Victorian Speaker Ken Smith Resigns; Christine Fyffe Takes Over

The Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, Ken Smith, has resigned and Liberal MP Christine Fyffe has been elected unopposed as the new Speaker.

Smith

Smith’s resignation came in a belligerent speech at the beginning of the new parliamentary year at 2pm today. Smith attacked Frankston MP Geoff Shaw, accusing him of “outrageous demands” and describing him as “unworthy” of being a member of parliament.

Smith also accused the ALP of collaborating with Shaw. He said Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews had displayed poor leadership, unacceptable and unparliamentary behaviour, and “typical union tactics”. [Read more...]


GMH To Close Australian Manufacturing Operations In 2017: Official

General Motors has announced that it will discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing in Australia by the end of 2017, bringing to an end 60 years of making the iconic Holden car.

HoldenThe official announcement from General Motors says it will “transition to a national sales company in Australia and New Zealand”.

The decision will affect approximately 2,900 positions over the next four years, 1,600 in South Australia and 1,300 in Victoria.

The announcement cited the value of the Australian dollar as a chief reason for the decision. “The appreciation of the currency alone means that at the Australian dollar’s peak, making things in Australia was 65 percent more expensive compared to just a decade earlier.”

News of the General Motors decision was announced by the Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, during Question Time. In Federal Parliament, the Opposition moved a motion criticising the government over the loss of jobs.

Treasurer Joe Hockey accused the Opposition of confected outrage and hypocrisy over Holden’s decision. He said global car manufacturers were moving operations to locations where production costs are cheaper. He pointed out that former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who as Treasurer floated the dollar in 1983, is to address the Labor Caucus tomorrow.

In Parliament yesterday, Hockey made a spirited demand that Holden announce its intentions. His remarks received front page treatment today, as shown below.

Text of a statement from General Motors.

GM to Transition to a National Sales Company in Australia and New Zealand

Company to cease manufacturing in Australia by 2017

GMDETROIT – As part of its ongoing actions to decisively address the performance of its global operations, General Motors today announced it would transition to a national sales company in Australia and New Zealand. The company also said it would discontinue vehicle and engine manufacturing and significantly reduce its engineering operations in Australia by the end of 2017. [Read more...]


Napthine Says He Won’t Introduce Or Support Legislation To Restrict Abortions

The Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, has released a video statement in which he says he will not introduce or support abortion legislation to restrict a woman’s right to choose.

The statement comes after today’s decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions to drop all criminal charges against Frankston MLA Geoff Shaw over alleged rorting of his travel entitlements.

The DPP’s decision ensures that the government will not face a risky by-election which would have ensued if Shaw had been convicted. The government has a one-seat majority in the Legislative Assembly and relies on Shaw’s vote. Elected as a Liberal, Shaw now sits as an independent after he resigned from the parliamentary party earlier this year and precipitated the resignation of former premier Ted Baillieu.

Shaw is engaged in a battle with the Assembly Speaker, Ken Smith, who last week protected the government’s position by expelling two Labor members and thereby guaranteeing the government’s survival until the new year. Smith’s survival as Speaker beyond January will be keenly watched in 2014.

There has been speculation that Shaw wants legislation to undo or restrict the decriminalisation of abortion that was passed on a conscience vote five years ago. At the time, Napthine opposed the legislation whilst Baillieu supported it.

With next year’s election now less than a year away, Napthine appears keen to take the abortion issue off the political agenda.

  • Watch Napthine’s video statement (1m)

Julie Bishop Sacks Steve Bracks As Consul General In New York

One of the new government’s first decisions is to sack Steve Bracks, Australia’s Consul General in New York.

Bracks, Labor Premier of Victoria between 1999 and 2007, was appointed to the post in May by the Gillard government. He took up the position on August 5, the day after the election was announced. He confirmed today that the incoming Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop had informed him she would be revoking his position. [Read more...]


BAILLIEU RESIGNS – DENIS NAPTHINE NEW VICTORIAN PREMIER

The former Victorian Liberal leader, Denis Napthine, has been re-elected tonight and will become Premier following the resignation of Ted Baillieu.

Liberal MPs were given ten minutes notice of a party-room meeting to be held at 7pm tonight. Baillieu offered his resignation to the partyroom and Denis Napthine was elected in his place.

Napthine

Baillieu spoke to the media just before 8pm. He offered no reason for his resignation other than the need for new leadership. He said he would remain in parliament.

Baillieu

Napthine’s media conference ended abruptly with the ringing of the division bells in the Legislative Assembly. He spoke emotionally of his regard for Baillieu but seemed otherwise unprepared for his elevation to the premiership.

Napthine

The political drama follows several days of upheaval over the publication of tape recorded conversations involving Baillieu’s Chief of Staff, Tony Nutt, a former Liberal candidate, Tristan Weston, and the Liberal Party State Director, Damien Mantach.

Earlier today, the Liberal member for Frankston, Geoff Shaw, resigned from the Liberal Party to sit as an independent. He cited lack of confidence in the government’s leadership as his reason. His resignation reduced the government’s two-seat majority to one. Some reports suggest Shaw may have delivered an ultimatum to the Liberal Party.

Napthine was leader of the Liberal Party following its surprise defeat in the 1999 election. He was replaced by Robert Doyle just months before the 2002 election. Doyle was replaced by Ted Baillieu in 2006. Baillieu led the Liberals to defeat in the 2006 election before narrowly winning the 2010 election.

Ted Baillieu saw the Governor, Alex Chernov, at approximately 9.50pm tonight and tendered his resignation. Denis Napthine was sworn in at 10.20pm. He is Victoria’s 47th Premier since 1855.

Baillieu has held a press conference confirming his resignation.

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  • Listen to Napthine’s press conference

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  • Listen to Napthine sworn in and first remarks as Premier (1m)

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Statement from Geoff Shaw, Liberal MP for Frankston.

Released from his electorate office at 6.23pm.

This morning I advised the Premier of Victoria of my resignation from the Parliamentary Liberal Party, effective immediately. [Read more...]


Seven Former Politicians Awarded Australia Day Honours: Downer, Uren Receive AC

Tom Uren, Alexander Downer and five other former politicians have received awards in the Australia Day Honours list announced today.

UrenUren and Downer both become Companions (AC) in the General Division. It is the highest honour that can be awarded. Two other men, The Reverend Professor James Mitchell Haire AM and Professor Brian Paul Schmidt also received an AC.

Alexander Downer was Foreign Minister in the Howard government between 1996 and 2007. He was the Liberal member for Mayo in South Australia, serving in 9 parliaments between 1984 and 2008. In 1994-95, he was Liberal leader and Leader of the Opposition, a position he relinquished to John Howard in January 1995.

Tom Uren (left) was Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam goverment between 1972 and 1975. In 1983 he became Minister for Territories and Local Government in the Hawke government. From 1984 until 1987, he was Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services. He served in 13 parliaments as the member for Reid between 1958 and 1990.

Uren is one of 12 surviving ministers from the Whitlam era. At 91, he is the second oldest of the surviving ministers. Whitlam is 96.

Four former politicians received an AM, a Member in the General Division.

John Aquilina, the Labor member for the NSW Legislative Assembly seats of Blacktown and Riverstone between 1981 and 2011, served as a minister in the Wran and Unsworth governments between 1986 and 1988. He was also a minister in the Carr government from 1995 to 2003. He became Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in 2003 and served until 2007. He retired at the 2011 election.

Robert Fordham was the Labor member for Footscray in the Victorian Legislative Assembly between 1970 and 1992. He was Deputy Premier from 1982 until 1989. He also served as Education Minister and later as Industry Minister.

Jane Lomax-Smith was the Labor member for Adelaide in the South Australian House of Assembly from 2002 until 2010. She held the Education ministry and a number of other portfolios in the Rann government. She lost her seat in the 2010 state election.

Bill Wood was a Labor member of the ACT Legislative Assembly between 1989 and 2004. He held a number of ministerial portfolios in that time. He was previously a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly.

One former politician has become a Member (OAM) in the General Division.

Malcolm Kerr was the Liberal member for Cronulla in the NSW Legislative Assembly between 1984 and 2011.

This is the complete list of recipients of Australia Day Honours.

ORDER OF AUSTRALIA

COMPANION (AC) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION

The Honourable Alexander John Downer, SA. For eminent service to the Parliament of Australia through the advancement of international relations and foreign policy, particularly in the areas of security, trade and humanitarian aid, and to the community of South Australia.

The Reverend Professor James Mitchell Haire AM, ACT. For eminent service to the community through international leadership in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, the promotion of religious reconciliation, inclusion and peace, and as a theologian.

Professor Brian Paul Schmidt, Sutton, NSW. For eminent service as a global science leader in the field of physics through research in the study of astronomy and astrophysics, contributions to scientific bodies and the promotion of science education.

The Honourable Tom Uren AO, Balmain, NSW. For eminent service to the community, particularly through contributions to the welfare of veterans, improved medical education in Vietnam and the preservation of sites of heritage and environmental significance. [Read more...]


Rupert Murdoch Eulogises His Mother At Memorial Service In Melbourne

Rupert Murdoch has eulogised his mother at her memorial service in Melbourne’s St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch died on December 5, aged 103.

Murdoch

In a service that referred frequently to the actual and metaphorical import of Dame Elisabeth’s love of flowers and gardening, her 81 year old son described his mother as “an exquisite garden that is a life lived always in full bloom”.

Former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett also spoke at the service.

Kennett

  • Listen to Rupert Murdoch’s eulogy – text below (10m)

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Eulogy for Dame Elisabeth Murdoch by her son, Rupert.

Congregation

Slightly more than a century ago, Queen Victoria signed the act that gave birth to the free nation of Australia. Soon after, Elisabeth Joy Greene was born.

In many ways she grew up with this nation: through its youthful beginnings, the hardship of war, all the way to the vibrant society we behold today. In her spirit and her energy, she embodied the finest qualities of this nation.

Today I wish to speak to the extraordinary accomplishments of this exceptional woman. On its own, that would be a formidable task. It is made even more daunting by the obligation of a grateful son: to do justice to a mother whose love gave me more than I could ever hope to repay. [Read more...]