Craig Kelly has resigned from the Liberal Party and moved to the crossbench.
The federal member for Hughes has been widely criticised in recent months for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic on social media. This has included pushing for the drugs hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to be used to treat COVID-19, despite there being no evidence that the medications were effective.
In his resignation letter, Kelly wrote that his goal has been to “save lives” by ensuring Australians “were not denied access to medical treatments if their doctors believed those treatments could save their life”.
Kelly reportedly told the ABC on Tuesday that his decision to quit the Liberals was based on his desire to speak publicly about the drugs.
“The ivermectin issue, the issue of speaking out on these COVID treatments is my main reason for making the decision that I have. I want to be able to speak out fearlessly and frankly about those,” he said.
He said his decision was not influenced by the events surrounding his staffer, Frank Zumbo, who is currently being investigated by police for alleged inappropriate behaviour towards women.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had given Kelly “very clear expectations” on several matters.
“He’d given me a number of commitments in relation to that. He no longer felt that he could meet those commitments and, as a result, he’s made his decision today,” he said.
“By his own explanation, he has said that his actions were slowing the government down and he believed the best way for him to proceed was to remove himself from the party room and provide the otherwise support to the government so it could continue to function as it so successfully has, which he says is something he remains committed to. So I would expect him to conduct himself in that way.”