Federal Politics

Off the reservation: Politicians who got into trouble on the town

Cities Minister Jamie Briggs resigned from the Turnbull government frontbench on Tuesday after an "incident" with a female public servant in a Hong Kong bar. Liberal sources said Briggs had been drinking and became "overly affectionate" with the woman. Sources close to Briggs said he tried to kiss her on the cheek; others said he had tried to kiss her neck.

Briggs, who has expressed an interest in continuing to serve at a high level, is far from alone when it comes to getting into trouble while out of the town. History shows many senior politicians have done the same. While the scandals ended the careers of some, others bounced back from controversy.

John Gorton

Gorton, Prime Minister from 1968 to 1971, was the source of much scuttlebutt over his nighttime activities during his time in office. In 1969 he paid a visit to Liza Minnelli's dressing room at the Chequers nightclub in Sydney, sparking innuendo. Labor leader Gough Whitlam said Gorton would "not be fit for office" if the claims of a romantic liaison were true. Publicist Harry M Miller, who was there on the night, would later write in his biography: "Let's not beat around the bush here – they did it." But Minnelli dismissed the rumours as "vicious lies", "untrue" and "ridiculous", as have others who were there that night at Chequers

A year earlier, Gorton had attracted attention by arriving at early in the morning with a young journalist, Geraldine Willesee at the US embassy. While both denied anything untoward had occurred, Willesee lost her job following the incident.

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Journalist Laurie Oakes would later recall Gorton vomiting on a plane while it was still on the tarmac after a boozy evening.

Malcolm Fraser

In 1986 the former prime minister was caught with his pants down in a hotel in Memphis. After giving a brief account of the events, Fraser later declined to elaborate when asked about the incident. According to Fraser's autobiography, he headed into town after giving a speech in the hope of finding a blues club. His last memory was having a drink at the ritzy Peabody Hotel, but woke up feeling dizzy in the foyer of the much seedier Admiral Benbow Hotel. His trousers and his wallet were gone. The story was originally reported by a local newspaper weeks later, before being picked up by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Fraser's wife Tamie believed he had been drugged, later saying: "Someone must have slipped him a mickey finn as soon as he walked in ... Poor old boy." The culprit was never identified.

Kevin Rudd

In 2003, when he was shadow foreign affairs minister, Rudd visited the Scores strip club during a trip to New York. Fellow Labor MP Warren Snowdon was there, as was New York Post editor Col Allan.

Four years later, when he was running for the prime ministership against John Howard, their night out hit the headlines. Rudd said he could not recall the specifics of the evening because he "had too much to drink".

"If my behaviour caused any offence to anybody whatsoever that evening I, of course, wholeheartedly apologise," he said. Allen, known for his love of a drink, said Rudd had been a "perfect gentleman" during the evening.

The incident didn't damage Rudd's standing with voters – if anything, many political analysts believed it had made the former diplomat and public servant more relatable to everyday Australians.John Brogden

In 2005, NSW opposition leader John Brogden attended drinks with journalists at a Sydney pub. He later apologised for pinching one female journalist on the bottom, propositioning another and referring to former premier Bob Carr's Malaysian-born wife as a "mail order bride".

"I apologise unreservedly for my behaviour on the night," Mr Brogden said at the time.

"It was the week Bob Carr resigned. I had a few drinks and let off some steam, and in doing so acted foolishly."

Brogden resigned from the Liberal leadership and was hospitalised a day later after attempting self harm. He is now of chairman of mental health organisation Lifeline.

Troy Buswell

The former West Australian Liberal leader collected more than his fair share of controversies during his time in politics. In 2008 he apologised for snapping the bra of a Labor staffer as a drunken party trick. Months later, after initially denying the allegations, he admitted to sniffing the chair of a female Liberal staffer. The woman said he sniffed the chair while groaning and making sexually satisfied noises.

Two years later, now the state's treasurer, he confessed to having an extramarital affair with a WA Greens MP. He resigned from the ministry but was soon reinstated as treasurer. In 2014 he stood down from the ministry again, citing a mental health breakdown. He was later fined for a slew of traffic offences and left Parliament.