Queensland's six-week-old minority government hung in the balance yesterday after Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was forced to expel one of her MPs, opening up the possibility of a byelection that could hand power to the Liberal-Nationals.
The crisis, which has left the Government paralysed and unable to pass laws, was sparked by domestic violence allegations against Billy Gordon, who on Sunday admitted to a string of criminal convictions which Labor's vetting procedures missed.
An indigenous man who represents a chunk of far-north Queensland, Gordon has yet to decide whether to heed calls to quit Parliament. The MP said he would consult family and supporters and "seek further legal advice".
If he steps down, a byelection would probably be held on May 2. While the Liberal-Nationals have held the seat only twice, they won it as recently as 2012 - and in these politically volatile times nothing is certain.
If Gordon stays on as an independent - or in order to govern until a byelection - Labor will have to strike a deal with two Katter's Australian Party MPs.
Negotiations are already under way, with the pair yesterday presenting five core demands, including a regional development bank. Bob Katter expressed optimism about a deal, saying the party was not "in the business of tearing down governments".
The crisis was triggered by Gordon's ex-partner sending a letter containing the domestic violence allegations to MPs last week, according to the Courier Mail. In Parliament on Friday, Gordon said he "welcomed" a police investigation and admitted failing to lodge tax returns or pay child support.
However, it was not until late on Sunday that he admitted to criminal convictions dating back to 1987 and including burglary, breaching bail conditions, driving while unlicensed and being served with an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).
Palaszczuk said Gordon's position became untenable after she discovered he had misled her and the party. "The Deputy Premier and I sat down with him on Tuesday night [last week] ... I said, 'is there anything else I need to know?' ... He looked us both in the eye and said 'no, there is not'."
She said she was prepared to risk her premiership because "integrity is fundamental to any government that I lead".
The Opposition has questioned why she waited a week to refer the domestic violence allegations to police. "She has covered this up," said Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg.
Labor, which won 44 seats in the 89-seat Parliament, had governed with the support of the Speaker, an independent. If the LNP - which holds 42 seats - won a byelection, it could govern with the two Katter MPs. State Labor is now reviewing its candidate vetting procedures, after police checks failed to uncover Gordon's criminal past, probably because of the passage of time. Gordon ignored the party's requirement to disclose convictions.