Scott Morrison – Branch members threaten to quit if LNP parachutes outsider into Laming’s seat
Hindsight suggested the federal MP failed to heed his own advice, with his online conduct leading to his political demise.
He publicly apologised for his online behaviour in Parliament last month but has insisted he was only asking “hard questions about the conduct of people in public office”.
“It’s much easier sometimes to just provide an answer to the question. That wasn’t happening, and now it’s been reinvented into harassment,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane in March.
At the request of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who condemned Dr Laming’s behaviour as “disgraceful”, the Queensland MP agreed to undergo counselling and empathy training. He remains on leave.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a local LNP branch member said Dr Laming had become “too aggressive” on social media and had “got to the stage where he thought he was a bit untouchable”.
“He has been really foolish and he should have stopped,” the source said.
“Unbecoming is probably the way to describe it. He is not the captain of a footy team, he is a bloody member of Parliament.”
While Dr Laming was “not everyone’s cup of tea”, the branch member said the MP remained popular in Brisbane’s bayside community, which he has represented since 2004.
“Generally speaking, he is still well liked out here. He did a good job of acknowledging young people and making them feel their opinions were important,” the source said.
“You can not be a sitting member for 17 years with a 10 per cent buffer if you are no good.
“He was undefeatable. We could not get him out with a crowbar if we had tried.”
Dr Laming’s part-resignation, part-disendorsement has thrown open a plum Coalition seat east of Brisbane for what is likely to be a hostile preselection battle.
With the 10 per cent margin, the outer-metropolitan seat all but guarantees the person who scores the LNP’s endorsement a seat in Federal Parliament.
Senior government sources have said it was Mr Morrison’s preference a strong female candidate was chosen to contest the seat in Dr Laming’s place.
Two of the three known candidates jockeying for the party’s endorsement are women who do not live locally.
Gold Coast businesswoman Fran Ward and honorary legal adviser Maggie Forrest will be busy pressing the flesh of local branch members to boost their chances of pre-selection.
The third contender is Henry Pike, who ran as the LNP’s candidate for the area at the October state election.
The branch member speaking with anonymity, who described LNP officials as “waistcoated men and women from who-knows-where”, threatened revolt if party headquarters tried to parachute someone in.
“The thing that irritated everyone was this big virtue signal from ScoMo [Mr Morrison] about women’s issues and I think he is going to use Bowman to make a point because of the timing,” the person said.
“We do not want toilet trainers coming in and telling us who should be the next member for Bowman.
“We need the right person to repair the damage, to do the job and get something for Bowman.
“We want someone who is credible, capable and local and don’t care if it is a man, woman or donkey.”
Preselection nominations close in a month.
Lydia Lynch is Queensland political reporter for the Brisbane Times