News State QLD News AEC takes legal action against Laming

AEC takes legal action against Laming

Andrew Laming
Liberal MP Andrew Laming is being hauled to court by the AEC over Facebook posts made in 2019. Photo: Getty
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The Australian Electoral Commission is taking legal action against Liberal MP Andrew Laming after he failed to authorise social media posts in the lead-up to the 2019 election.

Australia’s election watchdog alleges the Queensland politician published unauthorised electoral matters on his Facebook page, “Redland Hospital: Let’s fight for fair funding” in an 18-month period.

Dr Laming, who will quit politics at next year’s election, set up the Facebook page in 2018 and reportedly criticised the Labor Party on numerous occasions.

The AEC found five posts between December 2018 and May 2019 lacked appropriate authorisation. It instituted Federal Court proceedings against the member for Bowman on Tuesday, seeking civil penalties.

The Facebook page declared Dr Laming’s involvement but did not state any party branding. It was shut down after the Redland Hospital received funding commitments for an upgrade.

“This contravened the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 requirement that material promoting one candidate or political party over another comply with the authorisation requirements of the Act,” the AEC said in a statement on Tuesday.

Dr Laming apologised for the lack of authorisation and for “the lapse of process”.

“Nothing is more important than the integrity of our political process, and I apologise for the lapse of process,” he said.

“I respect the AEC decision and I will assist them to resolve the matter by conciliation.”

However, Dr Laming added the low reach of the social media posts meant only roughly 22 of his electors saw the post ahead of the election.

“While the integrity of political communication must be safeguarded; these five posts amount to just 2 per cent of the page posts, with an average reach of six people. The entire page is less than 1 per cent of the reach of my AEC-authorised pages,” he said.

“The entire page is less than 1 per cent of the reach of my AEC-authorised pages.”

One of the posts seen by Nine newspapers reportedly attacked Labor for slamming Dr Laming’s involvement.

“Labor in a lather, calling this a fake page. Apparently, none of us are real. Read the ‘About’ tab which makes it clear Andrew Laming was involved in establishing this page and maintaining it. So what! We just want our $39 million back,” the January 2019 post read.