Facing a preselection loss in his seat of Hughes, and becoming ever more embarrassing even by the standards of the Morrison government, climate denialist and COVID misinformation spreader Craig Kelly has moved to the crossbench and thus relieved Scott Morrison of a continuing political problem.
Kelly has been a controversy magnet that even the brazen Morrison has found difficult to ignore. His promotion of COVID quackery led to — eventually — an attempted prime ministerial rebuke in the last sitting of parliament.
That failed to rein him in: Kelly ignored Morrison and went right back to Facebook to continue to advocate for discredited COVID treatments such as ivermectin, until the social media platform suspended his account. Revelations that Kelly’s long-time staffer Frank Zumbo was under investigation for harassment of Kelly’s female staff and had been the subject of a provisional apprehended violence order emerged last week as the government roiled from its mishandling of the Brittany Higgins’ scandal.
Now that Kelly has moved to the crossbench — albeit guaranteeing to support the government in votes of no confidence — Morrison no longer has to answer for his rogue backbencher, who is free to peddle whatever conspiracy theories he likes unrestrained by criticism by the prime minister.
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It will make the government’s legislative task on non-confidence and supply issues somewhat more difficult — especially with Barnaby Joyce and friends eager to humiliate Michael McCormack — but given the government has a decidedly minimal agenda and has ruled out any significant reforms for the rest of this term, that wouldn’t faze the government leadership.
As for Kelly, he may believe he can turn his large Facebook following into his own political brand, or perhaps join another party — the Nationals or One Nation — assuming Facebook allows him to remain. His chances in Hughes against a Liberal with some connection to the 21st century, however, look dubious.