Scott Morrison – Scott Morrison defends delayed rebuke Craig Kelly over controversial opinions on coronavirus vaccination
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended the time he took to rebuke Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly, who has been spreading misinformation about COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.
- Scott Morrison says he doesn’t agree with Craig Kelly’s view on the COVID-19 vaccine
- The Prime Minister addressed the matter with the Liberal backbencher on Wednesday
- Labor welcomed the PM’s comment but said he should have made them earlier
Mr Kelly has come under fire for promoting unproven COVID-19 therapies on social media, and for appearing in a podcast hosted by anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist Pete Evans.
On Wednesday, Mr Morrison told the Parliament he made his position clear to Mr Kelly.
“It is true 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,” the Prime Minister said.
“Earlier today, the Member for Hughes and I discussed these matters, and I made it very clear that was the view of me as a Prime Minister and of course the views of the Government.”
During a Facebook Live interview with News Corp on Wednesday night, the Prime Minister was asked why he took so long to order Mr Kelly to stop spreading misinformation online.
The Member for Hughes has been spruiking unofficial COVID-19 therapies for months, with health authorities last year conceding the issue had been challenging.
Just days ago, the Prime Minister refused to distance himself from Mr Kelly while speaking at the National Press Club, insisting he was a very good local member.
Mr Morrison defended his actions, saying he did not see any reason to draw awareness to the posts.
“The issue escalated over the last 24 hours,” he said.
“There is lots of information out there on Facebook and frankly I wouldn’t be paying attention to most of it, other than what’s been provided to official government sources.
“I didn’t see any reason to draw any attention to these things, but the matter had been escalated in the media and it was important I addressed it as firmly as I did today, so the matter is done.”
Mr Morrison was then asked whether Mr Kelly would remove his posts on COVID-19 therapies from his Facebook account.
“He is taking the actions he needs to take and he is not having anything further to say on those issues, as I understand it, and I think that’s helpful,” he said.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Kelly had not removed posts promoting hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as COVID-19 treatments from his social media account.
Australian health authorities have consistently said there is no evidence either drug has any benefit or use in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
Plibersek takes Kelly to task in corridor clash
Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek, a former health minister, clashed with Mr Kelly earlier on Wednesday, accusing him of spreading harmful information.
“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.
Mr Kelly, who represents a Sydney electorate next to Mr Morrison, defended his actions and said he wasn’t anti-vaccination but instead raising the concerns of an immunologist.
But Mr Morrison told the Parliament he wanted Australians to follow the advice of the nation’s medical authorities.
“Vaccination is critical, it is our primary responsibility this year as we continue to respond to the pandemic, and I welcome the statement, which was issued by the Member for Hughes following our meeting,” he said.
“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, but respected around the world.”
Mr Kelly released a written statement after his meeting with Mr Morrison in which he said he supported the Government’s vaccine rollout.
The Prime Minister addressed the matter, unprompted, after Question Time.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said he was pleased Mr Morrison had made a “belated statement” to distance himself from Mr Kelly.
“I hope that today sees an end to the information or disinformation from the Member for Hughes,” he told the Parliament.
Independent MP Helen Haines described what Mr Kelly has been doing as “heinous” and said he was distributing “serious misinformation”.
“He’s exploiting and aggravating legitimate concerns and anxieties of Australians just to big himself up,” she said.
“It’s appalling in a pandemic — when millions overseas have died, when the entire world has been turned upside down, when people’s lives have been disrupted so completely — to throw fuel onto the fire of people’s anxieties about their health and security, and, in the process, endanger them.”