Frontbencher Jamie Briggs said work took him away from home 165 nights last year. Photo: Andrew Meares Mr Briggs, pictured the day after Tony Abbott lost the prime ministership, injured his knee at a party hosted by the former leader on the night he was dumped as PM. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Former minister Jamie Briggs says he has paid a heavy price for the Hong Kong incident that saw him resign from the ministry and has expressed regret over his consumption of alcohol to deal with the stress of work.
Mr Briggs, forced to resign in December after a female public servant complained about inappropriate behaviour, said he needed to learn from his mistakes.
“I shouldn’t have been in that situation, I should have been more careful, I should have been more disciplined,” he told local Adelaide Hills newspaper The Courier.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade staffer at the centre of the controversy complained that, on a night out during an official visit in November, he told her she had “piercing eyes” and kissed her on the neck, although Mr Briggs said it was her cheek.
A photo of the public servant later ended up in newspapers, as well some of her private details and text messages exchanged with Mr Briggs’ chief of staff Stuart Eaton.
Mr Briggs admitted to sharing the photo with colleagues but denied giving it to the media.
“I’m not going to get into whether the error was significant or not because, in the end, the judgment of the Prime Minister was that it was an error which breached the high standards of ministers.”
Mr Briggs said he had no choice but to resign as Minister for Cities and the Built Environment and that there’s “not really a small price” to pay for mistakes in politics.
“I needed to resign because it’s a very privileged position to be a minister in a Commonwealth government and I need to learn from the error that I made.”
The former minister said he had a work-related problem with alcohol.
“I think I’ve got to consider some of my behaviours and some of the choices I’ve made, particularly when I’ve been travelling.
“I was away 165 nights last year. I flew 150-odd times and I’ve found it really difficult.
“I probably too often used alcohol as a way to deal with that [pace and intensity of travel and work] so I think in that sense, that’s probably part of the reason for the decision.”
Mr Briggs famously injured his knee at a party hosted by Tony Abbott on the night he was dumped as prime minister in September.
While originally saying he injured it running, he later admitted that he “went to tackle [Mr Abbott], I ran at him and missed, and the rest is history”.
Mr Briggs’ wife Estee also spoke with The Courier, saying she was frustrated by the controversy surrounding the Hong Kong incident, insisting that they had a strong, happy family and marriage.
Mr Briggs – who has said he will recontest his seat of Mayo – also complained that some of the media commentary was “ridiculously over the top”.
He was almost dumped from the ministry in September after Mr Turnbull’s cabinet reshuffle, where he was handed the Cities and Built Environment portfolio. He was previously the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development.
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