‘I make the rules’: MP’s Facebook message
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hauled in a Queensland MP and ordered him to issue a public apology over the online abuse of two female constituents who said they were left distressed and in one case "suicidal" over attacks on Facebook.
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.
"Reasonable question, what proportion of Night Ninjas donations go on Alix's personal credit card and is her personal use separated?" Mr Laming's Facebook comment states.
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."
"I don't want to be attacked anymore," Ms Russo said.
"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."
She conceded in one Facebook post that she retaliated calling the MP a "little cretin", a remark she regretted.
"We are all watching you Alix," Mr Laming said in one message. "You can't be trusted with other people's money. That's why your organisation is drying up."
In another, he said she seemed "sweaty and nervous".
Another woman, Sheena Hewlett, also wept throughout the television interview claiming she and her husband Lance, a local councillor, had been targeted for six years with online abuse that left her fearful and distressed.
"My husband is the most honest, decent guy but severely affected,'' she said.
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In one post, Mr Laming said of the teacher: "Here is the Sheena boo-hoo. Please don't laugh."
A Current Affair also recently ran a story on footage of Mr Laming drinking beer in sculling contest with a teenage girl drinking vodka.
"They found some guy from Deakin University who has got his own battles with Big Macs telling me how to drink alcohol,'' Mr Laming subsequently told 2GB radio.
"So what, you're fat shaming some bloke who went on A Current Affair story now are you?,'' the radio host said.
"Absolutely, with no hesitation,'' Mr Laming replied.
The Liberal MP today issued an unreserved apology in parliament for causing "distress" to two women who accused him of online abuse.
Queensland-based Mr Laming told the House of Representatives on Thursday the women were both "highly regarded individuals within our Redland community".
"Today I was informed of the significant distress experienced by two of my constituents as a result of my online communication with them," he said.
"I express my regret and deep apologies for the hurt that my communication may have caused.
"I want to retract those comments and issue a public unreserved apology."
He acknowledged it wasn't the first time his online comments had caused concern.
"I have made a concerted effort to understand the impact of these responses upon others and demonstrate a clear change in the way I communicate," he said.
"I want to say to any person who has received correspondence from me which fell short of what they expect from an MP that I intend to own that failure and apologise without hesitation."
Originally published as 'I make the rules': MP's Facebook message