Former WA treasurer Troy Buswell. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij
Colin Barnett is doing a Tammy Wynette impersonation and standing by his man, Troy Buswell.
This is one of the dumber decisions of Barnett’s premiership and could well bring down his government. It appears that he learned nothing from his predecessor Richard Court’s handling of the Doug Shave affair.
Shave was the minister in the Court government who was responsible for the finance broker’s scandal. There were repeated calls for him to be sacked but the premier stood by his man.
Shave became a public liability for the Court government and his retention was one of the major issues that resulted in the unlikely 2001 election win for Labor’s Geoff Gallop.
The Buswell debacle is different only in that he is no longer a minister but he remains in parliament. There can be little doubt that his behaviour has transgressed even this state’s very fuzzy standards for elected office.
One wonders how these events, including pleading guilty to 11 traffic offences, allegations of failing to stop at a road crash, not giving statements to police and remaining silent for over a week, could ever be construed as acceptable standards for anyone, let alone someone holding public office
As leader of the opposition, Mark McGowan very accurately said “That’s the sort of stuff that drug dealers and bikies do.”
It is stating the obvious to say that no political hopeful with this record would ever be preselected by any party and any candidate behaving in like this in the lead-up to an election would be instantly disendorsed.
If such behaviour is indefensible at that low level, how is it defensible further up the public tree?
The other question that this raises, is why does Buswell want to remain in the public life that he is clearly not suited to?
His antics and poor behaviour have shredded his high-flying political career and the only possible answer could be that he imagines his career is going to be somehow resurrected.
If there is anyone who believes that is going to happen, please contact me because there is a nice bridge in Sydney they would be gullible enough to buy from me.
The fact of the matter is that this career is dead and the simple solution is for Buswell to accept that and resign his seat. But while the ongoing support of the Premier gives him hope, why would he go voluntarily?
When making their assessment of politicians, it is significant that the public give a big weighting to those with the highest standards and levels of accountability. Usually oppositions instinctively understand this and take the moral high ground; on this issue the oppositions do not disappoint.
They smell political blood.
And the chance of a political kill has so galvanised the Labor opposition that it has temporarily stopped eating itself, moved on from dithering over whether their leader should or should not wear glasses on TV and they are circling like sharks.
Sacked minister and perennial whinger, Rob Johnson, provided the burley when he called for an inquiry, but he doesn’t have the ticker to move for one, so Labor will have to do his dirty work for him.
All of this will leave ex-fisheries minister Buswell needing political drum lines to cull the circling sharks and, sadly, his party is most likely to provide them.
If Labor moves for an enquiry, it is hard to see how government members could ignore the attitude of their Premier and vote for it. The only political interest will be to see if Rob Johnson grinds his axe further and votes with Labor, or maybe if anyone else feels strongly enough to absent themselves from the vote.
But even if government members make a courageous decision and roll their Premier, the body most likely to deal with any enquiry is the Legislative Assembly Procedures and Privileges Committee.
Usually headed up by Presiding Officers and with government majorities, these committees have long track records of partisan decision-making that have prompted many of us to call for the establishment of an Independent Parliamentary Standards Commission.
Free from political interference and of its own choice, such a body would have the power to examine all these matters and clearly report to the parliament on whether this behaviour should or should not be tolerated in public life.