MP Geoff Shaw ridiculed as ‘poofter bastard’ at Liberal fundraiser

Frankston MP Geoff Shaw’s vote keeps the Liberals in power. Photo: Angela WylieIndependent Frankston MP Geoff Shaw was dubbed a “poofter bastard” during a comedy sketch at an official Liberal Party fundraiser hosted by Premier Denis Napthine.
Nanjing Night Net

Some might find the term a slur, but the embattled MP and former Liberal Party member says the joke is ‘‘funny’’.

Comedian Nick Giannopoulos repeatedly referred to Mr Shaw as “the poofter bastard” and “that poofter bastard” in front of more than 300 guests – including many of his former Liberal Party colleagues – at the Premier’s Dinner at the Princess Theatre ballroom on Friday night.

Mr Shaw, who controls the balance of power in the Victorian parliament, has responded by inviting Giannopoulos to join him for a political fundraiser in his seat of Frankston.

‘‘He [Giannopoulos] sounds quite funny,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘He should come to Frankston and do some fundraising with me.’’

One paying guest at the dinner on Friday night confirmed that senior MPs and cabinet ministers, including Premier Napthine and Minister for Roads Terry Mulder – ‘‘all laughed, although a little uneasily, at the poofter line” during the comedy routine.

The dinner was hosted by the Premier to help raise money for the 10 Liberal MPs who won seats for the first time at the 2010 election, and helped bring the Liberal Party to power by just one seat.

Each of those MPs was given three tables of 10 tickets to sell, and will be allowed to keep the funds for their re-election campaigns next year.

Mr Shaw resigned from the Liberal Party in March amid allegations he used a parliamentary car as a delivery vehicle for his private business. Even though he sits on the cross-benches, Mr Shaw’s vote keeps the Liberal Party in power.

Friday night’s dinner would have also raised election funds for Mr Shaw, who also won for the first time at the 2010 election, had he not quit the Liberal Party amid the scandal over the use of his parliamentary car.

A number of guests spoken to by Fairfax Media confirmed that Giannopoulos referred to Mr Shaw as a “poofter bastard” on at least five occasions during his routine.

“There was some fairly off humour on the night, but nothing in the same ballpark as the ’poofter bastard’ comment,” said one guest, who did not wish to be named. “I can’t believe they were laughing, because this bloke actually keeps them all in power.”

Jed Gilbert, president of gay and lesbian community radio station Joy 94.9, said he found the joke offensive.

‘‘I’m disappointed that in 2013 a comedian needs to resort to derogatory remarks to get a laugh,’’ he said.

‘‘Perhaps he needs to update his material from last century. Excusing it as satire doesn’t mean it won’t hurt people, or further encourage homophobia in the community.’’

On Monday, Dr Napthine did not condemn the skit, but he said the Liberal Party had no role in writing it.

“What comedians do at these shows is up to the comedian. They write their script, we don’t write their script.”

Speakers at the dinner on Friday night included Clem Newton-Brown, the Liberal member for Prahran and an outspoken advocate of gay rights and gay marriage.

Mr Newton-Brown, who has marched in the annual Pride March in St Kilda, did not respond to question from Fairfax Media.

Last year former prime minister Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and a number of cabinet ministers slammed the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union for hosting a dinner at which a comedian made an offensive joke about Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin.

Julia Gillard rang the CFMEU’s national secretary Michael O’Connor to condemn the comments, made by comedian Allan Billison.

Trade Minister Craig Emerson walked out of that performance, but three other Labor MPs were criticised for remaining at the function.None of the dozen Liberal MPs in attendance on Friday night walked out.

Giannopoulos defended the sketch as “satire” and said he was dressed up as a character named Petroula, a “Greek cleaning lady who mangles the English language”.

“I’ve performed Petroula since 1987, and she will be in my new show at the Regent Theatre in January,” he said. “She’s actually based on my mum. She does use terms like ’poofter bastard’ but she doesn’t know what they mean. That’s the joke.”

Giannopolous said he was lampooning Shaw’s infamous scuffle with an elderly taxi driver on the steps of state parliament during the sketch.

“It wasn’t me calling him a poofter bastard, it was me in character as Petroula satirising the situation,” he said.

With Henrietta Cook

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