Andrew Laming to quit politics after 'unacceptable behaviour', says Josh Frydenberg
Queensland MP Andrew Laming has decided to quit politics at the next general election the day after a Brisbane woman accused him of taking a photo of her bottom on his mobile phone in 2019.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed Dr Laming had been ordered into empathy training after downplaying his apology for bullying two prominent women from his federal electorate in eastern Brisbane over several years.
In a statement, the LNP confirmed Dr Laming would not contest the next election.
"Dr Laming's behaviour has not met the standards required of LNP Members, and we support the Prime Minister's direction to seek and undertake professional assistance," the statement said.
"Dr Laming will be undertaking empathy and communication training interstate at his own expense to address instances of behaviour that do not meet accepted community standards. He will also receive clinical counselling for as long as is required."
Treasurer John Frydenberg announced to reporters earlier on Sunday that Dr Laming would step down.
"Andrew has reflected on that conversation with the prime minister and following that conversation with the prime minister he has decided not to recontest the next election," My Frydenberg said.
“We will find a new candidate and that will be up to the preselectors. Andrew is also taking some time to seek some additional support and that is important given his behaviour has been unacceptable.”
Mr Frydenberg said it would be up to the Liberal National party to decide if the member for Bowman could remain in the party but said he remained a "fit and proper" person to be an MP.
"I think he has taken the proper course of action here, to seek that counselling; and obviously following a conversation with the prime minister, not to stand again at the next election.
"His behaviour has been absolutely unacceptable."
He added: "His decision not to recontest the next election mean the voters in his electorate get an opportunity to have a fresh start with a new Coalition, a new LNP candidate."
The Morrison government holds a slender one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
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Dr Laming previously announced on Saturday evening that he would step aside from "all parliamentary roles" to "complete both the counselling courses I committed to as well as additional clinical counselling", after fresh allegations of misconduct against a third woman emerged.
The statement came shortly after Nine News Brisbane revealed that a woman Crystal White had come forward to allege the MP had taken an "inappropriate" photo of her while she bent down to fill a fridge with drinks at a landscape supply business in 2019 - an account that witnesses support.
"The photo was really inappropriate, especially when I bent over," Ms White told Nine News.
Sean Blinco, who was working at the time of the incident, said his manager saw Dr Laming take the photo before forcing him to delete it.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr Morrison told Dr Laming to do a private course to help him understand and be aware of his actions in the wake of the harassment allegations.
"I want to see behaviour change and we've all got a job to do with that, and he certainly has a job to do on this," Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
"We've discussed this very directly this morning and he's agreed to participate in that and submit himself to that as he should.
"I would hope that that would see a very significant change in his behaviour."
On Thursday, Dr Laming apologised for harassing two women from his electorate but later downplayed his apology in a post on Facebook on Thursday night.
"In this climate - I willingly apologise - I didn't even know what for at 4pm when I did it," Dr Laming wrote, following it up with three tongue sticking out emojis and a heart eyes emoji.
His Facebook page had been taken down on Saturday.
The episode is the latest in a crisis which has engulfed the Morrison government and started a wider debate about sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse.
The prime minister is seeking a circuit-breaker after being criticised for his tone-deaf response to the ongoing conversation, sparked by former staffer Brittany Higgins coming forward last month to allege she was raped by a colleague in 2019.
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Mr Morrison said everyone needed to change their behaviour toward women but not all bad behaviour was on purpose.
"There are conscious malevolent acts that are undertaken to discriminate against women and make women feel unsafe," he said.
"There are also many unconscious acts, born out of a lack of understanding and appreciation and awareness. We have to address both of these things."
However Mr Morrison said he didn't want the current crisis to pit women again men.
"I don't want to see gender become a defining thing in this nation. I don't want this to be a women versus men, men versus women issue," he said.
Deputy Nationals Leaders David Littleproud was asked on Sky News' Sunday Agenda program whether Dr Laming was just retaining his position because it would throw the government into minority if he was kicked out.
"With respect, I don't think that's the case," Mr Littleproud replied.
"It's about making sure we do the right thing."
His party agreed at this weekend's national conference to undergo behavioural training and coaching in how to deal with such complaints that have been in recent weeks.
"We can all learn how to do this better, so what we said is, if we get these complaints we would like to have a process that is world's best," he said.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Readers seeking support with mental health can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. More information is available at Beyondblue.org.au. Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.