Four more women have come forward with allegations that Liberal MP Andrew Laming acted inappropriately and made them feel uncomfortable, the ABC’S 7.30 program reported on Thursday night. Laming has denied how these interactions have been characterised.
Chynna Bennett, who was a 19-year-old hospo worker at the time, said Laming added her on Facebook in 2019. She said she didn’t actually give laming her name, but rather that he must’ve gleaned it from her nametag shortly after she had clocked off work.
“If it was any other person, I would have thought that was a bit weird for a middle-aged man to ask a 19-year-old to add them on Facebook,” she told the program.
“It wasn’t a very comfortable situation. It just felt very forced and I sort of had to engage with it.
“I felt like I had to add him back. Like, say yes to [friending him]. Because if I didn’t, I felt like I would get the 20 questions on why.”
Fast-forward to 2021 and Laming has now claimed to the ABC that he and the then-teenager had roughly 70 mutual friends at the time.
Another woman, Professor Gemma Carey, said she was stuck sitting next to Laming on a domestic flight in 2015 when he started lecturing her about work.
Laming then started commenting about her appearance and figure, before persistently inviting her out for drinks, which she repeatedly declined.
“I felt like I was trapped next to someone who was just being completely inappropriate, irrespective of their job, being completely inappropriate,” she said.
“I was trying not to have to speak to him, or to respond too much. But he kind of talked at me relentlessly for the entire flight.”
In the end she agreed to share a ride with Laming because he approached her again outside the baggage carousel, which she accepted because he was “remarkably persistent” and the thought it was the easier option.
I look forward to @ScottMorrisonMP telling the nation if he will finally remove Andrew Laming from parliament today
— Prof Gemma Carey (@gemcarey) April 29, 2021
Another academic, Dr Indigo Willing, said Laming slid into her DMs to ask about her research, but that things quickly made her feel very uncomfortable
Laming asked if she skateboarded, to which she said yes and started talking about a local skater group.
Laming replied: “I’m happy just to meet skaties one at a time – starting with you ;)”
“That is when I began to feel very uncomfortable,” Willing told the ABC.
In 2012, when Laming led an Australian delegation on a trip to the Philippines, several female delegates allegedly felt uncomfortable about how Laming was often asking for their numbers, but not the numbers of male delegates.
As a sociologist it’s our job and usually exciting to talk to all kinds of people about research, but the last interaction with Andrew Laming idk.
If he is a skater boy, just saying see you later boy.
— Dr Indigo Willing (@indigowilling) April 29, 2021
“We travelled all over the Philippines in various different places. I started to notice that Andrew – if there was a young woman there – then Andrew would invade her personal space, in my opinion, and ask for her number – request her number very quickly,” then-Tasmanian ALP assistant secretary Megan Lewis said.
“It was humiliating, I found it extremely embarrassing and stressful. To see it again and again and again and again.
“We were all on a little bus and I said to him, ‘Andrew, seriously, why do you need her phone number? What are you going to do with it?’ … He had a big smirk on his face and said, ‘Oh, well, I might want to talk to her about, you know, learn more about her government,’ and then just kind of laughed.”
Laming made clear that he saw all of these encounters as routine interactions as part his role.
He said his office tries to friend all young adults in his electorate on Facebook; that asking someone out for a drink isn’t uncommon when “work interests overlap”; that he was interested in Dr Willing’s research paper before the conversation drifted into a topic that didn’t interest him; and that he had never received a complaint about his conduct in 15 years of leading Australian delegations.
All this news has emerged just after Laming conveniently went public with his ADHD diagnosis, implying a link between it and his past behaviour and thereby throwing everyone with ADHD under the bus at the same time.
After those initial allegations, Laming announced that he wouldn’t contest his seat at the next election but that he also wouldn’t step down.
While seeing out the remainder of his term as an MP, Prime Minister Scot Morrison made Laming undergo an online empathy training course.
You can watch the full episode of 7.30 here.