Star power fades into  black hole
First fall: Troy Buswell, watch by then wife Margaret, quits as opposition leader in August 2008. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

It was a measure of Troy Buswell's talent, or at least his importance to the Government, that until recently large swaths of the Liberal Party and the media considered him the natural - and only likely - successor to Premier Colin Barnett.

Mr Buswell's political scrapbook contained negative headlines numerous enough to kill off the career of any normal politician but his status as one of the Government's best performers ensured he repeatedly came back.

Part of his resilience seemed to be that he did not take his indiscretions seriously enough for them to weigh him down.

Years ago, with tearful confessions about chair-sniffing lingering in recent memory, Mr Buswell was known to thump loudly on _The West Australian's _ press gallery bureau door before entering with a grin and a wink, offering: "I like big knockers."

The persona of a brilliant, lovable rogue appeared to be nurtured by the Government and Liberal backbenchers, who laughed uproariously at his parliamentary excoriations of the Opposition.

At the Liberals' 2010 Christmas media function, former attorney-general Christian Porter served gag "prohibited behaviour orders" on various MPs.

Mr Buswell's was as long as a phone book and included the prohibition of conduct attracting another press conference big enough to attract Al Jazeera, a reference to his public confirmation of an affair with then-Greens MP Adele Carles.

The rise and fall of Troy Raymond Buswell should more correctly be referred to as rises and falls.

They traverse three career peaks followed by sharp troughs signposted by resignations in 2008 as opposition leader, and in 2010 and 2014 as treasurer.

Before he was a flawed genius he was just a genius.

Born in Bunbury in 1966, he was head boy at Busselton High School before winning the prestigious W.G. Salter Memorial Prize at the University of WA for the highest aggregate marks in final year economics.

That the same brilliant student went on to wrongly claim $240 in travel entitlements after a "sloppy clerical error" was typical of the career blips that would enrage supporters and encourage detractors.

Returning to the South West after university, he took over the Busselton bus tour business Villa Carlotta Travel and in 1992 married Margaret Cummins. They have two sons.

Mr Buswell's business acumen and gregarious nature ensured the business flourished.

Urban legend of his bus driving days has it that a favourite practical joke involved buying a chocolate to slip into an elderly passenger's bag at a service station and then fib that it had complained of shoplifting.

Ashen-faced, he would inspect everyone's bag and confront the horrified "perpetrator" before collapsing into fits of laughter, which spread to the entire bus.

After rising to chairman of the Cape Naturaliste Tourism Association, Mr Buswell served as a Busselton Shire councillor from 1995 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2003 before becoming shire president in 2003.

He won a bruising Liberal preselection battle over sitting MP Bernie Masters for the seat of Vasse in 2005 and was tipped for big things when elected that year.

A year later, the first blot on his copybook was reportedly telling then-leader Matt Birney he had his support in a leadership spill, only to vote for the victorious Paul Omodei, who suffered from poor polling.

Mr Buswell was elected opposition leader in January 2008 but spent most of the time fending off allegations of inappropriate conduct, including the infamous chair-sniffing prank which made world headlines.

He resigned in August and was replaced by Colin Barnett, who had an unlikely election win in September. Mr Buswell was installed as treasurer and housing minister.

Business groups lauded his appetite for reform but he had to resign in April 2010 after admitting he misused his ministerial entitlements during trysts with Ms Carles.

His subsequent clearing of any wrongdoing paved the way for his return once his private life stabilised. He rejoined Cabinet six months later as housing and transport minister.

Mr Porter's departure for Canberra after handing down the 2012-13 Budget gifted Mr Buswell his favoured treasury portfolio again.

Mr Barnett famously deflected questions over the wisdom of the appointment with the quip: "I ride him harder than Black Caviar was ridden."

But a familiar pattern re-emerged. In December 2012, he denied claims he drunkenly "dry-humped" a prominent businessman at a function and sued his now ex, Ms Carles, for suggesting otherwise.

In November, the Opposition called for his head for getting involved in booking his son's driving test.

His credibility took a hit when he was the treasurer who presided over the loss of the State's AAA credit rating in September, but as recently as eight weeks ago he was telling business luncheon diners how he planned to win it back.

If Mr Buswell is in Parliament to see this, it will be only as the member for Vasse.

The West Australian

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