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)

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.

  • Listen to Baillieu’s press conference (6m)

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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...]


Victorian Government Proposes Reforms To Emergency Management

The Victorian Government has proposed major reforms to Emergency Management services and procedures.

The Premier, Ted Baillieu, and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Peter Ryan, today released a white paper and spoke at a press conference on the proposed changes.

  • Listen to the Baillieu/Ryan press conference (38m)

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  • Download the Victorian Emergency Management Reform White Paper (PDF)

Text of a media release from the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu.

Coalition Government unveils vision for Emergency Management

The Victorian Coalition Government has today unveiled its vision for the future of emergency management in the state.

Premier Ted Baillieu and Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Bushfire Response Peter Ryan released the Emergency Management White paper, which flags the biggest reform the sector has seen in three decades.

Mr Baillieu said Victoria had faced flood, fire, heatwaves and other emergencies over the past five years and it was time to act on the lessons learned. [Read more...]


Gillard Claims Progress On NDIS And Power Prices Following COAG Meeting

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has claimed progress on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and reform of the electricity market following today’s meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.

Julia Gillard

Gillard and the state and territory leaders reached agreement to establish a new Standing Council on Disability Reform. Gillard said: “The Agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the first stage of these important reforms.”

On electricity market reform, COAG agreed to: rule changes to ensure no over-investment in networks; giving consumers a voice in the electricity market; a strengthened independent regulator; more choice for consumers; actions to reduce electricity peaks; and to provide for greater demand-side participation to make it easier for consumers to reduce demand, particularly at peak periods.

  • Read and download the COAG Communique
  • Listen to the COAG leaders’ press conference (46m)

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Earlier in the day, state and territory leaders spoke to the media before attending the COAG meeting.

  • Listen to NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell (7m)

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  • Listen to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (5m)

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  • Listen to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman (3m)

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  • Listen to Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills (2m)

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Text of media release from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

COAG Progresses The National Disability Insurance Scheme

At the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra today, all governments took a major step towards giving people with disability the care and support they need over their lifetimes by signing an Intergovernmental Agreement for the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the first stage of these important reforms.

The Agreement also sets out shared roles and responsibilities for working collaboratively on the policy for a full scheme and establishing arrangements for the review and evaluation of the first stage.

The Agreement will be overseen by a new Standing Council on Disability Reform, which will have representation from Ministers and Treasurers from all jurisdictions. The Standing Council will be responsible for making decisions and formulating advice on matters arising from the launch and the transition to a full scheme. [Read more...]


As NSW And Victoria Offer NDIS Money, A Political Win For Gillard

5.10pm – New South Wales has joined Victoria in offering to contribute to a trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has welcomed the breakthrough.

Julia Gillard

Earlier this afternoon, Premier Ted Baillieu announced that Victoria would contribute $42 million to the trial. Shortly afterwards, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell offered to provide $35 million for a trial, less than the federal government was asking.

Speaking at a 5pm press conference, Gillard said: “I am now very optimistic that we will see NDIS launch sites in NSW and Victoria. We still have work to do with NSW but I’m optimistic. I want to see a robust launch site in the Hunter.”

O’Farrell tweeted: “Testing goodwill – both NSW and Victoria have come halfway and we now hope the Commonwealth will equally show a determination to end the impasse.”

The Victorian and NSW decisions represent an important political win for Gillard that comes after two days of pressure on the coalition premiers.

Nevertheless, the outcome is a tactical victory for Gillard. Whilst ensuring a full-scale trial of the NDIS is now likely in 2013, no decision has been made about ongoing funding.

Newspaper reports today on this week’s COAG meeting said the coalition premiers were willing to support a Medicare-style levy to fund the NDIS. The reports said Gillard rejected this out of fear that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would mount another “great big new tax” campaign.

Unless Gillard can lock in a decision on funding, the final shape of the scheme will fall to the next government.

  • Listen to Gillard’s press conference (13m)

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Baillieu Offers Extra Funds For NDIS Trial In Victoria

3.45pm – The Victorian government has broken the impasse over funding for the NDIS with an offer of extra money for a trial in the Barwon/Geelong region.

Ted Baillieu

Premier Ted Baillieu today offered to commit $17 million for the trial and and a one-off $25 million for a “transition agency”. The federal government was asking for $40 million from Victoria.

Baillieu denied his announcement was a backflip, claiming his government had been consistent from the start and had never tried to score political points. Nevertheless, the decision will be seen as a victory for Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The Victorian decision comes after two days of heavy criticism of the coalition state governments. At the COAG meeting on Wednesday the Labor governments of South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT signed up to a trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Baillieu’s announcement was made at a 3.45pm press conference with Mary Wooldridge, his Minister for Community Services.

  • Listen to the Baillieu-Wooldridge press conference:

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Coalition Premiers Opt Out Of NDIS Trial; COAG Fractures

The political pressure on Prime Minister Julia Gillard stepped up a notch today as the four coalition premiers refused to sign up to a trial of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Julia Gillard

A meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) fractured with the announcement of three trial sites in the Labor-held jurisdictions of South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.

The Coalition premiers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia all refused accept the federal government’s terms for participation in the trial.

New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell argued that the Commonwealth should fund the whole scheme, whilst Gillard said that $70 million from NSW and $30 million from Victoria would have ensured trial sites in those states.

The political decision of the non-Labor premiers highlights the sense of impermanence that now pervades decisions of the Gillard government.

Criticism of the state coalition governments began immediately after the announcement. Following the parliamentary impasse over asylum seekers, this decision is likely to increase public cynicism and disillusionment about the political process and the hung parliament.

  • Listen to the COAG leaders’ press conference (46m)

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[Read more...]