Australian politicsCrystal White has accused the Liberal MP of taking a photo of her while she was bent over exposing her underwear
A formal complaint against federal Liberal MP Andrew Laming has been lodged by a 29-year-old woman regarding an allegedly inappropriate photograph, Queensland police have confirmed.
The alleged incident, first reported by the Nine Network on Saturday, contributed to Laming announcing he would not contest the next election. The member for Bowman has denied committing an offence and defended his decision to take the photo as a humorous depiction of a woman hard at work.
Crystal White accused Laming of taking a photo of her while she was bent over, exposing her underwear beneath denim shorts, while she completed an office task at a Brisbane landscaping business in 2019. Her account has been backed by her colleague, Sean Blinco, who told Nine and the ABC a store manager made Laming delete the photograph.
White first attended Cleveland police station on Monday to provide information about the alleged incident. On Tuesday evening, a Queensland police spokesperson told Guardian Australia a formal complaint has now been received from a 29-year-old woman in regards to an alleged matter which occurred in 2019.
This matter is being assessed by detectives from Cleveland, they said.
Speaking to ABC Brisbane radio on Monday, Laming admitted to taking a photo of a woman in her workplace as she was stacking a fridge, but denied it was up-skirting.
Andrew Laming: former branch secretary surprised revelations ‘didnt happen sooner’
Laming characterised it as a humorous photo that featured the woman in a completely dignified position, kneeling in an awkward position, and filling a fridge with an impossible amount of stock, which clearly wasnt going to fit in the fridge.
Confirmation of the official complaint comes as the former chair of Lamings Bowman branch accused the Liberal National party of turning a blind eye to the MPs alleged misbehaviour.
Shaun Edwards told Guardian Australia he wrote to the LNP head office requesting an investigation into the MPs treatment of staff in 2017. Concerns were also raised about members loss of faith in Laming in a draft letter spruiking a preselection opponent before the 2019 election.
Edwards was one of three branch executive members suspended in 2018 when that letter was released he said without authorisation or his knowledge to party members through the MyLNP portal. Another executive member suspended, Suzi Foster, told Guardian Australia concerns had been raised about Lamings erratic behaviour from 2016.
Edwards, the chair of the Bowman federal divisional council for four years, said the group had supported an alternative LNP candidate, Paul Branagan. They drafted a letter to warn preselectors that they had received complaints about Lamings behaviour and members had lost faith in him.
Edwards said this encompassed and alluded to Lamings treatment of constituents online. Edwards said he had earlier written to the LNP outlining some concerns in 2017 and asked it to investigate Lamings treatment of staff.
The letter got no response, he said. They just asked did anyone else have a copy but they never investigated, nothing was done.
We tried to warn the LNP. He [Laming] is not a bad chap but we couldnt manage him there were all these dramas online and innuendo.
Asked if he felt the LNP had turned a blind eye, Edwards reply: Oh, I guarantee it. These people knew about these problems well before [this week].
Then when we tried to support an alternative candidate, we were punted.
Senior members of the LNP, who only spoke on background as they were not authorised to speak on behalf of the party, said there had been no formal complaints made against Laming, and blamed some of the 2018 issues on internal politics and a disagreement within the branch.
They denied hearing any complaints related to Lamings behaviour previously, although two said he was known for being a management problem, particularly around the time of elections.
On Thursday, Laming pre-emptively apologised in parliament ahead of a Nine story establishing that he had trolled and abused two constituents online.
Over the weekend, Laming announced he would not contest the next election, prompting speculation the Liberal senator, Amanda Stoker, could run for the lower house. On Tuesday, Stoker said she was seeking Senate preselection and was not seeking preselection for Lamings seat of Bowman.
Lamings apology in parliament prompted an outpouring of concerns about past behaviour online, including blocking constituents and messages confronting people who made adverse comments on his posts.
In May 2020, Laming was forced to post an apology to councillor Tracey Huges, acknowledging he had made wrongful allegations regarding her involvement in theft and vandalism of independent candidate signage.
Huges engaged legal firm Holding Redlich to warn that Laming may have defamed her through social media posts in February and March 2020 by accusing her of being a Labor candidate and removing an opponents signs.
In one, Laming said he had to call out Tracey Huges the first candidate to systematically rip out every opponent sign [a] gutless attack on independent candidates having a go.
Huges told Guardian Australia the accusation was distressing and she had paid thousands of dollars to help secure an apology she felt was insincere.
In the apology, Laming noted that signs were removed systematically and after the allegation was made the damage ceased, which again I concede may have been circumstantial.
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On Friday, Guardian Australia revealed complaints thatLaming had harassed Labors Kim Richards, the member for Redlands, by offering a $100 reward to help him identify people the MP was seen with in public and had published a photo of her accompanied by what she took asan apparent slur that she had no reason to be in a kids park.
Laming told ABC radio he had apologised to the feelings of anyone who was offended or upset or felt harassed by my questions and commentary, but said he had been asking hard questions of public officials, which in some cases had been reinvented as harassment.
He has taken a months leave and committed to undergo clinical counselling and empathy training, but said he would remain with the LNP and serve out his term in the parliament.
Guardian Australia has contacted Laming for comment.
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