Abbott’s mad dash
Watch Opposition leader Tony Abbott make a run for the parliamentary doors after Craig Thomson voted with the Opposition for the first time.
Herald Sun30 May 2012
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Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne a few days ago. Picture: Stuart McEvoy Source: Herald Sun
UPDATE: OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott bolted from Parliament as former Labor MP Craig Thomson voted with the Coalition so it could continue debating the federal budget.
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The extraordinary scene, captured on television cameras, came as the Government moved to “gag” shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, who was addressing a suspension motion regarding the Commonwealth debt ceiling.
The Hansard record shows Mr Abbott voting alongside Mr Thomson on the initial gag motion, despite the Opposition Leader’s vow never to accept the MP’s “tainted vote”.
Deputy Speaker Anna Burke had already ordered the parliamentary chamber doors to be locked to count MPs’ votes.
But on three subsequent motions the Liberal leader was allowed to leave the chamber and did not record a vote.
Mr Thomson is sitting on the cross-bench as an Independent MP after dissociating himself from the ALP while investigations into his tenure at the Health Services Union continue.
The NSW MP was found by Fair Work Australia to have misused his union credit card, including to pay for prostitutes, but has emphatically denied the findings.
Despite vowing never to accept Mr Thomson’s vote, Mr Abbott was caught out and was unable to leave the chamber.
“Abbott actually tried to sprint out of the room for the first division,” said one observer.
“The doors were locked before he got out. He started to walk back but they reopened to let him out.”
Abbott runsTony Abbott makes a run for it. Picture: Courtesy of Channel 7Source: news.com.au
Abbott's dashRun, Tony, Run! Picture: Courtesy of Channel 7.Source: news.com.au
Pictures courtesy of Channel 7.
But the Coalition withdrew one of its own MPs from the vote, meaning that Mr Thomson’s vote was effectively negated.
Manager of Opposition Business Christopher Pyne stood to the side of the chamber to avoid being included in the vote.
The move by Mr Thomson is unlikely to signal a switch to Mr Abbott, but caused uproar in Parliament.
Mr Abbott accused Labor and Mr Thomson of manufacturing a stunt.
“It was obviously a stunt orchestrated between Craig Thomson, (Leader of the House) Anthony Albanese and the government,” he told reporters in Canberra after the vote, adding journalists had been alerted in advance that it was about to take place.
“As soon as it became apparent the government was pulling this stunt Christopher Pyne and I absented ourselves from the chamber.”
The Opposition Leader vowed that the Coalition would absent one of its MPs whenever Mr Thomson chose to vote with the opposition – just as the Howard Government did when it received the support of former Labor senator Mal Colston.
“I call on Julia Gillard to do the same,” he said.
Mr Thomson told AAP he did not speak to any Labor MP regarding how he planned to vote on the gag motions.
“It is complete rubbish,” he said of Mr Abbott’s accusation.
“I didn’t call for the suspension of standing orders and I didn’t know the government was going to move gag motions.
“I was in a meeting of the economics committee when it happened.”
Later, Mr Abbott vowed not to be stymied by the Gillard Government trying to “Abbott proof” its legislation.
The Opposition Leader told a Minerals Council lunch in Canberra the Gillard Government was trying to put in place measures to stop the next elected government changing its laws.
He admitted some policies would be “difficult to undo” but he vowed he would keep his promises.
Mr Abbott said his concerns related to the carbon tax and mining tax that he has pledged to scrap. He said he would also reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, change workplace relations and cut red tape.
– with Phillip Hudson, Malcolm Farr