The Federal Government is in clean-up mode, working to erase the stain of recent allegations of sexual assault, harassment and sexual misconduct made against multiple male MPs and staffers.
Among those responsible for the mess is Queensland backbencher Dr Andrew Laming, who was last month accused of hounding two prominent women in his electorate via social media.
9News broadcast snapshots of Facebook comments in which the former ophthalmologist made allegations that one of the women misappropriated charity funds — a claim the woman firmly denies and said left her feeling suicidal.
The other reported that Dr Laming subjected her and her husband, a local councillor, to a sustained campaign of harassment that spanned several years and included the MP taking covert pictures of her walking through a park which he shared on Facebook.
The reports drew condemnation from Dr Laming's colleagues, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison. But with a one-seat majority at stake, it came as little surprise that the government ignored calls for Dr Laming to be stood down.
What to do with him, then?
Prime Minister Morrison ultimately settled on a punishment of 30 days' leave at full pay, plus an order to attend a private empathy-training course at his own expense.
"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 have demonstrated," Dr Laming said in a statement on Sunday.
Prime Minister Morrison is hoping to see a "very significant change" in Dr Laming's behaviour when the MP returns to complete his final term in office (he's pledged not to contest the next election).
So what is this empathy training? And could it be as effective as the PM seems to think? But first...
What is empathy?
Empathy — the ability to understand another person's emotions — is broadly understood to be a learned behaviour, something that is developed in our early relationships with our parents or caregivers and then shaped by culture.