Embattled Coalition MP Andrew Laming will not recontest the next election, as he faces mounting pressure over his treatment of women in his electorate.
However, Mr Laming is expected to stay in politics until the next election, leading Labor leader Anthony Albanese to brand him as “not fit” to remain a federal MP.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Mr Laming, the Liberal National member for the seat of Bowman, would not be the LNP’s candidate at the next election.
Here's Treasurer @JoshFrydenberg condemning Andrew Laming's "unacceptable" behaviour and then justifying why he should stay in the Parliament until the next election … which could be anytime until May 2022. #auspol @10NewsFirst pic.twitter.com/Yad2Q7LgYy
— Tegan George (@tegangeorge) March 28, 2021
He said the decision came after the controversial MP spoke with Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday night, shortly after further allegations emerged that Mr Laming had taken a photograph of a woman’s bottom.
“The Prime Minister spoke to Andrew yesterday and made it very clear what was expected of our MPs and Andrew has reflected on the
conversation… he has decided not to contest the next election,” Mr Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne.
“The LNP will find a new candidate and that will be up to the preselectors. Andrew is taking some time to seek some additional support. That’s important, given his behaviour has been unacceptable.”
Mr Laming had apologised for the alleged actions revealed in media reports in recent days, quitting his parliamentary committee positions and committing to undertaking counselling courses. He had initially decided to take medical leave, and said he would have “more to say on my future” following that process.
In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr Laming said he would undergo counselling at his own expense, but mentioned no plans to quit politics or go to the crossbench.
“Starting tomorrow, I will get assistance with courses in empathy and appropriate communication, not just to be a better MP, but to be a deeper and more empathic person than what the recent events have demonstrated,” he said.
“The common thread of the last week has been not demonstrating anything close to understanding how my actions affect others. I intend to own those mistakes. I will also be obtaining clinical counselling, for a duration decided by others, but I will aim to complete it by the next Parliamentary sitting.”
“I intend to get that help immediately and at my own expense… I will not be contesting the next federal election in any capacity.”
Mr Laming asked for “privacy” for himself and his family.
Fit and proper?
But despite saying Mr Laming’s actions were “unacceptable”, Mr Frydenberg said he did not support calls for the MP to stand down immediately from parliament.
The Treasurer said he expected Mr Laming to return to Canberra in May, for the next parliamentary sittings around the federal Budget.
When asked if he believed Mr Laming was a “fit and proper person” to remain in parliament, Mr Frydenberg answered “that’s my view”.
The next election can be held anytime between August 2021 and May 2022, but is now widely tipped to be early next year – potentially 12 months from now. Mr Laming would be able to collect his parliamentary salary, some $211,000 for a backbencher, until then.
If Mr Laming quit parliament entirely, or left the Coalition to sit as a crossbencher, it would leave Mr Morrison in minority government, with just 74 members on the floor of the 151-seat parliament.
‘Disrepute and disgrace’
Mr Albanese, speaking after Mr Frydenberg has announced the news, claimed that Mr Laming was “not fit” to stay in parliament.
“Andrew Laming should go,” Mr Albanese said.
“He brings disrepute and disgrace to our national Parliament and he simply should go.”
Mr Albanese said he hoped police would investigate Mr Laming’s conduct.
“This is a Government that is unraveling before our eyes, a shambolic government,” he claimed.
— Insiders ABC (@InsidersABC) March 27, 2021
News of Mr Laming’s decision broke just an hour after his Coalition colleagues, Dr Katie Allen and Senator Sarah Henderson, had savaged his conduct.
Dr Allen, the Member for Higgins, said his behaviour was “completely outrageous”, while Senator Henderson said she was “really appalled”.
Both Liberal women, speaking on the ABC’s Insiders, said they would welcome him quitting.
“You hope he goes?” host David Speers asked.
“I do,” Senator Henderson replied.