At a time when the federal government must convince tens of millions of Australians to get immunised against COVID-19 and remain vigilant against new mutant strains of the virus, a clear and disciplined message about the science is more important than ever.
Unfortunately, two of the Morrison government’s own MPs, Craig Kelly and to a lesser extent George Christensen, are doing all they can to spread doubt about Australia’s world-leading efforts to control the disease.
Mr Kelly, the Liberal member for Hughes in Sydney’s south, and Mr Christensen, a Liberal National Party MP from the far north Queensland seat of Dawson, are spruiking conspiracy theories via social media and on Sky News, which has regularly given them a platform. Mr Kelly has used his Facebook page, liked by 78,000 users, to promote “wonder drugs” ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. Their effectiveness against COVID-19 is unproven and the drugs can have dangerous side effects.
This week alone Mr Kelly has encouraged people to protest on the streets against “health bureaucrats in an ivory tower” who say there is not enough evidence about the benefits of ivermectin. He has accused journalists such as Age columnist Jenna Price of “having blood on their hands” for thwarting distribution of the drugs. He has also described the wearing of masks as “child abuse”, inciting people to breach the law on mask wearing in NSW.