Political defections: some rules

When that carbuncle on the face of Victorian politics, Geoff Shaw, decided to leave the Liberal party and sit as an independent cross benches, I wrote that in such circumstances people like Shaw should have the political courage to resign and stand as an independent by-election to give those people who voted for him as the Liberal candidate the opportunity to pass judgement on him.


Ex-MP Geoff Shaw is now the drummer in a Christian rock band.

He lacked that amount of political courage and paid price at the next election where he was ignominiously dumped by the voters of Frankston.

The same principle applies to  Ian Macfarlane who has defected from the Liberal party to join the Nationals in Federal parliament. It appears quite obvious that he is endeavouring to regain his seat in the Federal cabinet and that this move has nothing to commend it other than naked and selfish ambition.


Ian Macfarlane is having a bit each way in his defection to the Nationals

There has been no statement from Macfarlane outlining significant policy differences between the Liberal and National parties that have forced him  to change his political affiliations.

 So he appears to be something of a rat bag.  But then Australian politics seems to have its fair share of them.

 It’s an interesting thing about turncoats. No one trusts them. Not the people they desert, nor the people they defect to.

 In Shakespeare’s play Anthony and Cleopatra, Octavius is commanding the Roman armies against Mark Antony and Cleopatra. There have been a  large number of desertions from Mark Anthony’s army to Octavius and just before the battle he rewards them for their desertion.


Octavius. Go charge Agrippa 
Plant those that have revolted in the van, 
That Antony may seem to spend his fury 
Upon himself.

And later Enobarus, who has defected from Mark Anthony to Caesar says

Enobarus. Alexas did revolt; and went to Jewry on 
Affairs of Antony; there did persuade 
Great Herod to incline himself to Caesar, 
And leave his master Antony: for this pains 
Caesar hath hang’d him. Canidius and the rest 
That fell away have entertainment, but 
No honourable trust. I have done ill; 
Of which I do accuse myself so sorely, 
That I will joy no more.

Now, Octavius was a hard bastard and arguably the greatest-ever Roman Emperor and he knew that if Anthony could not trust the soldiers who deserted, then neither could he.

Ian Macfarlane may find that he has earned the distrust of both members of the Coalition. Certainly, it is unlikely that the people who elected him as a Liberal look kindly on his defection at the next election.

The real problem about what he has done is that he was elected by people who thought that he would support Liberal party policies and who wished to see their elected member of Parliament sitting as a member of the Liberal party should the Liberal party win the election.

If he had a shred of decency, Ian Macfarlane would have had the political courage to say,

“In all conscience,  I can no longer remain a member of the Liberal party. I will resign my seat as a Liberal member and stand in a by-election as a member of the National party. I think it is only fair to give my constituents the right to decide the political allegiances of their elected representative.”

But the rules and conventions do not force him to do so and he is allowed to put his political ambitions ahead of the wishes of the electorate.

He has done no one any favours.

Not himself, not the National party and certainly not the voters of  Groom.




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