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The ruling Liberal Party and its troublesome backbencher part ways

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Controversial MP Craig Kelly has quit the Liberal Party to become an independent and sit on the crossbench. The Morrison Government had long struggled to accommodate his views.

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Kelly has shared coronavirus misinformation throughout the health crisis and had faced being disendorsed by the Liberals ahead of the next federal election.

“To be able to speak frankly and fearlessly, I need to do that from the cross bench rather than from the government benches,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.

“If I’m to speak out and use my voice the best I can, this is the best decision for myself and the people I represent.”

The politician had been accused of blocking people from his Sydney electorate on his Facebook page when they questioned the information he shared, which later saw him booted from the social media site.

Kelly told colleagues of his decision at a party room meeting at Parliament House in Canberra but assured them he would continue voting in support of the government.

“I’ll support the government, naturally of course, on all matters of supply, confidence, there’s nothing that I can see on the agenda papers that I’m going to be objecting to strenuously.”

Earlier this month Prime Minister Scott Morrison distanced himself from Kelly over the issue.

It took months for Morrison to make a public statement condemning the Hughes MP, who had been promoting two unapproved drugs on his Facebook page. He has also long questioned the science behind climate change.

Morrison today said “the government will continue to function” without Kelly in the Liberal Party.

“[Craig and I] had a discussion a couple of weeks ago as you’ll be aware,” the Prime Minister told reporters.

“I set out some very clear standards and he made some commitments that I expected to be followed through on.

“He no longer felt that he could meet those commitments, but I can tell you, my standards don’t change.”

Kelly threatened to quit the Liberals ahead of the 2019 election when he faced a challenge to his seat from within the NSW branch but was saved by Mr Morrison.

Senior Labor MP Linda Burney says Mr Kelly has been a “thorn in the side” of the Liberals for some time.

“The government has the slimmest of majorities in the parliament now,” she said.

Kelly was first elected to parliament for the seat of Hughes in 2010.

Voters in the electorate have been brewing plans to find an independent candidate to run against Mr Kelly at the next federal poll.

-AAP

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