Government MP steps down from Parliament duties after harassing women

Australian Associated Press
·4-min read

Liberal MP Andrew Laming says he will step down from all parliamentary roles and undergo counselling.

The federal MP issued a statement late on Saturday, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered him to take a private course to help him understand and be aware of his actions.

"I will step down from all Parliamentary roles effective immediately and complete both the counselling courses I committed to; as well as additional clinical counselling, and ask for privacy while that is completed," Dr Laming said in a statement sent to AAP on Saturday night.

"I will have more to say on my future as soon as that process is completed.

"I would like to thank my local community for their understanding during this time and assure them my electorate staff remain available to them."

Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming is the latest Liberal MP to go on health leave. Source: AAP
Federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming is the latest Liberal MP to go on health leave. Source: AAP

Dr Laming apologised in parliament on Thursday after harassing two prominent women from his electorate over several years.

However, the MP later backtracked from his offering 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 defiance led to speculation the MP is confident his valuable vote would spare him from further punishment. The Morrison government holds a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

There is speculation Labor might not grant the government a pair in the House of Representatives, meaning the government's majority could be gone if Dr Laming is absent when parliament sits. 

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Morrison: I have no control over Laming pre-selection

In response to a question about whether Dr Laming was fit for parliament, Mr Morrison said that was up to voters to judge.

He added that they had been making that judgement in the Bowman MP's case "for many, many years".

"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 on Saturday

The prime minister also said he had no control over Dr Laming's preselection as he wasn't a member of Queensland's Liberal National Party.

Scott Morrison has done little to address the issue of harassment and sexual mistreatment of women in Parliament and Australian workplaces, despite escalating scandals. Source: AAP
Scott Morrison has done little to address the issue of harassment and sexual mistreatment of women in Parliament and Australian workplaces, despite escalating scandals in his government. Source: AAP

The episode is the latest in a crisis which has engulfed the Morrison government and triggered a wider debate about sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse.

The prime minister has been seeking a circuit-breaker after being criticised for his responses to the ongoing conversation, sparked by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins alleging she was raped by a colleague in 2019.

Nationals agree to undergo empathy training

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said men needed to be more respectful to women not only in public, but also in private.

"Perhaps when they're just talking man on man, bloke to bloke, mate to mate, they need to watch what they say, and they don't need that lewd comment about a female, they don't need to tell those jokes," he said.

Mr McCormack said the Nationals have agreed to undergo empathy training in relation to the treatment of women.

He said his MPs were ready "to sit around for an hour or so" to learn from an expert.

"If we can learn from an expert ... and actually learn a few tips on how to not only be better ourselves, but how to call out others for it, then I think that's a good thing," the deputy prime minister said.

Mr Morrison said everyone needed to change their behaviour, but he doesn't want the current crisis to divide Australians.

"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," the prime minister said.

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