Dumped Liberal MP Andrew Laming has accused Scott Morrison of making him a scapegoat for the Coalition government’s unpopularity among women, saying the former prime minister failed every gender test he ever encountered.
In a new book to be published next month that unloads on a number of his ex-colleagues, Laming – who was ordered into “empathy training” by the then-prime minister in 2021 – suggests Morrison punished him because of his own failings.
“Morrison failed every gender test he ever encountered, and the worst of them coincided with low-level policy failures that he might otherwise have negotiated unscathed,” Laming writes in COVID: How Australia’s Leadership Played the Pandemic, to be published by Brisbane-based Connor Court Publishing, which specialises in conservative authors.
“Voters only need to be mildly annoyed with a leader to contemplate the alternative. Voters were more than mildly annoyed with him, and gender made it deeply personal for the nation’s largest and most influential minority, female voters.”
Morrison’s office was contacted for comment about Laming’s claims but had not responded at the time of publication.
Laming was blocked from recontesting his Queensland seat of Bowman in 2021 after Nine News published a television report falsely accusing him of photographing a woman’s buttocks without her consent.
The company, which also owns this masthead, was forced to apologise to Laming last year as part of a settlement of his Federal Court defamation action against the network. The ABC also agreed to pay reporter Louise Milligan’s personal legal costs of almost $200,000 after she was sued by Laming over a series of tweets repeating the allegations.
About the same time of the Channel Nine news report, Laming was forced to apologise to two women for trolling them on Facebook, which Morrison labelled “disgraceful” behaviour.
Laming revealed in 2021 that he had been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, by a psychiatrist and suggested that it explained some of his hyperactive behaviour.
Laming says in the book that his treatment was “generated by a confluence of media pressure on a panicked prime minister”.
“Potentially seeking a scapegoat when the story dropped, he then held that position to the end of his prime ministership, regardless of the subsequent evidence,” Laming writes.
“He was proudly unflinching to the end.”
In hindsight, Laming says that voting for Peter Dutton in the 2018 leadership contest against Morrison was a “decision that would cost me big time”. He also says the fact that Morrison enjoyed a relative degree of stability during his prime ministership was “in no small part due to the team player nature of Peter Dutton”.
Laming says there were no obvious replacements for Morrison in the party room, as opposed to Labor, which had a “wealth of leadership potential”.
He says former treasurer Josh Frydenberg “worked like a Trojan and wrote opinion articles ferociously, but I couldn’t visualise him in the top job”.
The divisive former MP writes that the “gender panic” during the Coalition’s final months in office was an “inescapable fog”, and Morrison had “clumsily invoked his family at the wrong times, so this escape route was firmly closed”.
“Far from protecting him, his senior female cabinet colleagues were of little assistance in the gender wars,” Laming writes.
“Victorian senator Jane Hume aside, few were accomplished media performers and none enthusiastic character references.
“After the Christine Holgate debacle, female corporate Australia had also walked. This gave, of all people, Grace Tame the final verdict. It was a marketing train wreck in every sense of the metaphor.”
Laming says that former attorney-general Michaelia Cash became “mired in mostly pointless industrial relations squabbles” and that Anne Ruston was a “shadow of Porter” as social services minister.
He also says Morrison erred in the handling of allegations made by former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins.
“His panicked parliamentary apology seemed to pre-empt the legal proceedings, while his insistence he knew nothing at the time seemed implausible,” Laming writes.
Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann was charged with sexually assaulting Higgins, but a trial was aborted late last year due to juror misconduct, and the charges were subsequently dropped.
Laming also writes that Morrison’s holiday in Hawaii during the bushfires heading into 2020 “detonated everything he had worked for”.
“In just 48 hours, his aura was obliterated in a blizzard of aloha shirts,” he writes.
The book places Laming as close to some key decisions made by the Morrison government during the COVID-19 pandemic, but he frequently decries Morrison and senior cabinet ministers for not taking his advice on board. Senior sources associated with the Morrison government told this masthead that Laming’s suggestions were acknowledged but were not instrumental in any of its decisions.
Laming criticises Morrison for relying on modelling by the Doherty Institute, which predicted “scenarios of 25,000 deaths which were based upon completely implausible ‘do-nothing’ scenarios”.
“I was furious with the apocalyptic Doherty modelling and felt Morrison was pumping it for reasons I couldn’t unpick,” he writes. “We knew the trajectory of the disease was nothing like the doomsday predictions.”
Laming says he sent Health Minister Greg Hunt a draft of an opinion piece that called for a relaxation of restrictions and was later published in on April 9, 2020. According to the book, Hunt replied: “This will be a destructive piece … the opening is frankly contemptuous.”
While supporting COVID vaccine mandates for frontline health workers, Laming says he tried to convince Morrison to oppose industry-wide mandates because his experience as a doctor taught him they “do about as much harm as good”.
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