Scandal-plagued Coalition MP Andrew Laming won’t contest the next election, but the government won’t force him to quit until then – allowing him to earn $230,000 on the public purse.
Mr Laming was slammed by even his own colleagues after a series of disturbing reports about his alleged treatment of female constituents.
On Sunday, he said he would leave Parliament at the next election – expected in mid-2022 – but has resisted calls to resign immediately.
Even though Liberal women describe Mr Laming’s alleged behaviour as “completely outrageous”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison can’t ask him to quit, as it would plunge the PM into minority government with just 74 members in the 151-seat Parliament.
“Andrew Laming isn’t fit to be a Member of Parliament today. Andrew Laming should go,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese said.
“He brings disrepute and disgrace to our national Parliament.”
Mr Laming, the Liberal National member for the Brisbane seat of Bowman, came under fire on Friday for alleged ‘trolling’ of several women online.
He apologised in Parliament before a Channel Nine news report aired, but later wrote on Facebook of the apology “I didn’t even know what for”.
On Saturday, a further report emerged he had allegedly taken a photo of a woman’s bottom while she was at work.
Mr Morrison did not make any public appearances on Sunday and has not commented publicly on the latest controversy surrounding Mr Laming, or his decision to remain in Parliament.
Laming to quit
Initially, Dr Laming said he would undertake counselling and quit his parliamentary committee positions.
However, following a second conversation with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Dr Laming said he “will not be contesting the next federal election in any capacity”.
“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.”
Dr Laming courted controversy in recent years for a series of strange behaviours online, including a long-running feud with a Simpsons meme page on Facebook, and a TikTok account where he posted multiple videos of himself performing chin-up workouts.
He plans to undertake empathy courses and “clinical counselling”, which he said would begin “immediately and at my own expense”.
But the decision for Dr Laming to remain in Parliament until the next election, instead of quitting now, means those expenses will be eased by the Australian taxpayer.
Continues to draw salary
The next federal election must be held between August and May 2022, and many political observers believe it will be called by Mr Morrison later rather than sooner.
Dr Laming has given up his parliamentary committee positions, for which an MP is paid an extra wage, but he will continue to draw his base salary of $211,250 per year.
If a federal election is called in May 2022, and Mr Laming remains in Parliament until that time, he could earn about $230,000 in salary by that time.
That would be in addition to politicians’ travel allowance payments, set at $291 for each night an MP visits Canberra for Parliament.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Dr Laming would be back in Canberra for the next sitting period in May.
Dr Laming said he expected to have completed his counselling “by the next parliamentary sitting”.
When asked if he believed Dr Laming was a “fit and proper person” to remain in Parliament, Mr Frydenberg answered “that’s my view”.
“His behaviour has been absolutely unacceptable … [but] he continues to serve his constituents in the Parliament,” Mr Frydenberg said.
If Dr 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.
The Prime Minister still doesn't get it. Failing to take swift action against Mr Laming shows he’s learnt nothing over the past month. He failed to respond properly to Ms Higgins, he failed to respond to the allegations against Mr Porter.
He’s failed to lead from beginning to end
— 💚🌏 Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) March 27, 2021
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young called on Mr Laming to quit, citing the wage he would continue to draw despite the controversy.
“This guy has shown that he is not fit to be in the Parliament and should not be fit to take a salary,” she said.
“He is a creep.”