A Queensland MP who apologised to two women for online bullying and harassment has laughed off his apology just hours later, sparking further calls for him to now step down from parliament.
Andrew Laming, the member for Bowman in Brisbane’s east, apologised in parliament on Thursday after it emerged in a Nine News report he had repeatedly bullied two women in his electorate on social media.
One of the women, Alix Russo, told Nine News in tears the abuse needed to stop after Mr Laming made unfounded accusations of her pocketing money for a homeless charity she works for.
Ms Russo pleaded to Prime Minister Scott Morrison for Mr Laming’s harassment to stop and said she had contemplated taking her own life.
On Friday, Mr Morrison told reporters Mr Laming’s behaviour was “disgraceful”. This was after Mr Laming told parliament on Thursday he was sorry, reportedly at the direction of the prime minister.
In a statement, Mr Laming said he was made aware of the “significant distress” of the two women caused by his “commentary” with them.
He added that he sent both of them a hand-written letter to express his “deep regret” and apologised.
But it didn't take long for him to publicly undermine his apology with the Liberal MP now being criticised for a series of messages laughing about the apparently forced mea culpa just hours later.
In the messages, broadcast by Nine News, the member for Bowman wrote he is “surprised by the response”.
“Not as good as skulling though,” he wrote, referencing a video of him skulling a beer next to a teenager which emerged earlier this month.
“In this climate — I willingly apologise — I didn’t even know what for at 4pm when I did it,’’ he wrote.
The messages are followed by a string of smiling emojis. He told news.com.au the emojis were sent by accident after his phone was set off in his pocket.
Mr Laming has been contacted for comment.
Sheena Hewlett, the other woman the MP bullied, told Nine News the messages show Mr Laming “clearly isn’t sorry”.
Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese tweeted on Friday, “Andrew Laming isn’t fit to be an MP”.
Radio broadcaster Ray Hadley claims he asked fellow Queensland Liberals whether they thought Mr Laming is a “total f***wit” to which he claims they responded: “Yes”.
Government minister Angus Taylor told 2GB he accepted Mr Laming’s apology and whether he remains an elected official is up to his constituents.
Sacking Mr Laming would place the Coalition in a minority government after controversial backbencher Craig Kelly quit the party last month.
His brazen defiance led to some speculation the MP knows his vote is too valueable for him to face further punishment.
Laming will do a course: Morrison
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made a point of not punishing government MPs mired in scandal but said he "won't accept" the behaviour of Mr Laming.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, he said Mr Laming will be made to do a course.
“I spoke with him again this morning and I have arranged for Mr Laming to go and get appropriate assistance to rebuild his understanding and his awareness ... about how to change his behaviour," Mr Morrison said.
“He’s agreed to participate in that.
"The way we fix this is to increase awareness to change behaviour."
It's a response Mr Morrison's political opponents have labelled "pathetic".
MP 'couldn't care less'
Barrie Cassidy, a political journalist for the ABC, tweeted his shock over Mr Laming’s response after the apology.
“Imagine at the height of a toxic issue someone on your own side disgracefully trolls women, is then carpeted by the PM but says on reflection I couldn’t care less,” Cassidy tweeted.
“No, don't imagine. It’s real.”
Independent MP Tony Windsor tweeted “There would not be one ounce of sincerity in an apology from Andrew Laming”.
Former Labor Party politician Craig Emerson tweeted “trolling women to distress and despair is not OK” while Deputy Labor leader Kristina Keneally tweeted the apology seemed “insincere”.
“Laming’s apology definitely seemed fulsome. I’d also add in that it appeared self-serving,” she tweeted.
Hugh Riminton, 10 News political editor, simply tweeted “yuck”.
Controversial past of Liberal MP
Mr Laming has courted controversy in the past.
In 2015, he was banned from parliament for 24 hours for bringing in a jar of black fuel into Parliament House and pouring it on his hands as protest to pollution left behind by cruise ships.
Then Speaker Bronwyn Bishop called his actions “totally disorderly, disrespectful of the House and Federation Chamber” and dangerous due to the fact fuel is flammable.
He raised a few eyebrows in 2016 when he spent a number of hours arguing with a Simpsons meme page on Facebook.
In 2018, he apologised for pushing a 12-year-old boy out of the way during a fun run.
Kylie Mairs, the boy’s mum, told The Courier-Mail Mr Laming didn’t stop to check if her son was OK after he pushed him.
Mr Laming later apologised but claims the collision could not have been avoided.
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