Andrew Laming is a 54 year old male (calling him a man is probably overstating the case) who was elected to represent all the electors in Bowman, Queensland. Two of those electors, both women, were trolled by Laming. One of them, Alix Russo, said she was suicidal after Laming falsely accused her of misappropriation funds from the charity she founded. After doing so, the appalling Laming wrote on Facebook “Unfortunately for you, I make the rules and you follow them”.1
The other woman, Sheena Hewlett, a teacher, said Mr Laming requested her teaching timetable from her school and in 2019 took photos of her in public places. She reported the incidents to the police. After this all came out in the media, Laming was told by Prime Minister Morrison to ‘fix it’, so Laming apologised in a nearly empty House of Representatives in the dying minutes of the sitting week. He said, in part: “I want to unreservedly apologise to both Ms Hewlett and Ms Russo and I express my regret and deep apologies for the hurt and distress that that communication may have caused. Today in this House I want to retract my comments and issue a public unreserved apology”1.
After his apology, Laming, couldn’t help himself and sent a text message to someone saying he was “surprised by the response” and “In this climate — I willingly apologise — I didn’t even know what for at 4pm when I did it’’. The messages are followed by a string of smiling and laughing emojis. To one of the women he harassed, Ms Hewlett, this demonstrated Laming “clearly isn’t sorry”2.
After this, another incident came to light, where it was alleged that Laming photographed a female staff member, Crystal White, while she was bending over, exposing her underwear over the top of her shorts3. One of the men at the landscaping supply business where the incident happened, a Sean Blinco, has planned to make a complaint to the police. As he said: “In my job, if I was to take a candid shot of my employee or a customer and there was evidence of it, I wouldn’t have a job anymore”4. Indeed.
As if that wasn’t enough, Laming has now been accused of more online harassment by a state Labor MP for Redlands, Kim Richards. Laming offered a bizarre $100 reward for people to help him identify people Ms Richards was seen with in public. In addition, Laming had published a photo of her accompanied with an apparent slur that she had “no reason to be in a kids’ park”5.
Laming may have committed a criminal act under section 227a of the state’s criminal code, which states: “A person who observes or visually records another person, in circumstances where a reasonable adult would expect to be afforded privacy—
(a) without the other person’s consent; and
(b) when the other person—
(i) is in a private place; or
(ii) is engaging in a private act and the observation or visual recording is made for the purpose of observing or visually recording a private act;
commits a misdemeanour.
The maximum penalty for such an offence is three years’ imprisonment6.
Laming’s use of a carriage service (e.g. social media etc.) to harass a person, may have been a criminal act under section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995, which states that: “a person is guilty of an offence if:
- The person uses a carriage service; and
- The person does so in a way (whether by the method of use or the content of a communication, or both) that reasonable persons would regard as being, in all the circumstances, menacing, harassing or offensive.”
This also has a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 3 years.7
Of course, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as usual, absolved himself of responsibility with the ‘I don’t hold a hose’ strategy in saying that he had no control over Laming’s position as he was not a member of the Queensland Liberal National Party8. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg stated: “Andrew Laming’s behaviour is completely unacceptable. It’s demeaning of women and it’s certainly not becoming of a member of parliament, let alone anybody across our society at large. I believe he should stay in parliament, but I also believe he should correct his behaviour and he was elected by his constituents to serve out his term”.9
This is Rule 76: “Thou shalt not allow any misdemeanour, no matter how severe, from any Coalition member of parliament to endanger the majority we enjoy in the House of Representatives”.
One wonders how far Rule 76 would go. Laming has been allowed to continue in parliament despite being accused of harassment, slander and upskirting. Christian Porter has been allowed to continue in parliament after being accused of rape, but has been declared innocent by Morrison. It does make you wonder what would happen if a Coalition member was accused of murder, would Morrison declare them innocent too, and allow them to remain in parliament? It is clear that the bar is set very low for the Coalition, in fact it is set so low it is more akin to a speed bump that an ethical bar.