Barnett backs Buswell over standards
On the backbenches: Troy Buswell. Picture: Lincoln Baker/The West Australian

Colin Barnett has defended Troy Buswell's refusal to speak to police about the crash that ended his ministerial career, prompting the Opposition to accuse him of a lack of standards.

Mr Buswell returned to Parliament yesterday, fulfilling his leader's request that he answer questions from the media, which he did at 9.30am after walking to work from his Subiaco home, and front the Liberal party room, which he did shortly after with a tearful presentation.

Mr Buswell's answers shed no light on the circumstances of his decision to drive from a Kings Park wedding on February 23 after several hours of drinking, with the former treasurer and transport minister refusing on nearly a dozen occasions to comment on the night.


He said he had been diagnosed the following day with "bipolar depression", a condition for which he expected to be treated for a long time to come.

"The police have conducted a thorough investigation," Mr Buswell said. "They have charged me with a range of driving offences that are well documented. I accept responsibility for my actions.

"I have pleaded guilty, I paid the fine and I have no more comment to make about the events surrounding those matters."

All questions about the wedding, his decision to drive and what he remembered were met with variations of the same answer.

"Can I say that has been a particularly difficult time for me and for my family," Mr Buswell said.

"But all of the advice I have from my doctor and others is returning to work, both in my electorate, which I started a few weeks ago, and here in Parliament, is an important part of my recovery."

During the press conference, a man driving a black Audi SUV driving down Harvest Terrace yelled "resign" as he passed the conference.

Asked why he did not agree to be interviewed by police, Mr Buswell said: "Like a lot of people in those circumstances where there was a police investigation, I engaged a lawyer and that lawyer basically communicated on my behalf with the police."

Asked why he failed to tell anyone about the crash - except his then-chief of staff and fellow wedding guest Rachael Turnseck - Mr Buswell said he was in hospital for 10 days after the crash.

"I was not in a particularly good state of mind," he said.

"Now, I am not offering that in any way shape or form as an excuse for what happened on the 22nd and 23rd, but they are the facts that I had to deal with and it was a particularly difficult period."

Asked if he was reluctant to talk about the events of the night of the wedding because he was worried he would incriminate himself or because he had been advised not to by his lawyer, Mr Buswell said: "No."

"In my view, the matter's been dealt with. The police concluded their investigation, I pleaded guilty, I paid the fine. I'm now serving a licence suspension. In my view the matter's been dealt with."

A cover-up

Mr Buswell denied attempting to cover up the traffic crashes, saying he had spent 10 days in hospital and reporting the damage was not a "primary consideration" at the time."You have to understand I spent eight nights in hospital and it was very, very difficult," he said. "I was simply trying to get some stability back and trying to grasp what was happening to me.

"In relation to other issues around reporting of the accident and the like, I understand that there has been an investigation of that within Government. I, of course, haven't been privy to that, only what I've read. And I understand it found there was no particular issue."


Asked if he would personally pay for damage not covered by insurance, Mr Buswell said his understanding was the Government's insurer RiskCover would assess the incidents.

"I haven't had any further contact from RiskCover in relation to these matters," he said. "I will wait until I receive additional advice from the Government insurer."

Mr Buswell did not rule out applying for an extraordinary driver's licence, which he said would be a matter for a magistrate to determine.

Member for Vasse

Mr Buswell was adamant his illness did not mean he could not do his job.

"All of the advice I have received from my doctor is an important part of the long-term recovery plan. I want to get better and I want to keep serving my constituents," he said.

Mr Buswell predicted he would play a less confrontational role in Parliament, describing his likely approach as "cautiously observant".

"It would be fair to say I've always enjoyed the robust element of the political process . . . I think it would be fair to say, if I can again use football vernacular, that you will probably see a different style of play. For me, things have changed a heck of a lot."


Mr Buswell declined to comment on whether he had an "issue" with alcohol.

"I've outlined a serious health issue that I have, OK? I've been receiving treatment to deal with that health issue. I have to keep receiving ongoing treatment to deal with that serious health issue, and for me, that involves a recovery or a wellness plan that is very comprehensive."

Asked if he condemned drink-driving, Mr Buswell said: "Of course."

Mental health

"I accept I have a serious health issue that I'm having to deal with," Mr Buswell said. "I now know that that's an issue that I've had for some time. But I'm confident that with the care I'm receiving, the support I'm receiving from family and friends, and if I stick to a wellness plan, I will recover.

Asked if the driving incident triggered his breakdown, Mr Buswell said: "That's a good question. I don't have an answer. What I now know is that I've had the condition that I've been diagnosed with for an extended period of time.

The West Australian

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