Queensland’s government hangs in the balance while an outcast MP uses surgery recovery time to decide whether he’ll quit parliament and force his electorate to a by-election.
Cook MP Billy Gordon on Monday morning resigned from the Labor party before Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk could boot him for failing to disclose his criminal history, including break-and-enter and stealing offences dating back 25 years.
He’s also accused of domestic abuse of an ex-partner and his mother.
Ms Palaszczuk now wants him to quit parliament, forcing a by-election in his far north Queensland electorate.
If he does, it could mean both Labor and the Liberal National Party (LNP) holding 43 seats each in the state’s 89-seat parliament, meaning the government could change hands just two months after the election.
In the meantime, there is jockeying behind the scenes as the state’s two Katter Australian Party MPs meet both parties to try to get their core policies, such as mandated ethanol in fuels, on the agenda.
Mr Gordon underwent pre-arranged eye surgery on Monday and says he’ll use the recovery time to consider his future.
“I need further time to consider my options, seek further legal advice and have ongoing discussion with my family and my supporters,” he said.
“I will therefore make no further media comment at this time.”
Ms Palaszczuk said she wouldn’t call a fresh election, but was pushing for a by-election in Cook.
“I’m prepared to put my premiership on the line, I’m prepared to put the integrity of my government on the line because we stood up for what was right,” she said.
But the premier refused to reject the MP’s vote in parliament, like the opposition has, claiming she was giving him time to resign from his seat before parliament next sits in May.
“I don’t think we should raise hypotheticals at this moment,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg slammed the stance.
“You cannot on one hand say he is unfit to be in parliament and yet say you are looking at the possibility of accepting his vote if he remains the Member for Cook,” he said.
Mr Gordon does have the backing of some indigenous mayors in his Cape York electorate, who have agreed with the embattled MP’s calls for “natural justice”.
Kowanyama Mayor Robert Holness said the saga was a “witch hunt” and he was innocent until proved guilty.
He also brushed off his criminal past, saying “all of us do stupid things when we’re young fellas”.
Controversy surrounding Mr Gordon first arose last week after it was revealed he deliberately failed to submit tax returns to avoid paying child support.