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Under fire MP stand aside from duties, could quit

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Queensland Liberal MP Andrew Laming will stand aside from all parliamentary roles effective immediately to undergo counselling after he was accused of taking a photo of a woman bending over without her consent.

The embattled MP has also suggested he may quit politics confirming he will “have more to say on my future as soon as that process is completed.”

“I will step down from all Parliamentary roles effective immediately and complete both the counselling courses I committed to; as well as additional clinical counselling, and ask for privacy while that is completed,’’ he told news.com.au.

“I will have more to say on my future as soon as that process is completed.

“I would like to thank my local community for their understanding during this time and assure them my electorate staff remain available to them.”

Mr Laming rejected the assertion that he had “maliciously” taken a photo of a woman’s bottom when she was bending over – without her consent – but confirmed he did take the photo.

“I reject the allegation aired on Channel 9 that I took an inappropriate photo with malicious intent,’’ he said.

“Approximately two years ago, I visited a local business and took a photo of a staff member at work.

“I categorically reject the assertion that there was any other intention. However it was immediately obvious to me after taking the photograph that it should not have been taken. I apologised to the staff who did ask me what I was doing; and I deleted the image at that moment and showed them I had.

“I reiterate the apology made on Thursday, and wish to extend my deep regret to everyone for the lapse of judgment on that day.”

RELATED: New bullying claims against under-fire MP

Mr Laming has been slammed as “a perv” for taking a mobile phone photo of a woman’s bottom when she was bending over – without her consent – in the latest allegations of bad behaviour engulfing the Morrison Government.

The veteran MP – who is a trained doctor – is alleged to have taken the photo at a landscape supply business and witnesses have backed Ms White’s account of the behaviour.

Brisbane mother Crystal White told Nine News Queensland that her underwear was visible in the photo and she demanded he delete the image in 2019.

The MP took the photo as Ms White while she bent over at work to restock a fridge with soft drinks.

“The photo was really inappropriate, especially when I was bent over,” Ms White told Nine News.

The MP later contacted her on Facebook messenger to offer her help to find a job and invited her to a party at his home, a move Ms White said she now believed was to “win her over” so she didn’t make a complaint.

The exclusive report by Nine News’ Peter Fegan came just hours after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Mr Laming would undergo behaviour training as early as Monday.

After seeing a report of Mr Laming abusing two Brisbane women on Facebook, one of the men who worked at the landscaping business Sean Blinco contacted Mr Laming on Facebook and said “remember that time you took a photo of an employee bending over at a local landscaping yard, you perv? We had to force you to delete it before you left the store. We remember.”

Mr Laming replied “I do but it wasn’t meant to be rude. I thought it was funny but your reaction was awkward.”

But Ms White said she was appalled by Mr Laming suggesting it was somehow all in good fun and is now considering taking the matter to police.

“How’s that funny? What’s funny about taking a picture of a lady bending over?”

RELATED: Queensland MP laughs off grovelling apology

‘Indefensible behaviour’

ACTU President Sally McManus said the behaviour was indefensible.

“Workers in Australia get sacked for way less than this everyday. His behaviour is completely indefensible,’’ she said.

On Friday, the Liberal MP was forced to apologise over the sickening online abuse of women who said they were left distressed and in one case ‘suicidal’.

Single mother Alix Russo told Nine News that she had been subjected to false claims and social media abuse by Liberal MP Andrew Laming, including claims that she misappropriated funds from a not-for-profit charity.

In one Facebook post, Mr Laming questioned whether money was going on Ms Russo’s personal credit card for a Queensland charity that prepares hampers for the homeless.

In another, Mr Laming said: “You got nasty. Threatened self-harm. Unfortunately for you, I make the rules and you follow them.”

In tears, Ms Russo told Nine News that all of Night Ninjas financial records were available on the regulators website and the claims were baseless. But she said the allegations left her “suicidal.”

“To be tarnished and discredited and defamed. To our Prime Minister: this man needs to stop. He cannot continue to target his community like this,’’ Ms Russo said.

Earlier, Queensland Labor MP Kim Richards has also 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 rejected this claim, saying his all social media comments related to policy and political matters in his electorate.

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

“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.

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 that Mr Laming’s political future was up to the voters. He can’t sack the MP but the LNP in Queensland could choose to disendorse him.

“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.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Mr Laming was not fit to remain in parliament.

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