As one drama ended for the Victorian government with the resignation of embattled Speaker Ken Smith, another quickly unfolded on the floor of parliament that highlighted the perilous situation in which the coalition finds itself.
Balance-of-power MP and former Liberal Geoff Shaw sided with the opposition on Tuesday to stall the government’s business agenda for the week and remind Premier Denis Napthine nine months out from the election how tenuously he grips onto power.
The controversial independent and former nightclub bouncer is blamed by many for the demise of former premier Ted Baillieu and for Mr Smith’s resignation.
Mr Smith, who thinks the maverick member for Frankston is not fit to be in parliament, believes he might not be Mr Shaw’s last victim.
“Who’s he going to turn his sights on next? Who is he going to dislike next,” he asked on Fairfax Radio on Tuesday.
“He will just go after them and nobody should have that sort of power in the parliament.”
Fortunately for Dr Napthine, Mr Shaw declared on Wednesday he is a “reasonable premier”, but he has promised he will treat all future bills on a case by case basis.
“There’s 88 other people in parliament and we’ve all got a chance to call the shots,” he told the ABC.
“I’d like to think that I call some of the shots for Frankston and other people might think that they call the shots for their different electorates.”
University of Melbourne public policy fellow and former Labor adviser Nicholas Reece said the drama will make it difficult for the coalition in an election year.
“Chaos in parliament always hurts the government more than it does the opposition, because the public rightly expect the government to be able to control proceedings in the parliament and advance its legislative agenda,” he told AAP.
“With the government relying on Geoff Shaw’s vote to control the parliament, it finds itself left in an invidious position.
“This is a diabolical situation for the government in an election year and government MPs will be doing everything they can to reach an accommodation with Geoff Shaw that will make for a workable parliament because the other alternatives are politically unpalatable.”
One person who wouldn’t mind the alternatives is Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews.
“I don’t fear an early election,” he declared to reporters on Wednesday.
“This is a circus and it’s being run by Denis Napthine and Victoria’s going backwards.”
Dr Napthine insists he is in charge and won’t be beholden to Mr Shaw about any matters.
“We are the government, I am the premier, and my cabinet and my team and I are calling the shots,” he told parliament.
That statement will be tested over the next nine months as Dr Napthine attempts to get his legislation through, while relying on the support of the unpredictable member for Frankston.