Schools in Andrew Laming’s electorate told his request for Naplan data was ‘inappropriate’ | Andrew Laming

Andrew Laming wrote to schools in his electorate using his Liberal MP letterhead to request early Naplan data for private research for his doctoral thesis, prompting a complaint from the teachers’ union.

The Queensland Teachers Union advised schools they were under “no obligation” to provide the test data, labelling the request “inappropriate”.

Laming has agreed to undergo counselling and empathy training, and to quit at the next election in response to a string of claims of online abuse and harassment.

Although Laming has apologised for two specific incidents and generally for his communication style, Labor is set to continue pressure for him to resign from the Liberal party and sit on the crossbench until the election.

This week, Guardian Australia revealed Laming operated more than 30 Facebook pages without disclosing his identity, prompting an Australian Electoral Commission investigation into the pages’ lack of political authorisation, and that the MP awarded a $550,000 grant to a rugby club with links to one of his staff members.

Laming, who already holds a bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery, and three masters degrees in philosophy (from the University of Sydney), public administration (Harvard) and politics and public policy (Charles Darwin University), is enrolled at the University of Melbourne seeking to become a doctor of education.

Guardian Australia understands Laming approached schools directly seeking Naplan data, circumventing guidelines which require an application to the education department for research data that is not already in the public domain.

The QTU president, Cresta Richardson, confirmed that Laming had sent “a request for school Naplan data to schools in his electorate on his formal letterhead”.

“Members notified us of this request seeking advice,” Richardson told Guardian Australia. “We advised them they were under no obligation to provide such data for Mr Laming.

“We formally notified the Department of Education of this request and that it was not appropriate for them to provide this data. [The department] notified schools of the same in the electorate.”

A spokesperson for the department told Guardian Australia it “does not discuss specific research applications” but confirmed the proper process is not to approach schools directly.

“Before researchers engage with schools they must first receive approval from the Department of Education through a formal research application process,” the spokesperson said.

“Engagement in the research is then at the discretion of the school principals.”

Guardian Australia understands that after Laming’s invitation to participate in research was referred to the department, he later submitted a formal request and is now awaiting the outcomes report to be released by the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

Laming has a history of controversial comments about teachers. In January 2017, the MP prompted backlash after questioning on social media: “Are teachers back at work this week, or are they ‘lesson planning’ from home? Let me know exactly.”

Laming has called for teachers to work regular 38-hour weeks, cutting annual leave back to four weeks a year, and criticised education unions for securing “equal pay for the worst teacher and best”.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Laming encouraged parents to call the police on principals who refuse to let eligible children go to school.

Richardson said that teachers “trust had been worn down” by Laming’s record of “questioning their professionalism on social media”.

“It’s fair to say that many teachers didn’t feel supported by him in his capacity as the local MP.”

Laming is the chair of the House of Representatives standing committee on employment, education and training, which gave him an 11% pay rise for the role on top of his backbencher’s salary of more than $200,000.

At the height of controversy in late March, Laming said he would step down from “all parliamentary roles effective immediately” – but the committee secretariat has confirmed to Guardian Australia he had yet to resign.

Police have decided they will not take action against Laming for allegedly taking an inappropriate photograph of a woman while she was bending over.

Crystal White had accused Laming of taking a photo of her while she was bent over, exposing her underwear beneath denim shorts, while she completed an office task at a Brisbane landscaping business in 2019.

Laming denied committing an offence and defended his decision to take the photo as a “humorous” depiction of a woman hard at work.

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Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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