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After 17 years on the political fringes, this is why Laming has never been invited in

Politics

The slow flame-out of Andrew Laming’s troubled political career has been like watching a train wreck. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is doing his best to avoid becoming collateral damage, writes Dennis Atkins

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There’s a reason the name Andrew Laming has never featured on any “possible for promotion” lists during his 17 years as a federal politician.

It’s simple, really. Soon after Laming first won the Moreton Bay seat of Bowman in 2004, after it was ruled over as a fiefdom by Labor’s Con Sciacca for five almost uninterrupted terms, he was noticed by his colleagues.

He was noticed for the wrong reasons. His behaviour was seen as immature. His judgment was regarded as off the mark. His arrogance could have been given its own postcode.

In the old-school days of politics he was what was known as “capital gain”. You would like to buy him at your price and sell him at his.

Until this past week, these behavioural shortcomings (to be polite) were at their most dangerous in 2007 when Laming was one of three Liberal MPs investigated by the federal police for alleged breaches of parliamentary entitlements, including employment of certain people and printing allowances.

The inquiry cleared the three prior to the 2007 election but rumours swirled throughout Queensland political circles, mainly in relation to Laming’s conduct. He never faced any publicly revealed allegations but some serious claims were made in the never quiet corridors of power.

After the 2007 election, when the MP was taken to the edge of defeat, holding on by just 64 votes after a swing just short of 9 percent, Laming put his head down for a while but his activity on what were then emerging social media platforms was soon being monitored by his opponents and many constituents.

Laming had one half-hearted champion in national politics when Tony Abbott was Liberal leader. He made the Bowman MP a shadow parliamentary secretary for indigenous health – a passion the pair shared – but this support didn’t result in an actual spot on the front bench when the Coalition won power in 2013.

One of the reasons was the already obvious risky social media activity – particularly an instance on Facebook when Laming “fat shamed” a constituent in 2012. This, coupled with the often first-hand knowledge of the MP’s edgy behaviour in and around Parliament House, kept him on the outer.

It also put him at odds with many of his local branch members – a number of whom were banished for speaking out against Laming three years ago when he was up for preselection prior to the 2019 election.

One of the famous incidents which caused local disquiet at this time was when Laming had to apologise to a 12-year-old he shoved aside in a community fun run.

Then, three senior officials on Laming’s federal divisional council, chairman Shaun Edwards, treasurer Paul Field and secretary Suzie Foster, had their LNP membership suspended because they spoke out, claiming the Bowman MP’s behaviour had become so bad and so persistent “it will be harmful at the upcoming election”.

The Queensland LNP backed Laming, brought down their famous jackboot on the local branch members and enlisted a powerful Canberra voice to back the incumbent MP’s preselection, that of Scott Morrison.

Morrison said this week he had no control over Laming’s preselection because he wasn’t a member of the LNP – a merged party that sits as a division of both the federal Liberal and Nationals parties.

This is technically true – it’s always “technically true” when Morrison is proving a point – but that didn’t stop Morrison from writing a letter to Bowman preselectors in 2018 urging them to stick with Laming.

Now he continues to stick with Laming. This is because if he loses Laming – to the cross bench by insisting he’s dumped from the Liberal Party room in Canberra where the MP sits; or out the door altogether by demanding he quit parliament – he loses his numerical majority on the floor of the House.

He would survive because self-excluded Liberal Craig Kelly has pledged support as has Queensland independent Bob Katter. But it’s a risky and tenuous existence. None of this excuses anything in this sorry affair and all of it stands as the reason Morrison’s “reset” on women is a failure.

Former chief of the defence force Lieutenant General David Morrison made a pertinent comment when he was facing down issues of the treatment of women in the military eight years ago.

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept,” he said, saying anyone who could not measure up to accepted standards should just “Get out!”

That Morrison wouldn’t have given a misbehaving soldier up to 14 months on full pay to serve out his time. He would have shown him the door.

By not doing so, the Morrison that’s now the prime minister has failed David Morrison’s test and, in doing so, he’s failed Australian women.

 

 

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