New bullying claims against under-fire MP

A female MP has accused under-fire Queensland MP Andrew Laming of waging a campaign of ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ against her online.

A female Queensland politician has accused under-fire Liberal MP Andrew Laming of “weaponsing” social media to attack women, saying she felt as though he “put a bounty” on her head.

Mr Laming apologised to parliament on Thursday, hours before Channel 9 aired allegations he had subjected women to online bullying, which left one feeling suicidal.

Queensland Labor MP Kim Richards has now alleged she has been subjected to a “targeted, sustained, long-term” online campaign by Mr Laming.

She claimed Mr Laming had “weaponised social media as a tool to attack women”, saying she was forced to block him to “protect my mental health”.

“It’s just been constant. I blocked him years ago for my own mental health,” she said.

“The character assassination, the personal nature of the way he’s posting, is harassing and bullying by its very existence.”

Ms Richards said constituents in Redlands, where she has been a state MP since 2017, were “fearful” of Mr Laming because of his online behaviour.

A spokesman for Mr Laming rejecting this claim, saying his all social media comments related to policy and political matters in his electorate.

Ms Richards said Mr Laming posted a photo he took of her without her knowledge while she was meeting constituents in a park.

“(He was) saying that I was the one that was awkward and creepy for being in a park, when in fact he’s photographing me talking to my constituents and family members from behind bushes,” she said.

In another post, Mr Laming also offered constituents $100 to a charity of their choice if they could locate where she had been on Valentine’s Day.

“Where were you exactly a week ago on Valentine’s Day? … Please ask Kim. $100 donation to your chosen charity if she provides,” he wrote.

Mr Laming’s spokesman said this was an attempt to expose details of a meeting Ms Richards had held with ALP-leaning candidates.

She also said Mr Laming offered a coastal holiday to the community “in an attempt to get them to be chasing me down and question me”.

The post has since been deleted.

“It’s like putting a bounty on someone’s head,” Ms Richards said.

Mr Laming’s spokesman rejected the claim.

“This was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that she repeatedly avoided community forums about important issues in her electorate,” the spokesman said.

“Mr Laming understands that Ms Richards issued apologies for events as soon as she was made aware that she would be debating Mr Laming.”

Mr Laming has also posted cartoons of Ms Richards referring to her as “Skimmy”.

“I don’t know whether that relates to him thinking I’m overweight. I don’t know how he came up with that hashtag,” she said.

“But there’s a whole little caricature skit that he’s put together.”

Mr Laming’s spokesman said the nickname was not related to her appearance, but was a reference Mr Laming’s claim that she was “skimming over issues”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday lashed Mr Laming’s “disgraceful” behaviour and confirmed he had ordered his MP to apologise.

But Ms Richards claimed Mr Laming was “made to apologise to provide (himself) protection”, saying Mr Morrison disendorsing his MP before the next election would be “a starting point”.

“People like that shouldn’t represent our community … It doesn’t meet community expectation to have an elected representative behaving in this fashion,” she said.

Ms Richards said the Prime Minister had been “aware of it for years” and failed to take action until it was politically necessary.

“(He’s) up now saying that he’s got zero tolerance for this. Well why zero tolerance now?” she said.

“This has been going on for years. He’s been aware of it for years, in fact Malcolm Turnbull was aware of it, and nobody has ever put him into line.”

Mr Morrison said on Saturday it Mr Laming’s political future was up to the voters.

“That is a judgment that electors make every term and they’ve been making it now in his case for many, many years,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Laming has offered to issue a personally written apology to Ms Richards, the spokesman said.

“Debate will always be better served by having these exchanges rather than running from them,” the spokesman said.

“Again, Mr Laming reiterates that his apology is directed to anyone who has felt hurt from online commentary, and encourages all elected representatives in our community to do better.”

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