PM hauls in Kelly after COVID clash with Plibersek
Rogue MP Craig Kelly has been hauled into Prime Minister Scott Morrison's office for a dressing down after his clash over COVID-19 conspiracies with Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek.
It is understood Mr Morrison made it very clear he could not support Mr Kelly's views or his actions, and asked him to refrain from pushing views that are contrary to the accepted medical advice.
Mr Kelly was told his actions were negatively impacting the government's critically important vaccine strategy.
Mr Morrison reminded Mr Kelly his entire focus going forward should be his constituents in the seat of Hughes.
Mr Kelly has agreed to restrain his social media and support the government's vaccine strategy.
In a statement Mr Kelly confirmed he had a meeting with Mr Morrison on Wednesday morning.
"The Prime Minister reinforced the importance of ensuring vaccine confidence in the government's vaccine strategy," he said.
"I agreed to support the government's vaccine rollout which has been endorsed by medical experts.
"I believe the spread of misinformation can damage the success of the public health response during the pandemic."
After running into each other in a corridor at parliament house, Ms Plibersek took Mr Kelly to task for undermining public health messaging by attacking the government's medical experts.
"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 replied to her, "well you're the one doing it, because you're the one spreading misinformation".
Ms Plibersek asked Mr Kelly if he believed Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed with the theories or if he thought the backbencher was "wrong".
"(The) prime minister can speak for himself," Mr Kelly replied.
Mr Kelly told Ms Plibersek to "listen to our most senior immunologist" Emeritus Professor Robert Clancy who was quoted by Nine Newspapers on Wednesday as saying the backbencher was "absolutely right" about hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as treatments for COVID-19, despite the world's leading scientists proving neither drug is effective for this virus.
Ms Plibersek said she would instead be listening to the nations' chief health officers.
The encounter occurred just minutes after Mr Kelly was involved in a fiery interview on breakfast television on Channel 9 where he was repeatedly told he was in a "position of authority" and was "failing in that duty."
Mr Kelly said the recent attacks from Labor over his views was just politics.
"I've been very disappointed about the Labor Party making this a partisan issue and attacking me and smearing me and slandering me and actually misrepresenting what I say," he told Channel 9.
"All I've done is post a peer-reviewed article, the opinions of expert professors and medical experts from around the world. The idea that I somehow have been posting misinformation is absolutely misinformation itself."
After the clash Ms Plibersek told 2GB while she did not expect Mr Kelly to agree with her, she did expect him not to actively undermine the advice of Australia's health experts.
"He can't have this contradictory information," she said.
"He's funded by the taxpayer, taxpayer pays his salary, taxpayers picking up the bill on his Facebook communications, he's out there making the message confused."
Ms Plibersek said her mum, who lives in Mr Kelly's Hughes electorate, was almost 90 and she did not want her coming into contact with unvaccinated people as a result of Mr Kelly's misinformation.
Ms Plibersek said she was also concerned about the impact of a lower vaccination rate on the economic recovery from COVID-19.
"I want things back to normal as quickly as possible, and the fastest way back to normal is to get the majority of the population vaccinated as soon as it's safe to do so," she said.
Labor has demanded the MP be reined in to protect important health public health messages.
The opposition's new health spokesman Mark Butler has conceded he is "concerned" about further boosting public awareness of Mr Kelly's views by calling them out, but argued "silence" was not an option.
"Of course I'm concerned about the amplification," he said.
"I don't do this lightly … but this fellow has a social media through Facebook reach that's vastly greater than the Department of Health's Facebook reach."
Mr Butler has taken aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison for failing to rebuke Mr Kelly directly.
"The top office in the land needs to call him out," he said.
"I don't think the right response is silence in the face of an elected member of parliament who sits in the Government's party room accusing the Chief Medical Officer of crimes against humanity, accusing mask-wearing advocates of child abuse."
Mr Morrison on Monday told Australians they should not get their coronavirus vaccine news from Facebook, and added that Mr Kelly was "not my doctor."
But Mr Butler said the "glib" comments from the PM were insufficient.
"Every step of the way, as we've been trying to build this response, trying to put Australians in the best position to get through this pandemic, we've had someone receiving taxpayer funds as an MP, sitting in the Government's party room, undermining that response," Mr Butler said.
Originally published as PM hauls in Kelly after COVID clash with Plibersek