Liberal MP Andrew Laming will leave politics at the next election after a string of stories about his poor behaviour towards women came to light.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the Queensland MP said he would not contest the next election in any capacity, and in the meantime will seek professional assistance and counselling at his own expense.
Mr Laming’s female colleagues said they wanted him out of politics after a Brisbane woman accused the Queensland MP of taking a mobile phone photo of her bottom while her underwear was visible in 2019.
Mr Laming stood aside from his parliamentary roles on Saturday, taking “health leave”.
On Sunday, he confirmed he would not seek re-election after Treasurer and deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg announced that fact publicly.
“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 empathetic person than what the recent events demonstrated,” Mr Laming said in a statement.
“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 [in May].”
Mr Frydenberg said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had made it “very clear” to Mr Laming the behavioural standards expected of MPs.
“Andrew has reflected on that conversation with the Prime Minister,” Mr Frydenberg said.
A senior government source said it was Mr Morrison’s preference that a strong female candidate is chosen to contest the seat of Bowman for the Liberal National Party in Mr Laming’s place.
The Prime Minister is not directly involved in the LNP’s preselection processes but can nominate a representative, possibly Industry Minister Karen Andrews, to convey his views.
Ms Andrews earlier this week said she had had “an absolute gutful” of the poor workplace culture within Parliament House and politics.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said it was good Mr Laming had confirmed he would leave politics but it wasn’t enough.
“Andrew Laming brings disrepute and disgrace to our nation’s Parliament. He should go today,” he said.
The latest incident involving Mr Laming came three days after Nine News revealed the MP had bullied two women, Alix Russo and Sheena Hewlett, online and a day after he seemed to make light of his own apology to them.
Backbench colleagues Sarah Henderson and Katie Allen said his time was clearly up.
Senator Henderson said she was appalled by his behaviour.
“We can certainly say as Liberal women this is not good enough, and we won’t accept it,” she told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday. “I’m not comfortable with the conduct and I hope that Andrew makes the right decision.”
Dr Allen said it appeared “the stress must be getting to him” and his behaviour was “completely outrageous”.
Mr Morrison said on Saturday – before the latest revelations emerged – that he had given Mr Laming a second dressing-down in three days. He stopped short of endorsing Mr Laming as fit to continue to serve in Federal Parliament, saying he was sure preselectors “will be thinking about all of these things”.
If Mr Laming was to leave Parliament before the next election, the government would be thrust into a minority in the lower house at least until a byelection were held. It is down to 76 seats after Craig Kelly quit the Liberals last month to sit as an independent, but that number includes the Speaker, who holds a casting vote only in the event of a tie.
Mr Laming holds his seat of Bowman by 10.24 per cent, having increased his margin by more than three points at the 2019 election. He said on Sunday that being voted in at six consecutive elections “has been the greatest honour of my life”.
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Katina Curtis is a political reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra.