DENIS Napthine has declared his government will not be held to ransom by rogue MP Geoff Shaw, staring down the independent’s threat to force an early election by supporting a no-confidence motion.
In extraordinary scenes tonight, Dr Napthine revealed the former Liberal MP who now sits as an independent had today made “ludicrous” demands to keep the government afloat, including the demand for an unnamed person to receive a judicial appointment.
“Mr Shaw put what were unreasonable demands on me as premier, on the government and on the people of Victoria”
“I will not be held to ransom by those demands
“I will not accede to unreasonable demands.”
Dr Napthine said Mr Shaw had demanded the premier provide an absolute assurance that Parliament would not seek to sanction him further following a privileges committee report which last week concluded he had breached the MP code of conduct by misusing his parliamentary vehicle.
Dr Napthine said Mr Shaw also repeated a previous demand for a particular judicial appointment, to which the premier replied “no way”.
“That is ridiculous,” Dr Napthine said.
There has been speculation tonight about whether the government could bring the election forward from November, but that appears difficult.
Under the state constitution, the parliament can only be dissolved for an election under certain conditions.
A no-confidence motion needs three days notice before it can be moved in the lower house, and the government is then given time to fight back with a confidence motion.
Dr Napthine said he believed the constitution had been written in haste under the previous Labor administration and he would have been tempted to call an election earlier if it was possible.
“The premier cannot call an election at his or her whim,” he said.
Dr Napthine said it was now up to Labor leader Daniel Andrews to determine whether he would team up with Mr Shaw to bring on a no-confidence motion.
“The ball is now in the court of Daniel Andrews, what deal is he going to do with Mr Shaw?”
Dr Napthine said he had spoken with governor Alex Chernov this evening and assured him the government could stand.
He said Mr Andrews’ meeting today with the governor had been arranged two weeks ago.
Labor is yet to publicly declare whether it will move a motion of no confidence, but The Australian understands that a notice of motion could be moved as early as next week.
It would then have to be debated and voted on in the next “couple of days’’.
Labor leader Daniel Andrews met late today with the Victorian Governor Alex Chernov to discuss the constitutional crisis.
It is understood that Victoria’s unstable parliament was discussed in that meeting.
Today’s pledge by Mr Shaw, the Liberal-turned-independent who holds the balance of power in the Legislative Assembly, brings into serious question the ability of the government to survive.
Mr Shaw said he was furious with the government for failing to protect his position in the parliament.
It is unclear whether the government could stall any vote.
One senior source said Labor would have to seek leave to have the motion moved and the government would attempt to thwart this.
A senior Labor source said the bombshell announcement was still being considered.
Mr Shaw made the comments in an ABC Radio interview.
On the current numbers, the motion would be successful because the Liberal Speaker would not be able to vote.
This is because the numbers on the floor would be 44 Labor and Mr Shaw to 43 votes for the Coalition.
It would trigger a complicated procedure in which another vote would need to be taken.
But former Speaker Ken Smith told The Australian that it was unclear whether Labor and Mr Shaw could bring on a notice of no confidence.
He said that under 2002 era reforms the government business program took precedence.
However, he was not sure whether a no-confidence motion would take priority.
“I’m not sure whether that would have priority over government business,’’ he said.
He would plough ahead with his plan to back Labor in its bid to have Mr Shaw found in contempt for his rorting of car and petrol allowances.
A parliamentary privileges committee report, dominated by coalition MPs, last week found Mr Shaw had breached the MP code of conduct by misusing his parliamentary vehicle and said he should repay more than $ 6000.
It recommended no further punishment for the Frankston MP, angering Labor MPs and Mr Smith.
Additional reporting: AAP