Liberal MP Andrew Laming has been ordered into empathy training after downplaying his apology for bullying two Brisbane constituents.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Dr Laming on Saturday morning to do a private course to help him understand and be aware of his actions.
“I want to see behaviour change and we’ve all got a job to do with that, and he certainly has a job to do on this,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
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“We’ve discussed this very directly this morning and he’s agreed to participate in that and submit himself to that as he should.
“I would hope that that would see a very significant change in his behaviour.”
Dr Laming apologised on Thursday after harassing two prominent women from his federal electorate in eastern Brisbane over several years.
However the MP later downplayed his offering in a post on Facebook on Thursday night.
“In this climate – I willingly apologise – I didn’t even know what for at 4pm when I did it,” Dr Laming wrote, following it up with three tongue sticking out emojis and a heart eyes emoji.
His defiance led to speculation the MP is confident his valuable vote would spare him from further punishment. The Morrison government holds a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
In response to a question about whether Dr Laming was fit for parliament, Mr Morrison said that was up to voters to judge.
He added that they have been making that judgment in the Bowman MP’s case “for many, many years”.
The prime minister also said he had no control over Dr Laming’s preselection as he wasn’t a member of Queensland’s Liberal National Party.
“Every single member of parliament, me included, has to re-nominate for the endorsement of our party,” he said.
“And that’s a process which is underway currently with the LNP and I’m sure selectors will be thinking about all of those things.”
Dr Laming’s page disappeared from Facebook on Saturday morning.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said online trolling was cowardly and more should be done to stamp it out.
“For an MP to be trolling is absolutely disgraceful,” she told reporters.
The episode is the latest in a crisis which has engulfed the Morrison government and started a wider debate about sexual discrimination, harassment and abuse.
The prime minister is seeking a circuit-breaker after being criticised for his tone-deaf response to the ongoing conversation, sparked by former staffer Brittany Higgins coming forward last month to allege she was raped by a colleague in 2019.
Mr Morrison said everyone needed to change their behaviour toward women but not all actions were “malevolent” and some were due to a lack of understanding.
Mr Morrison said he doesn’t want the current crisis and the treatment of women to divide Australians.
“I don’t want to see gender become a defining thing in this nation. I don’t want this to be a women versus men, men versus women issue,” the prime minister said.
© AAP 2021