He’s widely regarded as a great fiscal mind, but Troy Buswell’s political career is indelibly tarnished by indiscretions including chair sniffing, an affair and that fateful night he crashed his ministerial car.
The latter incident led to Mr Buswell disclosing he had bipolar disorder and depression, and resulted in his ultimate downfall.
Mr Buswell, 48, resigned from politics on Wednesday after quitting Western Australia’s cabinet in March following revelations he had a string of car crashes while returning home from a wedding in February.
The former treasurer says his mental health is improving and he now has a better understanding of his actions.
He decided it was time to move on after he realised he no longer had zeal for the job.
“I don’t have the enthusiasm or the passion that I think you need to have to be an effective member of parliament,” Mr Buswell tells Network Seven in an interview to be aired on Thursday night.
A one-time heir apparent to Premier Colin Barnett, Mr Buswell’s many indiscretions have included sniffing the chair of a Liberal staffer in 2008 and a 2010 affair with then-Greens MP Adele Carles.
Mr Barnett, who repeatedly defended Mr Buswell despite calls for him to be sacked, admitted it had dented the government’s image, but said that was the responsibility of being a leader and friend.
“I’m not going to desert my friends, particularly when they’re unwell,” he said.
“I think the government did suffer from that, but we’ll move on.”
The premier said Mr Buswell was an outstanding minister and hoped history would judge him kindly for his debating skills, fiscal abilities and transport projects.
Mr Barnett also lashed out at the “insensitive” opposition for ridiculing Mr Buswell, labelling it “one of the low points” during his political career.
He said a book could be written about Mr Buswell, who had the “most extraordinary experience” that he had witnessed in politics.
Born in Bunbury, Mr Buswell completed a Bachelor of Economics and was a Busselton councillor for six years, the last two as shire president.
He joined state parliament in 2005 and served as deputy opposition leader before leading the Liberals for eight months in 2008, stepping down following poor internal polling of his election prospects after he sniffed the chair of a female staff member.
Mr Buswell’s resignation has triggered a by-election in Vasse where he is extremely popular and Mr Barnett expects a swing against the Liberals, but still hopes to retain the seat.
Speculation that former Liberal leader-turned-lobbyist Matt Birney could contest the seat was downplayed by Mr Barnett, who expects a local candidate.
Former journalist and long-time Liberal staffer Libby Mettam, 37, has been tipped as a likely candidate.
The seat is expected to remain in Liberal hands.