Controversial backbencher Craig Kelly quits Liberal Party to sit on the crossbench – ABC News

Posted: February 27, 2021 at 3:19 am

Controversial backbencher Craig Kelly has quit the Liberal Party.

Mr Kelly handed his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison during today's party room meeting.

He said he would sit on the crossbench but will continue to provide supply for the government meaning he will vote with the government on bills or legislation related to the budget.

He also said he would vote with the government on all policies that were taken to the last election.

Mr Kelly was recently criticised by the Prime Minister for pushing alternative therapies for COVID-19 and for spreading misinformation about vaccines on social media.

He said he did not want to be a distraction to the government and did not want Mr Morrison to have to keep answering questions about things he posted, instead of the messages he wanted to get across.

The move will mean the government will now have a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, but will have to provide a speaker currently Tony Smith who oversees the chamber.

That means the government has 75 seats out of 151 sitting on its benches, one less than is needed for an outright majority.

Mr Kelly said the decision to quit the party was not easy, and was made "with a very heavy heart".

"I felt that for the rest of this parliamentary term, if I'm going to act and speak according to my conscience and beliefs, that I can do so more effectively as an independent," he said.

Shortly after quitting the Liberal Party, Mr Kelly was visited by One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts and Katter's Australian Party leader Bob Katter.

Mr Kelly confirmed he would run in the next election but ruled out joining a different party.

"My beliefs are still closely aligned with the Liberal Party," he said.

He said he had not given any thought to re-joining the Liberal Party if asked.

Mr Kelly said being dressed down by Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently did not lead to his decision to quit.

The controversial MP had to be spoken to more than once by Mr Morrison after repeatedly posting about unproven coronavirus treatments and questioning the safety of vaccines on his Facebook page.

The Prime Minister made it clear he expected the backbencher to follow and respect the health advice from officials.

Mr Morrison said "the government will continue to function" without Mr Kelly.

"[Craig and I] had a discussion a couple of weeks ago as you'll be aware," he said.

"I set out some very clear standards and he made some commitments that I expected to be followed through on.

"He no longer felt that he could meet those commitments, but I can tell you, my standards don't change."

The Prime Minister said he learned of Mr Kelly's resignation when he announced it to the party room.

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Controversial backbencher Craig Kelly quits Liberal Party to sit on the crossbench - ABC News

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