Question PM can’t answer after ‘rare but serious risk’ for AstraZeneca vaccine


Prime Minister Scott Morrison concedes he can no longer guarantee that every Australian adult will be vaccinated by the end of the year – a setback that could have huge implications for international border closures and the economy.

The fallout will take some time for the Morrison Government to work through after it was hit with new health advice on Thursday night to advise anyone under 50 to consider the alternative Pfizer vaccine – if it’s available.

One of the first impacts is likely to be a “recalibration” of not just the rollout timetable but Qantas’ hopes of reopened international borders from October 31.

RELATED: ‘Rare but serious risk’ leads vaccine to be avoided

RELATED: Australia reacts to drastic change to COVID-19 vaccine rollout

More than 5,000 words were uttered by the Prime Minister, his health minister and a top bureaucrat during a late night press conference on Thursday to announce the new advice on the AstraZeneca vaccine.

But in those thousands of words, the Prime Minister was at pains not to answer some big questions.

“In terms of what the overall implications are at this stage, it’s too early to give you that answer,’’ the Prime Minister said.

“I mean, this now has to be considered. The impacts assessed. And the program evaluated and recalibrated and, once we’ve done that, we’ll be in a better position to understand those implications.”

What will it mean for international border closures?

Again, the PM said it was too early to give a definitive answer.

“Well, I’ve already answered the first question on several occasions. I don’t propose to do that again,’’ the Prime Minister snapped towards the end of the press conference.

Asked if there was a rough time table for everyone to be vaccinated, he cut off the question.

“No, we don’t. No, we don’t. We’ve learnt this evening, and I think we have to take the time to assess the implications for the program.

“When we’ve done that, we may be able to form a view. But I don’t think anyone should expect that any time soon. This will take some time to work through the implications.”

The good news is that compared to many other parts of the world we remain in one of the safest countries for COVID-19 transmission in the world.

Australians may be living in a ‘golden cage’ but unlike London or the US life is largely returning to normal.

“The fundamental protections we have in place in Australia at the moment with how we’ve been suppressing COVID have been very important, and Australians are living life here very different to how people are in other countries,’’ the PM said.

But there’s no doubt the government’s ultra cautious approach to the risks of the AstraZeneca vaccine could have huge implications for the economy.

As the PM himself argued earlier in the day there’s plenty of other medicines – including the contraceptive pill – that carry much higher blood clot risks.

So why argue against delivering a vaccine that experts say is safe and effective to under 50s? The simple explanation is that it comes down to a balancing of risks.

If the risk of death from COVID-19 is very low is it worth delivering a vaccine that carries the (rare) risk of a deadly blood clot?

Not everyone agrees with where the government has landed and experts stress the advice not to use the AZ vaccine on under 50s is not an order it’s simply the official advice.

You can still choose to have the vaccine if you wish to take an informed risk.

“The key principle of our management of the COVID-19 pandemic has always been to base our decisions on the expert medical advice,’’ the PM said.

“It has not been our practice to jump at shadows. It has not been our practice to take unnecessary precautions.”

The official advice now recommends the following: at the current time, the use of the Pfizer vaccine is preferred over the AstraZeneca vaccine in adults aged less than 50 years who have not already received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.

The chief medical officer Paul Kelly said this is based both on the increased risk of complications from COVID-19 with increasing age, and thus increased benefit of the vaccination, and the potentially lower, but not zero risk, of this rare event with increasing age.

The second recommendation is that immunisation providers should only give a first dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to adults under 50 years of age where benefit clearly outweighs the risk for that individual’s circumstances.

The third recommendation is that people that have had their first dose of the COVID-19 AstraZeneca without any serious adverse events can safely be given their second dose.

This includes adults under the age of 50, and people who have had blood clots associated with low platelet levels after their first dose of COVID-19 AstraZeneca should not be given the second dose.

“What does this mean for the program? For Phase 1, which is vulnerable people, we will pretty much continue as we are,’’ Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy said.

“Those over 70 and 80 will continue to get AstraZeneca at their GPs and be confident in its efficacy and its safety. For those healthcare workers under 50, they will now be prioritised to Pfizer, and that might delay that particular phase of 1b. But that’s the only phase that might be delayed. The important thing is that all of the vulnerable people – those vulnerable to severe COVID – will be covered, as we planned, by the middle of the year.”

“Clearly, when we move into the broader, younger population later on, we will have to recalibrate by reprioritising some Pfizer for younger people, and we are now reviewing all of the vaccine purchases we’ve made.”

Australia is still expecting 51 million Novavax later in the year and is looking at if it can bring other vaccines forward.

Pfizer has committed to 20 million doses this year which is enough to vaccinate 10 million people in two hits. But so far we’ve only got around 1 million doses.

To vaccinate everyone under 50 however the Morrison Government needs an estimated 12 million doses.

Health Minister Greg Hunt will not say when or where those Pfizer doses are coming from.

“We don’t identify, for security reasons, the specific source,’’ he said.

And with that, the PM, his health minister and the nation’s most senior health advisers exited the late night press conference to the sound of cameras flashing.

On Thursday night AstraZeneca said: “We respect the decision taken by the Australian Government based on advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) to recommend AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine be used in those over the age of 50.

“AstraZeneca has been actively collaborating with regulators and expert advisory groups around the world, including the TGA and ATAGI in Australia to understand the individual cases, epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events.

“We note that the current situation in Australia with very low to no community transmission of COVID-19 was a factor in this updated recommendation from ATAGI and their view that the risk-versus-benefit assessment for the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine may be different for Australia compared to other countries, such as those with widespread transmission.”



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Why NSW Police never interviewed Christian Porter


NSW Police have revealed why they never interviewed former Attorney-General Christian Porter over a 1988 rape allegation and confirmed the alleged victim tried to deliver a statement via Skype during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Outlining new information about how the case was handled, police have confirmed the woman who accused Mr Porter of rape asked to deliver her witness statement via Skype during the COVID-19 pandemic – a request the NSW Police resisted and her friends and family were never interviewed after her death.

The woman ultimately decided to withdraw her complaint after COVID delayed the meeting with detectives and died by suicide at home just 24 hours later.

Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations that relate to a 1988 debating conference in Sydney. He has launched defamation action against the ABC over the reporting of an anonymous letter sent to the Prime Minister setting out allegations against a member of Cabinet.

He subsequently self-identified himself as the target of the allegations.

RELATED: NSW Police never got letter outlining allegations

It was the woman’s decision to withdraw the complaint that resulted in police not interviewing Mr Porter after her death, according to NSW Police.

“It is current standard practice that once a signed victim statement has been obtained from a victim and further corroborative enquiries are made, the formal allegation can and should be put to the person of interest as per procedural fairness principles for investigators,” NSW Police said.

“On June 23, 2020 the (alleged) victim clearly communicated to investigators that she no longer felt able to proceed with the report. The NSWPF did not have a signed statement from the (alleged) victim, hence no formal allegation to put to the person of interest. In keeping with the (alleged) victim’s wishes no further investigation took place and the person of interest was not interviewed.”

NSW Police established Strike Force Wyndarra in February 2020 after receiving information from Mr Porter’s accuser.

Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman’s formal statement in March 2020 but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak.

RELATED: Accuser’s family begs media not to identify daughter

On Wednesday June 24, 2020, the woman’s body was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police. She had committed suicide just hours after telling police she did not want to proceed with a formal complaint.

In answers to questions on notice, NSW Police confirmed the complainant did ask to provide a formal statement over the telephone or via video.

“Yes. On April 1, 2020, the (alleged) victim requested that she commence her statement by way of Skype,” the response states.

“Investigators consulted with the (alleged) victim on April 2, 2020 by way of teleconference. Options were presented to the (alleged) victim in relation to obtaining her statement. A joint decision by all parties was made not to conduct the interview remotely. There were a number of reasons which led to this decision. The (alleged) victim was understanding and supportive of this decision.”

NSW Police also confirmed they made six telephone calls to the woman which were not answered.

RELATED: Porter, Reynolds moved in Cabinet reshuffle

The alleged victim also made two telephone calls to investigators which were not answered. On both occasions the woman’s missed calls were returned within seven minutes and five hours and 26 minutes respectively.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the responses from NSW Police demanded further explanation.

“These answers raise yet more questions about the response of the NSW Police,” he said.

“When you speak to experienced investigators who have dealt with historical allegations they will tell you it’s not perfect but sometimes it’s the only option to take a statement by phone or video link.

“What is very distressing here is that this was an option that was requested by the complainant and open to police but for whatever reason was taken off the table.”

The answers provided also detail the Australian Federal Police decision to brief the NSW Police on the letter outlining the allegations rather than send it to investigators in full.

The letter requested urgent action be taken by the Prime Minister to investigate the 1988 alleged rape.

RELATED: Details of Porter’s ABC defamation suit

It urged the Prime Minister to set up an independent parliamentary investigation into the matter, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations against former Justice, Dyson Heydon.

“When news of [the complainant’s alleged] rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will), legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew and what they did,” the letter states.

“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins. The loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.

“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice … and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.

“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would seem like wilful blindness.”

The South Australia Coroner is yet to determine whether to conduct a public inquest into the woman’s death.



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Liberal senator Amanda Stoker says Grace Tame’s comments ‘nonsense’


Liberal senator Amanda Stoker has again hit back at Australian of the Year Grace Tame, who blasted her new ministerial appointment.

Senator Stoker was last week made Assistant Minister for Women in the Morrison government following a reshuffle aimed at tackling cultural problems within federal parliament.

The promotion prompted sexual abuse advocate Grace Tame to criticise Senator Stoker, who Ms Tame claimed “previously endorsed a ‘fake rape crisis’ tour’ that falsified accounts of abuse on school and university campuses.

“It’s utter nonsense,” Senator Stoker told 2GB on Tuesday.

Senator Stoker defended her actions, saying she has tried to explain the “deep harm” that comes from the practice of deplatforming since her election in 2018.

She said different points of view should be spoken and heard, particularly in universities, even if they had the potential to offend people.

“The person who was being deplatformed had some different views about sexual assault and things like that,” Senator Stoker said.

“She should be heard; that doesn’t necessarily make her right.”

The mother of three girls said she was concerned that left-wing trolls on Twitter might “scare” good women away from serving as politicians.

“A lot of people are not up for this,” Senator Stoker said.

She said women should work together, instead of taking it upon themselves to tear down others.

“They say they want more women participating in public life,” Senator Stoker said.

“But, yet, when women who don’t necessarily think the same way as them … they go on the attack and can be particularly nasty about it.”

Australian of the Year Grace Tame has been heralded as a game-changing voice in the national conversation about sexual abuse.

In several speeches, she has urged survivors to speak up, saying Australia is on the precipice of a revolution.

“Hear me now, using my voice, amongst a growing chorus of voices that will not be silenced,” she said in her acceptance speech.

Australian television star Magda Szubanski came out in support of Ms Tame’s remarks about Senator’s appointment.

“This reshuffle has handed power to Amanda Stoker, another of the small but noisy ‘Christian Soldiers’ faction hijacking the national agenda,” Szubanski wrote on Twitter.



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2.5m Australian made COVID-19 vaccine doses yet to be approved by TGA, AstraZeneca


More than half of the three million COVID-19 vaccine doses that Australia has manufactured remain in cold storage and cannot be rolled out yet because they are undergoing further batch testing in Europe by the drug company AstraZeneca.

News.com.au has confirmed that despite CSL producing more than 3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine here in Australia that the majority of these doses have not been approved for distribution.

Instead, only the first 832,200 doses that left CSL-Seqirus’ Parkville factory with great media fanfare on the back of trucks on March 23 are being used to vaccinate Australians.

Another 2.5 million doses remain in cold storage while undergoing final approval and testing. Of these doses, a couple of hundred thousand doses were finally approved for use last Thursday but the majority remain “on ice”.

That suggests that CSL has manufactured 3.2 million COVID-19 doses and rising. However, of these 3 million plus doses only around a third – one million doses – have been approved for use and can actually be used to vaccinate Australians. That means less than half of the vaccines produced have actually been rolled out.

RELATED: Australia’s shameful vaccine statistic

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The Morrison Government remains under fire for failing to meet its own targets for the vaccine rollout including the number of vaccines being produced on a weekly basis and the number of Australians actually vaccinated.

In a statement, CSL told news.com.au that this batch testing was vital to ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and that it hoped to hit the target of one million doses in the future.

“Our highest commitment is always to patient safety, and the stringent checks and balances placed on each batch are a critical part of delivering vaccines to the Australian public. These checks, undertaken by CSL, AstraZeneca and the TGA, ensure the quality of the vaccines and that they meet all required standards. We will not release any product until all parties are completely confident that each batch of vaccine meets the highest quality standards,’’ a CSL spokesperson said.

“We are working around the clock to provide vaccines to the Australian public and are proud to have been able to release locally made doses of a new vaccine in just four months since beginning manufacture. In the first week of the local rollout, 832,000 doses were released ahead of schedule to the Australian Government.

“Further batches of finished doses are now being released on a rolling basis every week. When approved by the TGA, they are delivered to the national network of vaccination centres and GP clinics. CSL hopes to reach a rolling output of 1 million doses a week as soon as possible.”

RELATED: Call to treat rollout as ‘national emergency’

RELATED: PM ignoring ‘unmitigated COVID disaster’

The vaccines do not need to be physically sent back to Europe but the scientific work is being shared electronically and reviewed overseas.

They also need to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

On March 25, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told ABC radio that CSL was producing “more than 900,000 of them coming out a week”.

CSL confirmed to news.com.au that this figure is not correct and they have never produced more than 900,000 in a single week. They remain hopeful of doing so in the future.

“They are now rolling off the line, filled and finished out of Parkhill down there in Melbourne, you know, over more than 900,000 of them coming out a week,’’ the Prime Minister said.

“And so the decision to have a domestic manufacturing capability here has been the big change, a game changer. We would not have a vaccination programme were it not for the wisdom of that decision that my Government took.”

CSL said they were unable to go into a rolling commentary on the numbers of doses that have been released to the Australian Government from AstraZeneca, and would leave it to the Government to update the community on what is available.

“When approved by the TGA, they are delivered to the national network of vaccination centres and GP clinics. CSL hopes to reach a rolling output of 1 million doses a week as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.

RELATED: Daily data on jabs may be released

RELATED: How many vaccinations done in each state

Health Department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy has hailed Australia’s decision to locally produce the vaccine as among the “single best thing” Australia has done given the threats in Europe to block vaccine exports.

CSL remains contracted to make 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with taxpayers paying a premium for the vaccines.

Labor’s government services spokesman Bill Shorten said the problem was not simply one of supply but also at the distribution end with GPs.

“They are not paying overtime. If you want to do mass vaccinations you need to do it on weekends and after hours. It’s not a case of greedy doctors, it’s a case of paying people for their work,” he told news.com.au.

“If you want 24-7 vaccinations, then just pay for it.”

Mr Shorten said he had an open mind as to whether they should scrap the phased rollout based on age and just go for mass vaccination as quickly as possible.

“In California they scrapped it. They should consider it. There’s a reason why the Americans did 4 million in a weekend and we haven’t,” he said.



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Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds lose Attorney-General in major Cabinet reshuffle


Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds have been stripped of their portfolios, with Prime Minster Scott Morrison announcing a cabinet reshuffle after several weeks of chaos.

Mr Porter will lose the Attorney-General post and Ms Reynolds has been dumped from the Defence Ministry.

Mr Porter announced he was going on mental health leave at a press conference on March 3, in which he vehemently denied a historical claim that he raped a 16-year-old girl.

He has been under pressure to resign after he revealed himself as the minister at the centre of the rape allegation.

Mr Porter has never been charged and police confirmed there was “insufficient evidence” to proceed with an investigation, labelling the matter “closed”.

His decision to launch defamation proceedings against the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan saw calls for him to be removed from his position intensify, over conflict of interest concerns.

Meanwhile, Senator Reynolds has been on leave since February after being admitted to hospital to receive treatment for a pre-existing heart condition.

She has faced intense criticism over her handling of Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape in Parliament House — first reported by news.com.au in February this year.

The former Liberal Party staffer has alleged she was raped at Parliament House in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office by a colleague.

Police are investigating the incident and a political inquiry was suspended on Monday over concerns it could interfere with the criminal probe.

The Morrison government has been under renewed pressure since the publication last week of “disgusting” images and videos of male senior government staff performing sex acts in Parliament House.

A shambolic press conference by Scott Morrison the next day, in which he falsely claimed News Corp Australia – publisher of news.com.au – was subject to its own harassment investigation, saw criticism intensify.

On top of that, the saga surrounding Queensland MP Andrew Laming has added fuel to the fire, with him now saying he won’t contest the next election.

More to come …



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New roles for Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds


Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil a new frontbench on Monday after two of his ministers have spent weeks engulfed in scandal.

Attorney-General Christian Porter and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds are set to be dumped from their roles in the second cabinet shake-up in just four months.

Both ministers, who are on medical leave, are expected to remain on the frontbench upon their return.

The latest reshuffle was triggered after Mr Morrison received advice from the Solicitor-General that there was a perceived conflict of interest if Mr Porter – who has denied historical rape allegations made against him – stayed in the role of Australia’s first law officer.

Senator Reynolds, who is on leave due to a pre-existing heart condition, was criticised for her handling of former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins’s rape allegations.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash is tipped to be promoted to attorney-general, while Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is first in line for the job as Defence minister.

The Prime Minister’s approval ratings have plummeted in a new opinion poll following intense scrutiny of his leadership on the issue of treatment towards women at Parliament House.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was on Monday morning asked if he had confidence in the Prime Minister.

“Absolutely,” he told ABC.

Mr Frydenberg said Mr Morrison had been the first to recognise that he could have handled the broader issue of the treatment of women better.

“He has publicly said that, and he is working hard behind the scenes to put in place a series of new policies, and new responses that will help improve the situation going forward,” Mr Frydenberg said.



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Scott Morrison’s approval rating plummets in latest Newspoll


Scott Morrison’s approval rating has been smashed by voters amid a backlash led by Brittany Higgins, sexual abuse survivors and women’s fight for justice.

After a fortnight that included mass marches across Australia and revelations that male Liberal staffers had “orgies” and masturbated on desks at Parliament House, an exclusive Newspoll published in The Australian has delivered voters’ shock verdict.

Voters satisfaction with the PM’s performance plunged by a stunning 7 points from 62 per cent to 55 per cent in the space of just two weeks.

Mr Morrison also suffered a four-point plunge as preferred PM. His rating now stands at 52 per cent support as the preferred prime minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Albanese rose two points as preferred PM to a modest 32 per cent.

RELATED: Lisa Wilkinson fumes at Scott Morrison over Andrew Laming scandal

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The horror fortnight that delivered the shock results included the mass marches, claims of secret ‘orgies’ and the revelations of taxpayer funded ‘desk wankers’.

It included the PM warning the media to “be careful” and accusing NewsCorp of pursuing a HR complaint about a female being “harassed in a toilet” only to be forced into an unqualified apology when he conceded the incident he described never happened.

However, in some good news for the Prime Minister the most important indicator of voter support – the primary vote – lifted by one point to 40 per cent.

Support for Labor fell by one point to 38 per cent.

If an election was held now, the two party preferred vote of 52-48 per cent would deliver a Labor victory.

The result is unchanged on the results of the previous Newspoll conducted a fortnight ago.

Even at the PM’s beloved footy there was some serious side eye from sports scientist Tahleya Eggars who stood behind the PM with her arms crossed when he came into the dressing room.

“I will not respect a man who has the time to shake hands of men who have won a football match but is ‘too busy’ to attend the #March4Justice”,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Newspoll result was the first time that Labor had hit the lead since the Prime Minister was rounded on by furious voters over his decision to secretly fly to Hawaii for a family holiday during the bushfires.

However, the ALP’s primary vote remains dangerously low to win a majority of seats putting the party at the mercy of the Greens and independents if an election was held now.

The number of voters who disapprove of the PM also increased by six points to 40 per cent.

Satisfaction with Labor leader Anthony Albanese’s performance was largely unchanged at 43 per cent.

It’s only the second Newspoll since the Hawaii holiday debacle – when the PM declared “I don’t hold a hose, mate” – to deliver Labor a two-party-preferred Newspoll win.

The poll was conducted between March 24-27 and surveyed 1517 voters online.

The margin of error in the poll is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points



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Female Liberal MPs slam scandal-hit Andrew Laming


Liberal MP Andrew Laming will quit politics at the next federal election and will not move to the crossbench.

The bombshell follows allegations he took a photograph of a woman bending over to fill a fridge with soft drinks – without her consent – and abused two women online to the point that one considered suicide.

But in a sign of fractured relations with the Liberal Party, even his resignation was announced without his consent by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Sunday.

“Andrew has reflected on that conversation and decided not to recontest the next election,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Earlier today, several female Liberal MPs demanded Dr Laming get out of politics.

Dr Laming has taken medical leave effective immediately and news.com.au understands he is expected to enter a ‘rehab’-style facility for behavioural training for up to 30 days in regional NSW.

Liberal Senator Sarah Henderson and Liberal MP Katie Allen told Insiders that on Sunday Dr Laming should quit politics at the next election.

Dr Allen said Dr Laming had been in parliament for 17 years and it was the right time “to reconsider his future.”

RELATED: Laming to quit parliament at election

“What’s he been doing is completely outrageous and I’m very pleased he’s going to take some time off,” Dr Allen said.

Victorian MP Sarah Henderson also suggested she also hoped he would quit and not contest the next election.

“I’m not comfortable with the conduct and I hope that Andrew makes the right decision. I do,” Senator Henderson told the ABC.

“He needs to have a pretty serious look at whether he’s going to recontest the next election.”

Dr Laming has denied taking “an inappropriate photo with malicious intent” of a woman bending over to fill a soft drink machine.

“It was immediately obvious to me after taking the photograph that it should not have been taken,’’ Dr Laming said.

“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 will step down from all parliamentary roles effective immediately and complete both the counselling courses as well as additional clinical support, and ask for privacy while that is completed. I will have more to say on my future as soon as that process is completed.”

The comments by the female MPs on Dr Laming’s future are far more strident than the PM who suggested he do a behaviour course.

“I spoke with him again this morning, and I’m arranging for Dr Laming to get appropriate assistance with a private course, to build his understanding and awareness about his actions,” the Prime Minister said on Saturday.

“What I want to see from him is to see his behaviour change.”

RELATED: Rogue MP could blow up government

“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 those things.”

Right now, the Prime Minister still has a majority of 76 seats in the 151 seat Parliament, but when you account for the Speaker Tony Smith who traditionally does not vote the working numbers on the floor are now down to 75 seats.

Dr Laming has been slammed as “a perve” 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.

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 bent over to restock a fridge with soft drinks.

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

samantha.maiden@news.com.au



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Under fire MP stand aside from duties, could quit


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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