Queensland Liberal National MP Andrew Laming has formally withdrawn his apology to two women, citing a “fabrication” and “trial by media”.
Queensland Liberal National MP Andrew Laming has formally withdrawn his public apology to two women who accused him of hounding them online, telling parliament the women “fabricated” the complaints.
Speaking in the House of Representatives, Dr Laming said today he apologised in March before he had even seen the Nine News report that broke the story. He said it was now clear the claims were a “trial by media”.
“Today I withdraw my March 25 parliamentary apology,” he told parliament.
“It‘s now obvious the accusations against me were fabricated. My apology, at the time, was to anyone genuinely upset by my electorate communication. But none of those televised in March were genuine.
“Serious accusations deserve to be the subject of a formal complaint.
“But no complaint has ever materialised despite my public and repeated requests.”
The original Nine News report is now the subject of defamation action by Dr Laming, who is being represented by former Attorney-General Christian Porter‘s legal team, including Rebekah Giles.
Dr Laming did not name Nine News in his withdrawal of the apology but accused the ABC of engaging in a “trial by media”.
He said his accusers had never complained formally about his behaviour online.
“Anyone feeling upset has formal channels vital to them. And deliberately avoiding that process for trial by media isn’t and should never be rewarded,’’ he said.
“The ABC refusing to apologise for months, and stooping to trolling my electorate for mildly annoyed critics to join the pile-on, was disappointing.”
The ABC has previously confirmed spending $200,000 in legal costs to defend a separate defamation matter involving Four Corners reporter Louise Milligan and Mr Laming.
The Queensland MP sued Ms Milligan over a tweet that referenced claims he had “upskirted” a woman, and secured a $79,000 defamation damages payout.
Queensland Police had previously investigated and dismissed the allegation. While Dr Laming agreed he had taken a photograph of the woman from the back, she was not wearing a skirt and he was standing metres away from her at the time.
In March, Dr Laming agreed to undergo “empathy training” over his online behaviour.
“I want to express my regret and deep apologies for the hurt and the distress that communication may have caused,” he said in March.
“I want to retract those comments and issue a public unreserved apology.
“I have made a concerted effort to understand the impact of these responses upon others and demonstrate a clear change in the way I communicate.
“I want to say to any person who has received correspondence from me which fell short of what they expect from an MP that I intend to own that failure and apologise without hesitation.”
In March, Mr Laming told the House of Representatives that he was sorry for the “significant distress” the woman had experienced.
“They are both highly regarded individuals within our Redland community. I both acknowledge and commend their contribution to my city. I want to unreservedly apologise to both Ms Huelet and Ms Russo. 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 those comments and issue an unreserved public apology,‘’ he said.
“There are many lessons for me in this experience—not just about words but about the impact words can have on others. I have made a concerted effort to understand the impact of these responses on others and to demonstrate a clear change in the way I communicate. I want to say to any person who has received correspondence from me which fell short of what they expect from an MP that I intend to own that failure and apologise without hesitation.”
In March, Scott Morrison said he had put Dr Laming on notice over his “disgraceful” behaviour.
After learning of the Nine News report before it went to air he demanded Dr Laming apologise.
The issue flared at the height of a national controversy over the treatment of women and workplace conduct sparked by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.
“I told him to apologise and deal with it,” Mr Morrison said.
“He is very clear about my expectations.”