Retiring Bass Labor MHA Jim Cox talks with ALISON ANDREWS. THE Edmund Rouse bribery scandal made Bass Labor MHA Jim Cox a tougher politician than he might have been.
"It made me more distrusting - I tend to look at things very closely and carefully before I make a decision now," he says.
The 1989 political bribery attempt, with Mr Cox, the former Northern Tasmanian radio announcer as one of the central characters, probably did more damage to him as a person.
"It affected my self-confidence - I thought much more about what I said and did, I was more gung-ho before it happened," he said.
Mr Cox is talking probably for the first time, definitely for the last time on the eve of his departure from Parliament, about the scandal that rocked Tasmania, brought on a royal commission, brought down a media empire and left the newly elected Bass MHA wondering what had happened to his life.
One of the side effects of Mr Rouse, the former ENT Ltd media company proprietor, trying to bribe Mr Cox, one of his former employees, is that Mr Cox, despite his political career, has forever dodged the limelight.
He planned last week, after 20 years as a Tasmanian MP, to quietly leave Parliament on the second last sitting day of the year, just disappear, unnoticed, from political circles.
But his parliamentary colleagues put paid to that by bringing his valedictory addresses forward a day so that MPs from all three political parties took turns to speak fondly of the Northern politician, who topped the polls in Bass in his most successful election.
He was definitely not giving media interviews but acquiesced at the last minute, agreeing that he should mark the end of an era as one of the state's longest-serving, sitting politicians.
"But family, personal - `no,' " says Mr Cox, the soon-to-be-retired Police Minister setting the rules firmly.
Mr Rouse went to jail for attempting to bribe Mr Cox in 1989.
He wanted him to cross the floor to support Liberal premier Robin Gray's minority government if a no-confidence motion was moved against it when Parliament resumed.
Mr Rouse later told the royal commission set up to investigate the bribery attempt that he had tried to convince Mr Gray to offer Mr Cox the speakership or a ministry to support his government.
When Mr Gray refused, Mr Rouse went ahead with his plan to bribe Mr Cox by offering him $110,000.
Mr Rouse said later that he had been prompted by concern for the Australian economy and the prospect of the Greens holding the balance of power in Tasmania.
For Mr Cox, now 64, as he contemplates retirement from politics, the bribery scandal seems almost a life-time ago - but still something that the articulate politician finds difficult to put into words.
"I don't think I realised how it affected me until it was well and truly under way - it was a nightmare, it was basically a nightmare," he says.
"It totally saps away your self- confidence.
"It almost created a disbelief in myself.
"You'd pick up the paper each day and look at it and think, `that's just not right, it's not true'."
He talks about one incident, horrific for a parent, that he says his family has only lately been able to dismiss as humorous.
"We had police living in the house," he says.
"My son came home one night - a car pulled up in the driveway, he'd come home with a different one of his mates.
"One of the policemen said to me, `do you know whose car that is?' and I said, `no I don't,' and my son has walked in the door with a gun stuck firmly between his eyes and the policeman saying, `Don't move, who are you?"'
From a political perspective, the bribery scandal, which made newspaper headlines nationally for days and locally for weeks, affected Mr Cox just as deeply.
"It was the Labor-Green accord and the majority of Labor voters at the time hated us for what we had done," he says.
"No one quite knew whether I was involved in the Rouse thing.
"There was no defining line of `yes you did,' or `no you didn't,'
"There was always the scuttlebutt of `maybe he did', or `maybe he knew something'.
"A combination of those two things cost me my seat in 1992."
Mr Cox decided at that time to turn his back forever on a political career and is still unclear on what changed his mind.
It was probably his son.
"I knew I had been wronged and I knew what had happened wasn't right," he says.
"My son said something to me about, `you shouldn't let them do this to you,' and for reasons that I don't want to go into, that stuck with me later on.
"It was a defining statement that didn't come home to me until the 1996 election."
By this time, his son had tragically died.
Mr Cox had also started taking calls from former Labor colleagues urging him to restand in 1996.
"So I went out and ran a very basic campaign of `Put Jim back in Bass,' and they did and kept on doing it," he says.
His voters have stayed with him ever since.
In his first election, in 1992, Mr Cox won 2088 votes. In 1996, he won 3305.
At the next election, the Cox vote was 6741 and the election after that, he topped the poll in Bass with 10,000 votes.
Mr Cox's dramatic entry to politics has shaped his career since.
"It didn't make me more understanding. It took me a long time to stop being angry," he says.
"The biggest thing that it did was affect my self-confidence and I didn't realise that until some time after."
As the young politician matured, he says that he got over his anger at Mr Rouse.
"I got over it - I said to one of the people involved, I saw that person at social events from time to time and he would sort of go out of the way and avoid me and it was always the whispering and the nonsense.
"I fronted him one day and said, `For whatever, this is over. It's done. What happened happened and we should all move on."'