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Alcohol limits, breath tests in Parliament floated as MP quits over bad behaviour

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg expected the issue of alcohol would be canvassed in Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ review of parliamentary culture.

“The Parliament is an unusual working place. It’s had long hours, it’s particularly intense and we have very important work to undertake,” he said.

“But the behaviour and the conduct and the culture that we have seen exhibited by revelations of what has taken place in the Parliament … falls well below community standards and it has to change and it has to change fast.”

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Labor was willing to consider any constructive proposals put forward to improve the functioning of Parliament.

Senator Henderson also suggested changes to the rules governing political staffers, known as the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act, or MOPS, that would allow the Department of Finance to overrule an MP and fire problematic advisers.

“If there are serious allegations against a staff member then the Department of Finance should be able to step in and terminate that staff member if there are proper grounds to do so,” she said.

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Jane Halton, a former head of finance, also hopes the Jenkins review recommends changes to the MOPS Act, saying it was “time those arrangements were reconsidered and new arrangements properly devised”.

Dr Allen and Senator Henderson said the bad behaviour included that of Mr Laming, and they expected his time in politics was up.

Mr Laming stood aside from his parliamentary roles on Saturday, after a Brisbane woman accused the Queensland MP of taking a mobile phone photo of her bottom while her underwear was visible in 2019.

That incident came three days after Nine News revealed the MP had bullied two women, Alix Russo and Sheena Hewlett, online and a day after he seemed to make light of his own apology to them.

On Sunday, he confirmed he would not seek re-election after Mr Frydenberg announced that fact publicly.

“Starting tomorrow, I will get assistance with courses in empathy and appropriate communication, not just to be a better MP but to be a deeper and more empathetic person than what the recent events demonstrated,” Mr Laming said in a statement.

“The common thread of the last week has been not demonstrating anything close to understanding how my actions affect others. I intend to own those mistakes.

“I will also be obtaining clinical counselling, for a duration decided by others, but I will aim to complete it by the next Parliamentary sitting [in May].”

An LNP spokesman said Mr Laming’s behaviour had not met the standards required of party members and that “he has given an undertaking to meet the standards expected of elected representatives”.

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Mr Morrison’s preference is that a strong female candidate is chosen to contest the seat of Bowman for the Liberal National Party in Mr Laming’s place. The Prime Minister is not directly involved in the LNP’s preselection processes but can nominate a representative, possibly Industry Minister Karen Andrews, to convey his views.

Ms Andrews earlier this week said she’d had “an absolute gutful” of the poor workplace culture within Parliament House and politics.

Mr Albanese said it was good Mr Laming had confirmed he would leave politics but it wasn’t enough and he should quit now or risk bringing “disrepute and disgrace” to Parliament.

If Mr Laming was to leave before the next election, the government would be thrust into a minority in the lower house at least until a byelection.

It is down to 76 seats after Craig Kelly quit the Liberals last month to sit as an independent, but that number includes the Speaker, who holds a casting vote only in the event of a tie.

Mr Laming holds his seat of Bowman by 10.24 per cent, having increased his margin by more than three points at the 2019 election.

He said on Sunday that being voted in at six consecutive elections “has been the greatest honour of my life”.

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