Motion regarding Andrew Laming

By Terri Butler MP

23 June 2021

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) it has now been more than two months since the Member for Bowman said he would step down from all of his parliamentary positions;

(b) the Member for Bowman remains the Chair of the Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Training, a role for which he is paid an additional amount in the order of $23,000 per annum;

(c) the Prime Minister and his government have repeatedly voted to protect the Member for Bowman's position despite the Prime Minister's acknowledgement that the Member for Bowman's conduct had been inappropriate; and

(d) that by protecting the Member for Bowman, the Prime Minister is tacitly endorsing his inappropriate conduct, and the Prime Minster is also putting his own political interests ahead of his responsibility to show leadership; and

(2) calls on the Prime Minister to unequivocally reject the Member for Bowman's conduct by ensuring his removal from his lucrative committee chair role.

A number of women have given separate accounts of online abuse from the member for Bowman. One woman told Nine News that the member for Bowman had subjected her to false claims and social media abuse. In one of his online posts the member for Bowman said to the woman: 'You got nasty, threatened self-harm. Unfortunately for you, I make the rules and you follow them'—that's a quote. The woman said the member's online claims against her were baseless and the allegations left her suicidal. The same report said that the member for Bowman had targeted another woman with online abuse for six years.

The member for Bowman has also made comments directed to Ms Kim Richards MP, the state member for Redlands. He posted a photograph of her taken from a distance without her knowledge. He offered a $100 reward to anyone who could identify the people she was meeting with at 6 pm on Valentine's Day. A 29-year-old woman came forward and said the member for Bowman took a photo of her while she was at work and bent over exposing her underwear beneath denim shorts. A female professor talked about the member's conduct towards her on a flight that had made her uncomfortable. That conduct included making a comment about her figure and trying to get her to come out to an art gallery event 'for lots of cocktails'. A Labor Party official spoke of the member's conduct on a delegation overseas during which a delegate alleged the member's persistent requests for the phone numbers of female staffers caused concern. A hospitality worker, who was 19 years old at the time, spoke of the member approaching her to be her friend on Facebook and obtaining her name from her name badge for that purpose. She said: 'If it was any other person, I would've thought that was a bit weird for a middle-aged man to ask a 19-year-old to add them on Facebook. It wasn't a very comfortable situation. It just felt very forced and I sort of had to engage with it. I feel like you shouldn't have to agree to someone just because you felt obliged to do it because he's a high person in parliament or a high person in your community.' Another woman, an academic, said the member approached her by a direct message on Facebook. They had an exchange in which he eventually asked her if she was a skateboarder. She said that he then messaged her as follows: 'I'm happy just to meet skaties one at a time—starting with you'—followed by a wink emoji. She said: 'That is when I began to feel very uncomfortable.'

In addition to these examples it has been reported that the member for Bowman has operated more than 30 Facebook pages and profiles, some under the guise of community groups, which he used to promote political material. This is very strange behaviour.

The member for Bowman has offered some specific apologies to some of the women I've referred to. In addition, he has also made an apology at large to 'any person who has received correspondence from me which fell short of what they expect from an MP. I intend to own that behaviour and apologise without hesitation.' He has also attributed his conduct to recently diagnosed ADHD, though he himself has said that is not an excuse. He has obtained empathy training and clinical counselling. Despite those things, and despite the apologies that he has made, some of his other comments and conduct have thrown doubt on whether he is genuinely apologetic or remorseful, such as interjecting during this debate and at one point claiming not to know what it was he was apologising for.

The member has not made good on a commitment he made in respect of parliamentary roles. It's been reported that on 27 March he said he would step down from all parliamentary roles effective immediately. When parliament returned in May, Labor and the Australian people were surprised to learn that the member for Bowman had not stepped down from his role as Chair of the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training.

What has been even more surprising, though, has been the Prime Minister's decision to protect the member for Bowman against calls to resign from that role. The Prime Minister has previously described the member for Bowman's online behaviour as 'disgraceful'. Female Liberal MPs have said the conduct was 'outrageous' or that they weren't 'comfortable' with it. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister and his government have voted over and over and over again to protect the member for Bowman's position as the chair of that committee—a position that yields additional salary in the order of $23,000 per year. Even the LNP in Queensland showed more leadership on this issue than the Prime Minister and federal government when they disendorsed the current member for Bowman for the forthcoming election.

The PM's lack of leadership sends a terrible message to the women of the Liberal Party, the women of Australia, the workplaces of Australia and victims of abuse who are considering whether to speak out. I ask the member for Bowman to show the character that the Prime Minister is unwilling to show and resign from his committee chair position. That would show genuine remorse and would assist in providing some support to the parliamentary concerns that have been raised in respect of his conduct over a number of years.