Scandals continue to plague Australian legislators. The Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper controversies have yet to subside, but on Thursday the spotlight was again on Senator Mary-Jo Fisher who quit her post effective Aug 10, 2012.
Ms Fisher, 49, resigned after a second shoplifting incident at a Coles Supermarket on Saturday at about 5:30 p.m. in Adelaide. Although police officers were called to the grocery, the senator was not arrested for allegedly stealing $60.10 worth of assorted food which were found in her personal bags and were not paid for.
It was the second hit for Ms Fisher who faced a similar charge in September 2011 for allegedly shoplifting $92.83 worth of fruit and vegetables. However, she was cleared in November 2011 of the shoplifting charges for the first incident.
The senator attributed the two incidents to her depression and resigned on advice of her physicians. She described the Saturday incident as a "further panic attack."
"It has become undeniable that for me, the road to full recovery from my depressive illness has been hampered by my trying to get better, at the same time as continuing to serve in public office," Ms Fisher said in a statement.
Reports said she is on new medication for her mental health problems following the Saturday incident.
"My faltering recovery was exacerbated by repeated pressures from dogged, calculated and deliberate attempts by the police prosecution service to do everything possible to increase the length, complexity, cost and emotional turmoil both of my recent and extended trial, and the subsequent and continuing post-trial cost processes," the senator added.
Police prosecutors had offered to resolve the first shoplifting incident by asking Ms Fisher to plead guilty to theft or assault in exchange for a no conviction record. Although both parties agreed and documents were filed, senior police overruled the decision. However, Magistrate Kym Boxall acquitted the senator of theft and dismissed the assault charge.
Ms Fisher's resignation would leave a vacancy in the Senate which will be filled by nomination of the Liberal Party where she belongs. She was a representative of South Australia for the past five years, but first gained Internet notoriety prior to the two shoplifting incidents for dancing the Hokey Pokey in the upper house in 2011.
Leader of the House Anthony Albanese said the senator must be given the space and support she needs to attend to her personal issues. Manager of Opposition business Christopher Pyne wished Ms Fisher and her husband, John, the best while they couple addresses her health issues which had bedeviled the senator.
Coalition leader Tony Abbott described the second shoplifting incident as a tragic personal situation but lauded Ms Fisher for doing "the gutsy thing in difficult circumstances."
"She is wrestling with some personal issues, she's done the honourable and the courageous thing by herself, her family and the parliament by resigning.... I think the best thing we can do now is wish Mary-Jo all the best as she puts her life back together again," Nine Network quoted Mr Abbott.
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