Rogue Coalition MP George Christensen has received a rare official condemnation from the Parliament, after another anti-lockdown speech which Labor leader Anthony Albanese claimed “undermined the actions of Australians to defeat COVID”.
The House of Representatives agreed to a motion from Mr Albanese, which called for the chamber to “condemn” Mr Christensen’s tirade.
The government, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, did not oppose the motion.
Mr Christensen, the LNP member for Dawson, made yet another concerning speech in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, claiming face masks and lockdowns “don’t work”.
He claimed COVID “has a survivability rate of 997 out of 1000”, and railed that “some people will tragically die from it. That’s inevitable and we have to accept it”.
He also criticised “dictatorial medical bureaucrats”.
It followed a speech last week where Mr Christensen voiced support for anti-lockdown protesters, and an address to the Coalition party room where he called for “immediate freedom” from lockdowns.
Mr Albanese began question time on Tuesday by saying Labor wanted to “disassociate” from the rant, calling it a “disgrace”. He noted that just hours earlier, NSW had announced a further four COVID deaths.
Labor often moves a suspension of standing orders at the end of #QT, calling on the House to condemn something. It usually doesn't get very far.
This time, however, Christian Porter (leader of the house) granted Albanese leave to make this speech. That doesn't happen very often pic.twitter.com/hlCDqdSxH4
— Josh Butler (@JoshButler) August 10, 2021
Toward the end of question time, Mr Albanese moved a motion, calling for Mr Christensen to be condemned. This tactic of trying to bring on a motion is used often by Labor at the end of question time, and is usually rejected by the government.
However, it was notable that Christian Porter – the temporary Leader of the House – allowed Mr Albanese to move the motion, a break from usual practice where the government rejects the request.
“The comments of the member for Dawson prior to question time were designed to use our national parliament to spread misinformation and undermine the actions of Australians to defeat COVID,” Mr Albanese said.
His motion called on the House to reject “statements that masks do not work, that lockdowns do not work”, and to call “on all members to refrain from making ill-informed comments at a time when the pandemic represents a serious threat to the health of Australians”.
Mr Albanese claimed that Mr Christensen’s support of anti-lockdown protests was “an insult to those heroes of the pandemic”. He accused the Nationals MP of “promoting conspiracy theories”.
In his reply, Mr Morrison outlined his government’s COVID response, noting the bolstering of health facilities and many billions in economic support.
He added that “my government doesn’t support misinformation in any shape or form”, and that he “will not support those statements where there is misinformation that is out and about in the community”.
However, Mr Morrison went on to say he would “not engage in a partisan debate on this”, claiming “Australians aren’t interested in the politics of COVID, they are not interested in the noise of COVID, they are not interested in the shouting of COVID”.
No other Coalition MPs spoke on the motion. Fellow Nationals MP, Darren Chester, later tweeted that he didn’t agree with Mr Christensen, saying politicians should “unite our diverse communities and give our people hope, not divide them, and peddle mistruths which add to their despair.”
Labor MP Mike Freelander, a doctor before entering Parliament, used a speech of his own to say that it was “no longer acceptable to ignore the comments from the member for Dawson”.
Dr Freelander also noted that Mr Morrison had not specifically mentioned Mr Christensen in his response.
The motion went to a vote, which was passed ‘on the voices’ without opposition from the government. A final, formal vote tally was not needed, as there was no opposition to Labor’s support of Mr Albanese’s motion.
— Political Alert (@political_alert) August 10, 2021
Mr Christensen left the chamber before the motion was officially put.
As MPs made their speeches on Mr Albanese’s motion, Mr Christensen told followers on his Telegram channel that he was “being your voice in Canberra”.
He described his remarks as a “throw down speech”. He also posted a video clip of his speech to Telegram, alongside the message “no to mask mandates. No to lockdowns”.
“It seems the House of Representatives just agreed to a motion to condemn me for saying this,” Mr Christensen wrote, alongside a quote of his speech.