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MP to be counselled, Scott Morrison says

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An MP who apologised in parliament for trolling women online, then laughed it off, will be counselled on his behaviour, the Prime Minister says.

Under-fire Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming apologised in parliament to two women on Thursday, hours before Channel 9 aired allegations he had subjected them to sustained personal attacks online.

Mr Laming “unreservedly apologised” for “the hurt and the distress” caused by the attacks, which one of the women said left her feeling suicidal.

“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,” he said.

But in a message to a constituent the next day seen by NCA NewsWire, Mr Laming admitted he “didn’t even know” what he was apologising for.

“I’m actually surprised by the response – not as good as skulling (beer) though,” he wrote.

“In this climate – happy to apologise. I didn’t even know what for at 4pm when I did it.”

Scott Morrison, who has been under pressure to dump the MP from preselection at the next election amid claims the abuse has continued for years, said he spoke to Mr Laming again on Saturday morning.

“I’m arranging for Andrew Laming to now go into get appropriate assistance for an appropriate course to build his understanding and awareness about his actions,” Mr Morrison told reporters on Saturday.

“I think this is one of the important things that we need to do, the way you fix this, is we’ve got to educate, inform, and increase awareness to change behaviour.

“I want to see behaviour change. We’ve all got a job to do with that. And he certainly has a job to do on this and we’ve discussed this very directly, this morning, and he’s agreed to participate in that, and submit himself to that as he should.

“And I would hope that would see a very significant change in his behaviour.”

Mr Laming apologised “unreservedly” in a speech to parliament on Thursday, hours before the shocking allegations surfaced over his online abuse of constituents.

But the MP for Bowman then claimed he didn’t even know what he was apologising for, in a Facebook exchange accompanied by a string of laughing face emojis.

A spokesperson for Mr Laming said the emojis were sent by accident.

“Mr Laming’s statement in the House of Representatives was directed to anyone who may have felt hurt and distressed by the comments,” the spokesperson said.

“The icons were sent accidentally as he immediately messaged the person he was communicating with.”

Mr Morrison said Mr Laming’s fitness to be an MP was a matter for electors.

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

“Let’s not forget the goal here. We need to change behaviour. And we can change behaviour by increasing the awareness the knowledge and the understanding of how our own actions impact on others.

“There are conscious malevolent acts that are undertaken to discriminate against women and make women feel unsafe.

“There are also many unconscious acts, born out of a lack of understanding and appreciation and awareness, we have to address both of these things.”

Mr Morrison said he didn’t want to see a gender war erupt in Australia.

“I don’t want to see gender become a dividing thing in this nation. I don’t want this to be women versus men, men versus women issue. This is a time we have to come together to address this issue to build that understanding.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was “very concerned” any MP would troll others.

“That is not on. It is disgraceful,” she told reporters on Saturday.

“That is a question for the Prime Minister, but honestly, in this day and age, the trolling has got to stop.

“It is about time that as a nation we actually came together and started talking about ways in which we can stamp out these practices that I have a detrimental effects on women, on children, and other people in every walk of life.

“Gone are the days when people used to write letters to the editor and put their name and address.

“I think it is absolutely a coward’s way to be trolling people without putting your name to it. And the practice must stop.”

After hearing Mr Laming’s apology to the House, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday described the MP’s behaviour as “disgraceful” but said he had dealt with the matter.

“I found that disgraceful. I called him into my office yesterday and told him to apologise and deal with it, and he has,” he said.

“He‘s very clear about my expectations.”

Mr Albanese has demanded Mr Laming leave politics, saying he was not fit to hold office.

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