Friday, 5 February 2021

Has Morrison finally lost all control of the many political crazies within his government?

The list of unreliable and erratic members of the Morrison Coalition Government contains some memorable names famous for climate change denial, conspiracy theories or both - former Nationals Leader & former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, current Nationals Leader & Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Nationals MP for Dawson George Christensen, outgoing Liberal MP for Menzies Kevin Andrews, Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan, Queensland LNP Senator Gerard Rennick, NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan and Liberal MP for Hughes Craig Kelly, to name a few.

Nationwide arson or exploding horse manure are a cause of mega bushfires in Australia, there was a plot by the Bureau of Meteorology to rewrite historical weather records, the Sun or God or a higher authority is the principle reason for the global climate changing, the "Wuhan flu" is not as bad as 'they' would like you to believe, the UN & most of the world's scientists are lying about climate change, conservative politicians are the victims of cancel culture - these are just a few of the wild opinions which came from the mouths of members of Morrison's government.


On 2 February 2021 mainstream media journalists began to report that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had that day spoken by phone with Craig Kelly (left) and requested that he desist from spreading false and misleading information about treatment and possible cures for COVID-19 infection.

However, it now appears that Morrison did not speak with Kelly on Tuesday, 2 February. 

It wasn’t until after a very public confrontation between Labor’s Tanya Plibersek and Craig Kelly that Morrison did speak actually speak with him.

Morrison’s seeming reluctance had some basis in historical fact. When faced with possible loss of pre-selection in December 2018 it is understood that Kelly threatened to go to the cross benches and bring down the government.

As Morrison only holds federal government with a slim majority and, as rumour has it, is considering calling a federal election this year, it would be risky to discipline an MP who might carry through on that old threat.

Morrison indicated the half-measures approach taken towards Craig Kelly on 3 February 2021……

Australian Parliament, House of Representatives, Hansard, excerpt, 3 February 2021:


Mr MORRISON (Cook—Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (15:19):

Mr Speaker, I respect the rulings that you've made in relation to matters that have been raised today by the opposition. But, on indulgence, I'll just say the following about matters that have been addressed here today. A key principle of the successful response of our government, and the state and territory governments with whom I work, to the pandemic—a principle that I have applied with the chairing of the federal cabinet, the National Security Committee of Cabinet and the national cabinet—has been respect for the expert medical advice that has guided our response and the institutions that have the responsibility under our system for providing that advice.

It is true that views expressed by the member for Hughes do not align with my views or the advice that has been provided to me by the Chief Medical Officer. Earlier today, the member for Hughes and I discussed these matters, and I made it very clear that that was the view of me, as Prime Minister, and, of course, the view of the government. Vaccination is critical. It is our primary responsibility this year as we continue to respond to the pandemic. I welcome the statement, which I table, that was issued by the member for Hughes following our meeting. Our job is to get on with the job of the vaccine. The Therapeutic Goods Administration is the authoritative body not just in this country; it is respected around the world. So I can say to Australians—indeed,

for the same reason that I and members of this place will take our own children and our own parents to get that all-important vaccine—that our Therapeutic Goods Administration and the medical advice that guides my government's policy on the pandemic is the best in the world.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (15:22): I welcome the belated statements of the Prime Minister in distancing himself from the comments of the member for Hughes. The comments of the member for Hughes have been dangerous—

An honourable member: Which ones!

Mr ALBANESE: We have a limited time on indulgence! But, in particular, it was the comments with regard to health, the use of hydroxychloroquine and the use of other drugs that have not been in accordance with the advice of the TGA or the advice of the Chief Medical Officer. Those have been of great concern. It is something

that we on this side of the House have raised—particularly the former shadow minister for health, the current shadow minister for health and myself as leader—for a period of many months.

The challenge of the pandemic requires us to absolutely have faith and confidence in our institutions. We on this side—as the Prime Minister has said himself; I know the minister for health has said it a number of times as well—have faith in and we should be very proud of the role that the TGA plays in this country. As we respond to this crisis, it is absolutely vital that all of us who have the privilege of being in leadership positions show leadership in the information which we put forward to the community. We've said throughout this crisis, 'We're all

in this together.' It needs to be more than a slogan; it needs to be a method of action as well. And that requires responsible leadership from every parliamentarian.

I hope that today sees an end to the information, or disinformation, from the member for Hughes. I haven't had the opportunity to see the statement that was just tabled by the Prime Minister.

On 4 December 2021 Craig Kelly’s Facebook account still carried posts containing false and misleading information about treatment and possible cures for COVID-19 infection. The last ones being posted in the early morning hours of 3 February 2021.


University of Newcastle, 3 February 2021:

In response to debate around COVID-19 treatment

A media statement in response to the debate surrounding COVID-19 treatment.

Please attribute comments to Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, Vice-Chancellor:

The University of Newcastle is committed to contributing to the response to COVID-19 and we support peer reviewed science-based decision making as we enter this next phase of the pandemic management, in which vaccination plays an important role.

Rigorous peer reviewed research evidence must remain a key mechanism to guide major policy and public health responses. This is the framework that Australian leaders have used to manage our pandemic response to date and the success of this approach is evident.

As a world-class research institute, we encourage and promote innovation in research that is underpinned by rigorous scientific principles. Our researchers are expected to adhere to strict scientific standards in providing opinions on matters of public interest.

While the University always respects freedom of speech, Robert Clancy is not speaking on behalf of the University of Newcastle when offering his opinion on this issue. The University has not funded his research since 2009 and he retired in 2013. The University does not consider Robert Clancy a subject matter expert on COVID-19.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February 2021:

Every now and then a politician comes around with views so "crackpot" - the word used by the Australian Medical Association president to describe MP Craig Kelly's interesting COVID opinions - that you have to ask: how the hell is this guy in Parliament?

With the eager assistance of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, that's how!

Kelly, member for the southern Sydney seat of Hughes, has long tangoed with the more marginal opinion-holes of the internet, ranging from climate change "scepticism", to his assertion that coral islands float.

Kelly is also an expert on foreign policy. On the 298 people killed aboard flight MH17, shot down by the Russians, he told Sky News in 2018, "If some of the things that Russia has gotten away with in the past has to be slightly looked over, well I'm sorry, that's the price that we have to pay sometimes to have good relations going forward."

Kelly shared false reports claiming the violent insurrection at the US Capitol building in January was organised by left-wing Antifa protesters, and in 2018 he travelled to Azerbaijan, which has been ruled by the same family since the end of Soviet occupation, to declare its election a "coherent, democratic process". He was on the ground for 48 hours.

Everybody has one of those uncles, right? Well, the Liberal Party is no different, and up until now, Uncle Craig has been tolerated with the electoral equivalent of indulgent chuckles.

That Kelly is a member of the Coalition's right-wing conservative faction has a lot to do with his ongoing survival.

It is a brave Liberal Prime Minister who sets off those hounds. Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull both supported Kelly's preselection, despite attempts from the moderates to knock him off.

Then in 2018, Morrison made it clear Kelly was to be protected from a preselection challenge, despite (or perhaps because of) Kelly's support for Peter Dutton in the leadership vote following Turnbull's ousting.

But that decision is looking less than clever now Kelly's misleading views on the pandemic are becoming a public relations headache.

Kelly uses social media to push his theories, and his Facebook page has large levels of engagement. He has also appeared on the podcast of chef-turned-conspiracy-space-cadet Pete Evans.

Kelly has expressed scepticism about the COVID vaccine, he pushes unproven drug treatments, including one that is meant for head lice, and says making children wear masks is akin to "child abuse".

That no child is required to wear a mask is a technicality unmentioned on his posts.

Medical experts have expressed horror at such misinformation being spread by a member of the government. Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly has politely said Kelly's views are "not scientifically based".

Kelly claims he is a victim of "cancel culture", but he gets an awful lot of air time.

He is a regular guest on Sky News, he has his Facebook page, plenty of media coverage, and there is also the forum of Parliament, which amounts to a national stage where speakers enjoy parliamentary privilege.

Besides, the harsh arithmetic of politics means that the Prime Minister, who sits on a one-seat margin, cannot cancel Kelly.

He is also not Kelly's boss. The people of Hughes are. Those voters include Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek's mum.

Yesterday morning, Plibersek confronted Kelly in the corridor in Parliament House.

"My mum lives in your electorate and I don't want her exposed to people who are not going to be vaccinated because of these crazy conspiracy theories that you're spreading," Ms Plibersek said.

The photographs of the exchange told the story. Plibersek's gestures are a gallery of emotions - the finger point of frustration, the face palm of incredulity, the eye roll of exasperation.

No comments: