Craig Kelly’s controversial appearance on a podcast hosted by disgraced celebrity chef Pete Evans saw the Liberal MP attack health bureaucrats who he claimed were giving “dud advice” to government, as the men bonded over what they perceived to be unfair media reporting.
Just hours after the podcast was published on Evans’ subscription-only website, Mr Kelly tangled with Labor shadow minister Tanya Plibersek in a hallway argument, before he was privately and publicly rebuked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“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,” Mr Morrison told the federal parliament on Wednesday.
It was the first public dressing-down of the rogue Mr Kelly, who has spent months posting disputed medical claims on Facebook which have been repeatedly shot down by Australia’s leading government health officials. Mr Kelly’s online activity, which has long been a target of fierce criticism from the Labor opposition and respected medical groups, again came to the fore this week when he was announced as a special guest on Evans’ podcast.
Evans called him a “beautiful and beyond courageous man” and a “true hero”, after a long conversation. That interview was finally published on Tuesday night, the full 75-minute video interview posted behind a paywall requiring a $10 per month subscription to access.
In the interview, viewed by The New Daily, Evans says he “can relate” to Mr Kelly, as they both claim to have been victims of a media “pile-on effect”.
The long interview shows Evans sitting in his northern NSW home, while Mr Kelly sits at a desk in his Parliament House office, flanked by a large sign reading ‘Kick Craig Kelly Out’ – a potential reference to the grassroots community campaign mobilising to oppose him ahead of the next election.
The first part of the interview sees Mr Kelly explaining to Evans how the Senate and House of Representatives work, including their systems of proportional representation.
Later in the conversation, Mr Kelly accused media of “misleading the public” and “peddling misinformation”, by not further investigating his claims about hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin as potential COVID treatments.
Both drugs have been repeatedly rubbished by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration and chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly as COVID treatments.
Mr Kelly also accused the government’s National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce – a collection of Australia’s peak medical bodies – of an “outrageous disgrace” making recommendations against those drugs. He claimed the taskforce of giving “dud advice” to government.
Mr Kelly called Health Minister Greg Hunt “a great guy and very smart”; however, the Member for Hughes said his “whole beef is with health bureaucrats”.
Mr Kelly and Evans also sympathised with each other for what they perceived to be unfair media coverage.
“You’ve been bashed up in the media. I may not agree with what you say but I defend to the death your right to say it,” Mr Kelly said.
Evans, a former judge on My Kitchen Rules, has been heavily criticised for promoting dubious health advice throughout the pandemic, including vaccine scepticism and calling COVID a “scam” and a “fake pandemic narrative”.
He has also posted content linked to the baseless and dangerous Qanon conspiracy theory.
Evans was banned from Facebook in December for “repeated violations” of its policies around COVID-19 “misinformation”, while his podcasts were also removed from Apple and Spotify.
In November, he was dropped from numerous commercial arrangements and a book deal after posting a meme featuring a neo-Nazi symbol to his Instagram. He later apologised and claimed the post had been “misinterpreted”.
Towards the end of the conversation with Mr Kelly, Evans also repeated previous hints that he was considering a run for federal politics.
“It looks like I’m going to throw my hat into the ring and join the political movement, and see what happens,” Evans said.
“If we’re ever in parliament together, I’d love to share a meal with you,” he told Mr Kelly.
On Wednesday morning, Mr Kelly denied he was legitimising Evans’ views by appearing on his podcast, and that he did not agree with all of the former chef’s beliefs.
But Labor MP Josh Burns claimed Mr Kelly should have avoided Evans entirely.
“There’s a difference between not agreeing with someone and sitting down with someone who shared Neo-Nazi imagery on his Facebook page,” Mr Burns said on Wednesday.
“Surely it should have been the trigger for Mr Kelly to say, ‘Well, I might not agree with everything he says. He can talk about salads all he wants’ but when he starts talking about Neo-Nazi imagery on his Facebook page, surely that’s the point at which Craig Kelly says, ‘You know what, I shouldn’t be doing a podcast with this guy’.”
Craig Kelly's disinformation is still all over his Facebook page.
Scott Morrison – despite his words today – still hasn't said Craig Kelly is wrong and members of Mr Morrison's Government are lining up to say Craig Kelly is right.
It's past time for true, courageous leadership. pic.twitter.com/MefywM5Uca
— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) February 3, 2021
Labor’s shadow foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, called for Mr Morrison to go further with his rebuke.
“He’s taken a very long time to do this,” Senator Wong said.
“He certainly wants some members of the public and some members of the journalistic profession to believe he’s done the right thing, I don’t think he’s done enough. I think he has permitted Mr Kelly to retain all of the disinformation that he has on his social media platforms.”