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Victorian Politics

Mar 6, 2013

Exit Ted Baillieu

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.

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.

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272 comments

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Rossmore
Guest

That mendacious word again. Don’t ya love Combet.

J-D
Guest
I am not asserting that the attitude or potential attitude of the Governor (or Governor-General or monarch) could never be a relevant factor, and in the interests of greater clarity I specifically disavow that view. I did make the narrower assertion that in present circumstances it is not possible for a government to be led by a Premier (or Prime Minister) from the upper house and that the potential attitude of the Governor is not a relevant factor in that. Pointing to other cases in different circumstances where the Governor’s attitude has been a relevant factor does not justify an… Read more »
Graeme
Guest
I take it J-D was exercised to claim the Governor’s attitude was irrelevant in ‘this particular case’. Perhaps because s/he sees any conventions as purely political, but clear in this particular case (no MLC as ongoing Premier). But yes, it sounds like we’re in disagreement – or in my case bemusement – over the epistemic source of this. J-D said the only ‘LEGAL’ advice here could be a reading of the black letter Constitution. I and others say in questions of govt formation the conventions are a source of guiding norms for the decision maker. To not call that ‘legal’… Read more »
Martin B
Guest
I think everyone agrees that political parties are not in any forseeable future going to attempt this, and so the primary barrier is political. If they did, however, I think you are wrong about this: the Governor’s potential attitude is not one of the relevant factors in this particular case Commissioning a premier is an exercise of the reserve powers. You seem to be arguing that the governor is effectively a rubber stamp here, and has no discretion in the matter. This is emphatically not the case, and has been demonstrated by precedent. The article Graeme has referenced provides a… Read more »
J-D
Guest

Graeme, you say we’re in agreement, but you also say that I am ‘drawing a black line between “law” and “conventions”‘, when I have written nothing about ‘conventions’.

If we really are in agreement otherwise, that has to mean that you’re agreeing with my assertion that the Governor’s potential attitude is not one of the relevant factors in this particular case, which on the face of it contradicts what you posted originally.

Graeme
Guest

J-D. We are in furious agreement, except that you are drawing a black line between ‘law’ and ‘conventions’ that really belongs to the distinction between enforceable constitutional law and mere practice.

Precisely because reserve powers aren’t challengeable in court, conventions (accreted, rationalised/normative precedent) are the governing rules. That’s law.

As to an outgoing leader’s advice being not binding and hence the Governor needing to exercise his own mind see Prof Anne Twomey at 339-342 of this recent article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2009686

Graeme
Guest

J-D. We are in furious agreement, except that you are drawing a black line between ‘law’ and ‘conventions’ that really belongs to the distinction between enforceable constitutional law and mere practice.

Precisely because reserve powers aren’t challengeable in court, conventions (accreted, rationalised/normative precedent) are the governing rules. That’s law.

As to an outgoing leader’s advice being not binding and hence the Governor needing to exercise his own mind see Prof Anne Twomey at 339-342 of this recent article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2009686

Graeme
Guest

J-D. We are in furious agreement, except that you are drawing a black line between ‘law’ and ‘conventions’ that really belongs to the distinction between enforceable constitutional law and mere practice.

Precisely because reserve powers aren’t challengeable in court, conventions (accreted, rationalised/normative precedent) are the governing rules. That’s law.

As to an outgoing leader’s advice being not binding and hence the Governor needing to exercise his own mind see Prof Anne Twomey at 339-342 of this recent article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2009686

J-D
Guest
The correct answer to the question ‘what would happen if the Governor were advised to allow the government to be led by a Premier from the upper house?’ is the same as the correct answer to the question ‘what would happen if the Governor were advised to appoint his horse as consul?’. In both cases, the correct answer is ‘the Governor wouldn’t be advised to do that’. Since the correct answer is that the advice wouldn’t be given, the answer that the Governor would refuse to take the advice must be incorrect. There is (in the current state of the… Read more »
Tom the first and best
Guest
Tom the first and best

262

I am sure any change to the super would cover MLC`s too.

deblonay
Guest
The Tea Party comes top Spring Street Casey Council come to Town __________________________________ Small”l” liberals in Melb face t The Rogue MP for Frankston Shaw is a pentecostal christian and like some US christian nuttters he is against abortion/homosexuality/evolution ..in his posts to his local voters It’s said he wants the new premier to “tighten up” on Abortions.. and .one looks forward to his attack on our Gay friends…what a political battle that will be for the Libs One of the maddest is Bernie Finn MLC the hardest of hard line anti-abortionists…… He is not alone in the party and… Read more »
zoomster
Guest

Work to Rule

you betcha, baby. I created the #naptime hashtag on twitter!

Work To Rule
Guest

Has the moniker Dennis “Nap-Time” being coined yet?

Graeme
Guest
J-D. I apologise for being elliptical. By ‘in no position to advise’ I meant advise in the sense of definitively/binding advice, ie assert ‘my position is Premier, you do what I say’. From now on I won’t risk bloviating on legal questions on the run on an iphone… Sure, if Rudd goes to the GG and says ‘Gillard is now parliamentary leader, you should commission her’, no GG will think twice about that advice. But if the advice is constitutionally suspect (including for conventional reasons) the GG/Governor is not simply a rubber stamp. If not, an outgoing leader can just… Read more »
Bugler
Guest

Zoomster,

Self-absorbtion and the belief he could walk on water. He and Shaw could well be brothers from another mother.

zoomster
Guest

Tony Nutt resigns.

Seriously, now? Why not two days ago, and save the embarrassment of losing a Premier?

Bugler
Guest
Another good article, for those interested in the internal machinations that lay behind it. http://www.theage.com.au/comment/a-party-long-divided-over-leadership-20130307-2fnu1.html [All of this begs the question about what is going on in the Victorian Liberal Party. The Liberals reject any claim that their operational culture includes factionalism, but events clearly indicate that the party is divided at least on the fundamental question of its parliamentary leader. If division exists over the question of leadership, other considerations will also come in to play. Baillieu and Napthine are clearly identifiable as part of a group within the Liberal Party who have been around for a long time… Read more »
Bugler
Guest
[At 1pm, Mr Baillieu went to a joint Coalition party room meeting. He updated MPs about Geoff Shaw and gave a rousing speech, a call for unity. ”It was one of the best speeches I ever heard him make,” said one senior minister. But as he looked around the room, Mr Baillieu would be able to have seen his plea was falling flat. It wasn’t so much what the MPs said, it was their body language. For a self-conscious premier with a love of performing arts, it was probably clear to Mr Baillieu that he had lost his audience. ”That… Read more »
Rossmore
Guest

Mitchell on 3AW this morning was apoplectic about Shaw’s MP super demands. I hope the ALP are smart enough not to go along with any changes to Victorian MPs super arrangements.

Socrates
Guest

While I can understand the Libs wanting Shaws vote in the short term, surely he is now electoral poison and will be gone in the next election? Any leader making a deal with him will be severely compromised.

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