‘Taxpayer funded nong’: Rogue MP agrees to support vaccine rollout after PM’s intervention

Embattled Liberal MP Craig Kelly has finally agreed to support Australia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout after immense political pressure to stop spreading misinformation about unproven treatments for the disease.

Feb 03, 2021, updated Feb 03, 2021
Craig Kelly will sit on the crossbench but continue to support the Morrison Government.

Craig Kelly will sit on the crossbench but continue to support the Morrison Government.

And Prime Minister Scott Morrison finally made a public statement naming Kelly who has been enthusiastically promoting two unapproved drugs for months on his Facebook page.

“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,” Morrison told parliament.

In a carefully worded statement, the Sydney-based MP confirmed he met with the prime minister on Wednesday.

“I agreed to support the government’s vaccine rollout which has been endorsed by medical experts,” Kelly said.

“I have always sought to support the success of our nation’s public health response during the pandemic.

“I believe that the spread of misinformation can damage the success of our public health response during the pandemic.”

Despite his backdown, Kelly’s Facebook page remains littered with articles championing two drugs unapproved for use in coronavirus patients.

Morrison said he made it clear to the Hughes MP that vaccination was critical.

“It is our primary responsibility this year as we continue to respond to the pandemic,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kelly accused the national COVID evidence task force – which is made up of top medical experts reviewing science continuously – of not being across the latest studies.

“Catch up with the evidence. Yes, you looked at three studies. Go and look at the other 32 studies and come back,” he told reporters.

Kelly’s meeting with Morrison followed a clash with senior Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek outside media studios at Parliament House.

Plibersek addressed the Liberal backbencher directly with the pair arguing in a corridor surrounded by cameras.

“My mum lives in your electorate and I do not want her exposed to people who aren’t going to be vaccinated because of these crazy conspiracy theories,” the Labor MP said.

Plibersek told reporters it was beyond time for Morrison to tell his backbench MP to shut up.

“We’re spending $24 million on a campaign to tell people to get vaccinated and we’ve got a taxpayer-funded nong running around telling people not to,” she said.

Mr Kelly claimed he was not anti-vaccination but said he would consult with his doctor before deciding on which jab he might have.

He has seized on endorsements for the two unproven treatments from University of Newcastle Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy.

Clancy said evidence showed hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin were safe and should be used.

“Early treatment is highly effective. Vaccines are critically important. They should not be seen as mutually exclusive. You need them both,” he told Nine newspapers.

Earlier, Greens leader Adam Bandt said the prime minister’s private discussions had failed to sway the rebel backbencher.

“Craig Kelly was out on podcasts yesterday spruiking the benefits of snake oil COVID treatments and undermining the public health response,” he told ABC radio.

Bandt said Morrison personally intervened to save Mr Kelly from a preselection challenge and should now ensure the MP doesn’t contest another election.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe told the National Press Club he would take the vaccine and believed most Australians had a desire to “do the right thing”.

“Certainly some people won’t want to get vaccinated and they will have concerns but I think enough of us will get vaccinated,” Lowe said.

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