HEARD the one about the MP who crossed the Premier then appeared at “a comedy show”? It was no laughing matter for Premier Denis Napthine who – ironically – called Geoff Shaw’s apology to Victorians and its parliament offered at the show “a joke” after the Frankston MP took to the stage in Melbourne last weekend.
Mr Shaw was suspended from parliament for 11 days for “misusing” parliamentary entitlements and one of his first engagements after his suspension was an appearance at The Wheeler Centre for a ‘question and answer’ session with comedian Sammy J on Friday 13 June.
Sanctions against the independent MP include the need to apologise to parliament and “the people of Victoria” by 2 September or face expulsion.
During the Q&A session Mr Shaw said sorry to parliament and Victoria – despite his claim he had “been screwed by parliament” – but the apology drew laughs from the audience with Sammy J querying its sincerity.
The audience was treated to the sight of Mr Shaw playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at the conclusion of the evening.
The maverick independent MP’s decision to speak to Sammy J – himself a former “local” Mt Eliza resident and Peninsula School alumni – was portrayed in some quarters as an affront to the seriousness of Mr Shaw’s suspension, the heftiest punishment doled out to a sitting MP “in 100 years”, according to the premier.
The Times contacted The Wheeler Centre and head of programming Simon Abrahams was happy to set the record straight.
Mr Abrahams said Mr Shaw’s guest spot as part of the ‘Sammy J’s Democratic Party’ series of events was booked in mid-April by organisers.
The fact Mr Shaw was due to appear in the very week he was suspended from parliament was merely a coincidence.
“This is a new series for us and Sammy J. We have invited representatives from across the political spectrum. Given that Sammy J’s Democratic Party is all about getting to know the person behind the politics, we thought Geoff Shaw made for a very interesting candidate.”
As for the perception Mr Shaw’s appearance was “a comedy show”, Mr Abrahams said the event was the first in a series and former federal Labor minister Lindsay Tanner was slated to appear next month.
“Sammy J’s series at The Wheeler Centre isn’t comedy, it’s a series of conversations led by a comedian. There’ll be plenty of laughs, but our aim is to get to know the person behind the political front,” Mr Abrahams said.
See www.wheelercentre.com/events for details of future events including further political guests on Sammy J’s Democratic Party series at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne.
WHAT SHAW SAID…
GEOFF Shaw’s appearance at The Wheeler Centre saw the MP questioned by Sammy J about several topics over an interview lasting about 45 minutes, bagpiping excluded.
The independent MP seemed relaxed and jovial despite having been suspended from state parliament that very week.
Mr Shaw denied misusing his parliamentary car for personal reasons but did admit “sometimes you do go up to the boundaries”. He said he had done “nothing wilful or criminal”.
He said he bore no ill will towards ex-premier Ted Baillieu but said “Ted was quite a distant sort of fellow” who did not often talk to backbenchers.
Sammy J was critical that Mr Shaw had not mentioned his anti-abortion views in his maiden parliamentary speech or in his pre-election campaign in 2010.
Mr Shaw said he had not yet decided if he would contest this year’s state election and would think about it closer to the poll date.
“I’m not going to go into a known loss…there’s life after politics – it’s not the highest priority of mine,” he said.
He wanted to be remembered as: “The guy who did his best for Frankston.”