Labor leader Anthony Albanese has slammed the prime minister for failing to punish Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming over his treatment of two women living in his electorate.
On Thursday 9News aired allegations that Laming, the member for Bowman, had been harassing Alix Russo and Sheena Hewlett online, and had photographed Hewlett in a park.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Albanese said the women had been subjected to “vile abuse”, and criticised Scott Morrison for not doing enough to address the situation.
“Quite frankly, the prime minister’s response is totally inadequate, as it always is,” he told reporters on Friday.
“He waits and waits and waits and then says, ‘Oh, that’s a real concern and I’ll look into it and we will get Andrew Laming to stand up and say he’s sorry’. This has gone on for a long period of time. I saw distraught people on TV last night who have suffered from trolling from a Federal MP against his own constituents.
“In my view, Andrew Laming isn’t fit to continue as a member of parliament. And if the Liberal Party want to continue to associate themselves with him as what a federal public representative would be, then I’ll look forward to campaigning with the Labor candidate in that seat and sending a message, not just to Andrew Laming, but to the entire country, that that sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable by removing Andrew Laming from the parliament.”
On Friday morning Morrison criticised Laming for what he had written on social media. He said he had spoken to the MP about the allegations, but stopped short of punishing him.
“I found them disgraceful, I called him into my office and instructed him to apologise and deal with it — and he has,” he told reporters.
“He is very clear about my expectations.”
Laming apologised for his behaviour in a speech to parliament on Thursday, roughly an hour before 9News first aired Russo and Hewlett’s complaints.
The report alleged that Laming had accused Russo, a charity worker, of misappropriating funds at the organisation. On one occasion, he wrote on Facebook that Russo couldn’t be trusted with other people’s money.
Russo told 9News that Laming’s attacks had caused her to experience suicidal thoughts.
Hewlett, whose husband is a Redland City councillor, accused Laming of hiding in bushes to photograph her in a park, and of asking her school for her timetable. He had also subjected Hewlett and her husband to online abuse, she said.
In his apology, Laming said his behaviour had caused the women “significant distress”, acknowledged that they were both “highly regarded individuals” in the community, and withdrew the comments he had made about them.
The MP faced criticism earlier this year for a racist Facebook post he made about Cricket Australia’s decision to remove references to Australia Day from its Big Bash League promotions.