Liberal MP Andrew Laming has accepted liability over social media posts he made in the lead-up to the 2019 election, but is now set to take legal advice after being hauled before the Federal Court.
The Australian Electoral Commission has accused Dr Laming of contravening commonwealth requirements by publishing material under a “Redland Hospital: Let’s fight for fair funding” Facebook page without adequately disclosing his political links.
The commission said in December it had begun the proceedings against the MP for the Queensland seat of Bowman in which the hospital is located.
A statement of facts had since been agreed to while Mr Laming was not legally represented, Australian government solicitor Steven Forrest told a case management hearing in the Federal Court in Brisbane on Thursday.
Mr Forrest said the statement of agreed facts “contains certain admissions by Mr Laming as to contravention”.
“Both parties so far have been operating on the understanding that the matter would not be proceeding a trial,” he added.
He told the court that liability was not in dispute, with the matter expected to proceed to a hearing on penalty.
But the government solicitor recently received emails from Dr Laming that are “ambiguous and might be suggesting that he might be intended to resile from some of the admissions and from the statement of agreed facts and contest liability”.
The AEC had pressed Dr Laming for clarification and received an email disavowing the interpretation that he intended to do that.
The MP’s representative Douglas Wilson asked for a short adjournment to review material and talk to Dr Laming as he had only taken on the case about 6pm on Wednesday.
“I can confirm, Your Honour, that Mr Laming is desirous of advice being given with respect to whether the matter should proceed in the fashion in which it has to date,” he told Justice Darryl Rangiah.
The adjournment was opposed by the AEC, but agreed to by Justice Rangiah who listed it for another case management hearing on March 28.
If the penalty hearing goes ahead it is expected to be held on June 16, with up to 12 witnesses taking the stand.