Senior Nationals have condemned the appearance of government backbencher George Christensen on a conspiracy theorist’s online show where he advocated for protests against Australia’s virus measures.
Appearing on Alex Jones’ InfoWars program on Monday, Mr Christensen urged demonstrators to gather outside Australian embassies to protest COVID restrictions.
“The rest of the free world, please stand with us, please support us, and every time we see people out there protesting, whether it be in front of an embassy or elsewhere, protesting for our rights in Australia, it really does embolden the patriots, the people who are for freedom in our country to stand up,” he told Jones.
During his appearance, Mr Christensen also laughed when Jones compared Australia’s COVID quarantine facilities to the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp from World War II.
InfoWars has been banned by Facebook and YouTube for violating hate-speech policies, with Jones also making multiple false and misleading claims about the pandemic.
Last month, a US judge found Jones liable by default in a defamation lawsuit brought by parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting after his repeated claims the massacre was a hoax.
Twenty first-graders and six teachers were killed in the December 2012 shooting, which Jones has since acknowledged did happen.
On Tuesday, senior Nationals MP and Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said he had spoken to Mr Christensen about his half-hour appearance on Monday’s broadcast.
“I condemn his comments and I think it was an error of judgment for him to go on that program,” Mr Littleproud said, without naming the program.
“I have asked him to reflect on that, and his judgment around having an interview with a US commentator that has somewhat of a chequered past.”
Three weeks ago, Mr Christensen, who will retire at next year’s federal election, used a speech in parliament to compare virus restrictions to the regimes of 20th-century despots Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot, and also urged civil disobedience.
The Queensland LNP MP later denied making the comparisons, despite video of his speech in the House of Representatives. Mr Littleproud also condemned those comments.
On Tuesday, Mr Littleproud – who is acting Nationals leader while Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is overseas – said he had spoken to Mr Christensen at length about his appearance on InfoWars.
“I have to say, we as a National party have to condemn – we respect his right for freedom of speech. But with that comes a responsibility,” Mr Littleproud said.
“We want to work constructively with George, but know that there are limits and there are boundaries that we as federal politicians have to adhere to.
“He is a respected member of the party room, and we want to have a conversation with him about respecting the party room back.”
The Nine newspapers report Mr Joyce has also spoken to Mr Christensen about the appearance – although details of their conversation were not revealed.
Former Nationals leader Michael McCormack also criticised Mr Christensen, accusing him of fuelling virus controversy when Australia should needed to “get back to pre-COVID normality”.
“He’s criticised everything about our nation … it’s not helpful,” Mr McCormack said.
“To run your own country down like that, it’s a step too far.”
Mr McCormack took particular offence at the comparison between COVID quarantine and Auschwitz, describing the comments as “most appalling” .
“They are far from that hellhole,” he said.
Federal Labor has lashed Mr Christensen’s appearance with Jones, labelling it a failure of leadership from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“These are dangerous views being pushed by dangerous people and Scott Morrison doesn’t have a peep to say about it,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said.
Labor senator Katy Gallagher said the comments were indicative of a pattern of behaviour from Mr Christensen and urged Mr Morrison to bring him into line.
“[Mr Christensen] has consistently been out spreading disinformation, misinformation, stoking division and fear,” she said.
“It’s got to a point when the Prime Minister should be taking action. I can’t imagine a situation under any other prime minister where a member of their own government would be allowed to be free-range like this.”
However, Nationals senator Matt Canavan said he had no problem with Mr Christensen’s InfoWars appearance.
“Just because you go on a show, doesn’t mean you agree with everything,” he told Sky News.
“People are free, of course, to protest against Australian government policies, wherever they are in the world.”