The Morrison government is facing pressure to crackdown on two of its own for sharing coronavirus misinformation to the public, but there are no signs the MPs will stop spreading unproven theories.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Federal MP Craig Kelly doubled down on his posts about a lice drug as a cure for COVID-19 and on a study comparing mask use to child abuse.
“Posting links to studies and research published in various medical journals as I have done, is NOT ‘mis-information’ – it’s the actual results of the studies,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“Time will tell whether these studies are right or wrong or somewhere in between.
“Posting links to interviews and comments of some of the world’s most esteemed medical brains (that may have different views to the World Health Organisation) is not ‘mis-information’ – its [sic] expert opinion.
“The W.H.O are not infallible gods.”
Mr Kelly had early shared a link to a study on the negative effects – including ‘irritability’, ‘headaches’, ‘difficulty concentrating’ – of children wearing coronavirus masks in Germany.
The paper by the Universität Witten/Herdecke had not yet been peer-reviewed.
Mr Kelly captioned his link to the preprint research paper “COMPLUSORY MASK MANDATES : CHILD ABUSE” [sic].
“What other conclusion can be drawn from this first ever published study, other than that forcing children to wear masks is causing massive physical and psychological harm – that can only be defined as child abuse,” he wrote.
Before that, he had again shared information about the head lice drug ivermectin being used to treat coronavirus. Facebook had already warned Mr Kelly about sharing theories about the unproven treatment.
- Read up on ivermectin and what’s known – and isn’t yet understood – about its use as a coronavirus drug, here
Concerns over posts by Mr Kelly and fellow backbencher George Christensen have prompted the Australian Medical Association to call on the federal government to launch an advertising campaign against health misinformation.
AMA president Omar Khorshid said people in positions of power could deliver online misinformation which others could easily absorb.
“We have seen this with the anti-vaccination movement and the countless conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic that circulate constantly on the internet,” he said.
Labor has demanded senior cabinet figures condemn the coalition duo who are refusing to take a backward step.
Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said Mr Kelly had made a systemic and deliberate attempt to undermine medical health professionals.
“Craig Kelly is a menace and at every turn, Scott Morrison and now Michael McCormack, acting prime minister, have failed to call him out,” he said.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Greg Hunt wouldn’t be drawn on Mr Kelly’s accusation health officials had engaged in child abuse for encouraging face mask use.
“There will be different views from different people,” he said.
But Mr Hunt argued Australia’s success in combating coronavirus stemmed from governments acting based on expert health recommendations.
“Our advice comes from what I believe are the best medical advisers in the world. That’s what’s protected Australia and that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” he said.
“I would urge everyone to listen carefully to the advice of the Australian medical regulators and Australian government medical advisers.”
Mr Christensen and Mr Kelly have continuously shared material criticising masks and lockdowns.
They have also promoted hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
Mr McCormack told people railing against Mr Christensen’s Facebook posts to “toughen up” and claimed “facts are sometimes contentious”.
“You might look out there and say the sky is blue and I can see from here that it’s grey. If we go out from this rotunda there are probably blue patches,” the Nationals leader said in north Queensland.
“There are a lot of subjective things.”