate of Mornington, was a member of the privileges committee investigating the allegations against Mr Shaw. Mr Napthine was the committee’s chairman until being made Premier.
And so it is with the police investigation, Mr Shaw denying any knowledge of it.
“It is ridiculous to be running these inquiries without speaking to me. Fancy not being notified except through the media?
“I’ve yet to be talked to by any inquiries. No one has approached or communicated in any way. I don’t know who is on any committee.
“Why should I worry about stuff like that? I decide my own future.”
When asked about being described as a rebel or renegade MP, Mr Shaw adds “rascal” and “maverick” to the list.
“Unpredictable was another word journalists pulled from their butt,” he said.
“Journalists are looking for new words. They’re trying to get a byline. I can’t control what the media writes.
“I try not to worry about things I can’t control.”
Mr Shaw frequently returns to the subject of how the media has covered his relatively short parliamentary career.
He says his decision to put a sign on the roadside asking his former wife for forgiveness was “a private matter” and should not have been reported.
He takes exception to media incorrectly claiming he held a black belt in karate. He is a higher-ranked third dan black belt.
Reference to Mr Shaw’s prowess in the martial arts most frequently accompanies reports about an assault charge when he was employed as a nightclub bouncer in the 1990s as well as his intervention, while an MP, in an altercation between police and a motorist in central Frankston.
Mr Shaw says there is still time for him to “look at libels”.
His detractors are described as “weedy journalists, bully boys talking tough behind their computers” who, if at school, “would have been dismissed long ago for bullying”.
Mr Shaw associates the media’s “picking” on Frankston with coverage given to him: “They still want to pick on Frankston, so they’re picking on me.”
Since moving to the cross-benches as an independent, Mr Shaw has been dubbed a powerbroker because his vote is vital to the government’s survival.
It has also been stated he is pushing for a better superannuation deal for MPs and reform of abortion laws.
He said all MPs had been asked for their views on super by “an independent committee; it’s been going on for months, since last October”.
“I don’t know enough about the super scheme to comment,” Mr Shaw, an accountant, said.
“I haven’t pushed for changes to abortion. Would you like to see babies being killed up to the time of birth?
“The legislation says that can happen. I don’t want to see babies being killed up to birth; leave it at that.”
Asked if, in retrospect, he would have done things differently Mr Shaw says “it’s all too hypothetical to write my memoirs right now”.