The Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - TIM HOWARD tim.howard@dai­lyex­am­

SIX MONTHS af­ter he re­signed in dis­grace from NSW Par­lia­ment in 2011, Steve Cansdell’s Queens­land kayak trip took a turn for the worse.

His res­ig­na­tion af­ter he ad­mit­ted to sign­ing a false statu­tory dec­la­ra­tion to escape a speed­ing fine six years ear­lier, had not only stripped him of his seat, but had opened him up to vi­cious at­tacks on his hon­esty and in­tegrity.

Al­though he had im­me­di­ately con­fessed to po­lice and re­signed from par­lia­ment overnight, the po­lice fail­ure to in­ves­ti­gate the charges kept the at­ten­tion on him.

“I was 10km off the coast of Her­vey Bay in my kayak, in March and it was still go­ing on,” he said.

“They were talk­ing about rais­ing it in par­lia­ment again and I was just over it.

“My whole rud­der sys­tem col­lapsed and it blew up to about a 30-knot wind and I was stuck on a mud flat about 500m from Fraser Is­land. It was all mud and man­groves so I couldn’t go there.

“I made a phone call to some friends to say it was low tide and I had some time.”

The friends said they were at Gympie, but would get their boat and come and get him by 6.30pm.

“Seven o’clock come. The tide’s com­ing in. It’s get­ting dark. At 7.30pm it’s pitch black. There’s a lit­tle bit of moon and the wa­ter’s up to my knees and the wind’s blow­ing and I’m hang­ing onto that kayak.”

“My phone had fallen into the wa­ter. It was gone. So I had no way of com­mu­ni­cat­ing.”

In des­per­a­tion Mr Cansdell de­cided he would get back on the kayak and see where the con­di­tions took him.

“As I was pre­par­ing to go the thought sud­denly struck me, ‘At least if I go down, I don’t have to put up with any more of this sh-t’.”

Al­most im­me­di­ately help came. “It was about 7.45pm when I heard my friends’ boat,” he said.

“It was re­ally lucky. I had gone off on a week­end kayak­ing trip when I re­alised I hadn’t brought a torch with me.

“I was at a garage and saw a lit­tle $10 halo­gen job, so I bought that.

“I pulled this lit­tle torch out and started flick­ing the light at the boat. They saw me and picked me up.”

Mr Cansdell has never at­tempted to hide from what he did, but does plead for some per­spec­tive.

“The re­al­ity is I didn’t cop a $5000 bot­tle of Grange and try to hide it, I didn’t cop a $10,000 cash donation un­der the ta­ble in a brown pa­per bag as one of the star Lib­eral mem­bers down at New­cas­tle did,” Mr Cansdell said.

“I didn’t do any of these things for money. I did these things at the time not re­al­is­ing the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion.

“I did it to keep my li­cence so I could keep go­ing from town to town for the job.

“I could have and I should have, in hind­sight, I should have said ‘Bug­ger it, take the li­cence off me for three months or six months,’ what­ever it was.”

He said he had some mis­giv­ings when one of his staffers of­fered to take the rap for him and say she was driv­ing the car when it was de­tected speed­ing.

“I had a staffer at the time – and my other staffer would con­firm this – and she of­fered to do it,” he said.

“I said ‘No’, but she said ‘You’ve got a very im­por­tant job, you need your li­cence’ and they were her words. “And I said ‘Yeah’.

“I didn’t worry be­cause at the time I didn’t think it was a crim­i­nal of­fence.

“It might have been naughty. Like speed­ing. Fine me. I’ll get fined. It was to­tal ig­no­rance.

“But like I said yes­ter­day, ig­no­rance is no ex­cuse when you break the law.”

Mr Cansdell said the cost for his in­dis­cre­tion was huge.

“I paid a huge penalty. Mon­e­tar­ily



alone it was mas­sive,” he said.

“It was my chil­dren’s in­her­i­tance if I’d stayed in the job for an­other eight years.

“Plus I loved that job. I helped so many peo­ple. Lit­tle peo­ple that you don’t get write ups for. Things that I dead­set loved do­ing.

“I think it was Janelle Saf­fin’s hus­band rang me up and said, ‘Cansdell what have you done? What about all your con­stituents that rely on you? With­draw your res­ig­na­tion’.”

Mr Cansdell has al­ways been a stick­ler for law and or­der, so he viewed his ap­point­ment as Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary to the Po­lice Min­is­ter as a role close to his heart.

“When that was taken away, I thought if it’s se­ri­ous enough to take that away, I’ll get out of par­lia­ment,” he said.

“Be­cause they would have just run on it. It was one of those things my fam­ily would have had to put up with that con­tin­ual harassment.

“The party would have had to try and de­fend them­selves against it. Be­cause that was the first fall from grace for the new gov­ern­ment.

“I just had to wear that. There was no other op­tion.

“I thought if I re­sign, take it to the po­lice, it was fin­ished. Let the courts deal with it.”

Seven years in the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness has brought their changes for Mr Cansdell, in­clud­ing a sur­prise marriage to a Viet­namese seam­stress,


named Thu, he met dur­ing a visit to Stock­holm.

“I met this group of peo­ple over there and we spent some time to­gether,” he said.

“She was mar­ried to some­one else at the time and I re­mem­ber jok­ing that she should leave him and marry me.”

He said some time went by where they kept a pen­friend re­la­tion­ship go­ing. But all that changed around 2016.

“By April last year – on Thu’s 49th birth­day – we were mar­ried,” he said.

“It wasn’t some­thing I’d wanted or planned, but it’s ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful.

“All my chil­dren think the world of her and she loves the kids.” But it’s been a long-dis­tance marriage so far, as Thu con­tin­ues to man­age her busi­ness in Ho Chi Minh City.

The cou­ple are plan­ning for her to come to Clarence Val­ley for a three-month hol­i­day stay­ing in the ren­o­vated church at Ul­marra where Mr Cansdell has lived and worked in re­cent years.

But he thinks liv­ing through an elec­tion cam­paign might not be a good thing for her.

“The Na­tion­als are quite able to play rough if they look like los­ing the seat,” Mr Cansdell said.

“I don’t think where she’s from they quite un­der­stand the rough and tum­ble of our demo­cratic process.”

Mr Cansdell is un­der no il­lu­sion a po­lit­i­cal come­back will be hard work.

“My daugh­ter, Emma, when I told her said ‘Dad have you got a bad mem­ory?’

“But I said there’s so much you can do in there (par­lia­ment). “One of the haters said you’re just putting your head back in the trough.

“But in re­al­ity with the job I’ve got and the pen­sion I get I’ll only be a cou­ple of hun­dred dol­lars bet­ter off.

“I won’t have my week­ends. If you’re se­ri­ous about this job – and you’ve got to be – you’ve got to go places, be seen, be ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple.

“They want the lit­tle things done. They’re the things that count for the lit­tle peo­ple you rep­re­sent, so it’s a full-time job.”

The re­sponse he has re­ceived from the com­mu­nity con­vinced him he has made the right choice.

“The phone’s been ring­ing con­stantly with peo­ple say­ing ‘Go for it Steve’.

“Just this morn­ing I’ve had ... a se­nior Na­tional ring up to say how glad they were to see I was run­ning again.

“It makes me think we’ve got a real shot at win­ning.”

Photo: JoJo Newby

GO­ING OUT: Mem­ber for Clarence Steve Cansdell an­nounc­ing his res­ig­na­tion as an MP back then.

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