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'Don't poke the bear' - Barnaby running scared of Queensland's rogue MP

Politics

Barnaby Joyce has warned colleagues that applying too much pressure to a rogue MP spreading coronavirus misinformation could risk the government’s wafer-thin margin.

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The Nationals leader has had multiple discussions with Queenslander George Christensen after he used parliament to claim lockdowns and masks don’t work.

But Joyce says there is no threat he can issue to the backbencher that would stop him from contradicting official health advice.

“I know how George’s mind works. If you start prodding the bear, you’re going to make the situation worse for us as a government, not better,” Joyce told the ABC on Thursday.

“I’ll say that to my colleagues, I can assure you that when you’ve got a thin margin, don’t start giving reasons for a by-election.”

The Morrison government holds a one-seat majority in the lower house.

Christensen has announced he will retire at the next federal election but a decision to quit early would trigger a by-election in his LNP seat of Dawson.

In a rare move, Liberal, Nationals and Labor MPs condemned Christensen’s parliamentary outburst through a motion in the lower house earlier in the week.

The deputy prime minister said the voters of Dawson were the ultimate authority on the controversial MP.

“Other people have their own minds,” Joyce said.

“You might disagree with their views, and I disagree with some of George’s, but I’m not going to start ordering people around – they’re adults.”

Christensen holds his seat with a whopping 14.6 per cent margin after achieving a double-digit swing towards him at the last election.

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