Liberal MP Craig Kelly has defied the Prime Minister’s Facebook edict to stop posting “outlandish” COVID cures and now a growing group of MPs are backing his right to speak out.
Just 48 hours after he released a statement agreeing to back the public health advice the Sydney MP is back demanding more research into a treatment for hair lice – ivermectin – and hydroxychloroquine.
The Facebook post is his first on COVID cures since he was hauled in to the Prime Minister’s office on Wednesday.
Mr Morrison had indicated that he believed he had an assurance Mr Kelly would stop his activities. But his latest post suggests his silence didn’t last for long.
“Listen to THE expert*,’’ Mr Kelly wrote in Facebook post overnight. “Could someone please forward a copy to Tanya.”
Earlier this week, Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek clashed with the Liberal MP in the corridors of parliament accusing him of peddling quack COVID-19 cures.
“The government is spending $24 million on a campaign telling people to get vaccinated, and we’ve got a taxpayer-funded nong running around telling people not to,” Ms Plibersek said.
The parliamentary showdown prompted the Prime Minister to demand Mr Kelly attend his office before question time on Wednesday where he urged him not to undermine the public medical advice.
The Prime Minister made a statement to parliament after question time on Wednesday to rebuke Mr Kelly for peddling alternative cures.
“It is true that the views expressed by the Member for Hughes do not align with my views, or the views of the advice that has been provided to me by the Chief Medical Officer,” Mr Morrison said.
“Vaccination is critical. It is our primary responsibility this year, as we continue to respond to the pandemic.”
Mr Morrison also used his social media accounts to link a video of the Health Department secretary Brendan Murphy shooting down some of the ‘cures’ Mr Kelly was spruiking.
Mysteriously, it also appears some of Mr Kelly’s posts are now disappearing from Facebook but Mr Kelly insists he has no idea who is cleansing his timeline.
Now there’s even speculation that if Mr Kelly is dumped by the Liberal Party in the looming preselection battle for his Sydney seat that he could run for the Nationals or pop up as a Senate candidate for One Nation.
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan told the news.com.au that it was seriously discussed as an option several years ago.
“Last time it happened he was seriously considering it,’’ he said. “Of course we would like to get more people in our party room.
“Look, I hope Craig continues as an MP. He makes a unique contribution to our parliament.”
Asked if he should stop posting quack COVID cures, Senator Canavan said he wasn’t convinced he was doing that.
“Like what? I had a flick through his Facebook page. He’s posting a lot of studies,’’ he said.
“I get really worried when we try and stifle reasonable contributions. I think it’s a really dangerous pathway.
“We are encouraging censorship and whipped up paranoia. I haven’t seen any evidence for Craig Kelly to be ‘silenced’ in inverted commas.
“I am always in favour of free speech. If you don’t agree with them, debate them, don’t silence them. I think that’s a big reason why we are seeing this increase in conspiracy theories.”
Asked why the PM had hauled Mr Kelly in, Senator Canavan replied: “You would have to ask the Prime Minister.”
The furore follows months of criticism that the PM needed to take a stronger line with the MP for questioning public health measures.
Mr Kelly announced this week he is preparing to appear on a podcast with former TV chef and anti-vaxxer Pete Evans, who releases a daily stream of material questioning the vaccination strategy and masks on his social media channels.
Evans has labelled Mr Kelly “a beautiful and beyond courageous man” as he prepares to spend “90 minutes” chatting to him about alternative COVID cures.
“Just spent a great 90 minutes talking with this beautiful and courageous man,” Mr Evans wrote on Instagram.
“Craig Kelly MP is sharing the truth over and over again and keeps moving forward without fear.”
But Mr Kelly strenuously denies he is an anti-vaxxer, despite peddling a range of alternative treatments on his popular Facebook page, including using a treatment for hair lice in children for COVID-19. He has also compared mask wearing in children with child abuse.
“Any suggestion that I am some sort of anti-vaxxer is nothing but slander, smear and slime,’’ Mr Kelly told news.com.au.
“If you can’t debate, if people are getting black-banned and cancelled that is a very sad day for democracy.”
Labor’s health spokesman Mark Butler stepped up the attacks calling for Facebook to act on the posts.
“Craig Kelly is a dangerous menace and a threat to the nation’s COVID response and it’s about time the Prime Minister developed a backbone to call him into line,” Mr Butler said.
On Monday, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison sidestepped criticising Mr Kelly by observing “he’s not my doctor and he’s not yours”. He added that the MP was doing a “great job” in his electorate of Hughes in Sydney.