“I apologise to her. There was a bit of quid pro quo to it, it was at the end of a rather combative interview,” he said.
“I use the word ‘pommy’ as a term of endearment for all my English mates. The ‘weather girl’ might have been a little bit tongue-in-cheek. But she used the ‘denier’ slur and basically cut me off and didn’t give me a chance to respond.”
Mr Kelly said he deleted his Facebook post because the comments were getting heated and out of control.
He also said the views he aired on the program should not be seen as contrary to the government’s position because he supported the 26-28 per cent emissions reduction target Australia had signed up to under the Paris Agreement.
“I agree with that,” he said. “I might grumble under my breath about it.”
Mr Kelly’s interview with ITV in Britain was not arranged by the government. The backbencher from southern Sydney has long disputed the link between human activity and climate change, and campaigned vigorously against former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee.
“You are facing now one of the greatest crises you have ever faced, and there is you, Mr Kelly, with respect, a senior politician who still doesn’t think this has anything to do with a heating up planet,” Morgan said.
“Basically nothing to see here, nothing to worry about, as virtually your entire country is eviscerated by fires.”
Mr Kelly shot back: “This is a terrible disaster, this is one of our nation’s worst natural disasters, and in the past when we have these in our nation we all sat back and did what we could to fix it up, rather than people getting out there and scoring political points and that is what’s happening now.”
He also claimed there was “simply no” long-term trend to back up the widespread conclusions of scientists and other experts that the Australian climate was warming.
Tobin, the show’s weather presenter, interrupted and reminded Mr Kelly that 2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest on record.
“You have the second-highest carbon emissions per person on Earth and you are burying your head in the sand. You aren’t a climate sceptic you are a climate denier,” she said of Mr Kelly. He did not take exception with that description.
Doubling down on the comments in an interview with radio ABC Radio National’s Breakfast on Tuesday, Mr Kelly said the exchange with Morgan was “very disappointing”.
“He simply didn’t want to hear the truth, didn’t want to hear the facts,” he said.
Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud says he “couldn’t give a rat’s” about the “sideshow” created by Mr Kelly’s comments.
Mr Kelly, who has a long history of climate scepticism and was a ferocious critic of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for a national energy and emissions policy, was a prolific and controversial guest on Sky News programs before being ordered to wind back his appearances ahead of last year’s election.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also banned the outspoken Liberal from appearing on the ABC’s flagship Q&A program in September.
Mr Littleproud on Tuesday told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Mr Kelly’s interview was a distraction from the task at hand.
“He doesn’t represent the views of the government with what he is saying there and quite frankly I’ve got better things to do than worry about what a backbencher says on international TV,” he said.
“There’s peoples’ lives we are trying to rebuild, there’s 26 Australians that have lost their lives.
“You know what, I couldn’t give a rat’s what he said, it’s irrelevant, let’s focus on people that are out there that need our help. That’s what we should be focused on. These tidbits on the sidelines, I couldn’t care less about.”
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said his reaction to Mr Kelly’s TV appearance was “one of despair”.
“Despair not just that Craig Kelly has those views and continues to advocate them, not just here in Australia, but globally, and be seen to be representing the Australian Government’s position.”
In 2019, Mr Morrison intervened to save Mr Kelly from almost certain preselection defeat in his southern Sydney seat ahead of the May election.
Bevan Shields is the Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.