VICTORIAN voters endured the first day of a week-long public relations campaign between the Premier and Opposition Leader as the state government’s future hanged in the balance.
Maverick Frankston MP Geoff Shaw’s surprise decision to pull support for the Napthine government on Tuesday evening has left both Labor and the Coalition unable to form government on the floor of the State Parliament.
The state’s lower house will not meet until next Tuesday where it is expected either a Coalition or Labor MP will move to have Mr Shaw expelled from parliament, potentially causing a byelection in the Frankston electorate.
However, it may be determined that a byelection will not be held given it would fall too close to the November 29 general election, unnecessarily forcing Frankston voters to head to the ballot box twice in a matter of months.
Premier Denis Napthine, who is also South West Coast MP, remained resolute yesterday following a dramatic televised press conference denouncing Mr Shaw after the Frankston MP’s surprise defection.
Dr Napthine attended previously scheduled visits in the Bendigo region yesterday morning. State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews volunteered to have a bipartisan meeting with Governor Alex Chernov yesterday morning, although the offer wasn’t taken up.
“Under the long-standing traditions of the Westminster system it is totally inappropriate for political leaders to seek to involve the Governor in political disputes,” the Premier said in a statement.
“As such, I do not intend to provide any credence to Mr Andrews’ attempt to draw the Governor into his campaign of disruption.”
His stand won praise from former Liberal premier Jeff Kennett, who urged his former cabinet colleague to “not give in to thuggery and selfishness of Andrews and Labor”.
However, former Labor premier John Cain said Dr Napthine needed to resign and was refusing to observe parliamentary convention.
“It doesn’t matter what he says or does, he knows that he does not have the majority support in his party, he doesn’t have the majority support on the floor of the house,” Mr Cain told ABC radio yesterday.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott lauded Dr Napthine’s performance yesterday, saying the state government was “strong and competent.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the state government was afraid of a Frankston byelection because it would be viewed nationally as a referendum on the Abbott government’s “toxic federal budget”.