Controversial backbencher Craig Kelly has quit the Liberal Party.
Mr Kelly handed his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Scott Morrison during today’s party room meeting.
It is understood he will sit on the crossbench but will continue to provide supply for the government — meaning he will vote with the government on bills or legislation related to the budget.
Mr Kelly was recently criticised by the Prime Minister for pushing alternative therapies for COVID-19 and for spreading misinformation about vaccines on social media.
Mr Kelly told the party room that he did not want to be a distraction to the government.
The move will mean the government will now have a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, but will have to provide a Speaker — currently Tony Smith — who oversees the chamber.
That means the government has 75 seats out of 151, sitting on their benches, one less than is needed for an outright majority.
The Speaker has the power to cast a vote if a vote is tied, but Mr Smith has previously said that he would be reluctant to vote in favour of the government in that situation.
Mr Kelly told Sky News he made the decision “with a very heavy heart”.
“If I’m best to represent the constituents for my area and be faithful to the oath I took when I was sworn in as a member for Parliament, and to be able to speak frankly and fearlessly, I need to do that from the crossbench, rather than from the government backbenches,” he said.
‘The government will continue to function’
Mr Kelly said being dressed down by Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently did not lead to his decision to quit.
The controversial MP had to be spoken to more than once by Mr Morrison recently, after Mr Kelly repeatedly posted about unproven coronavirus treatments and questioned the safety of vaccines on his Facebook page.
The Prime Minister made it clear he expected the backbencher to follow and respect the health advice from official authorities.
Mr Morrison said “the government will continue to function” without Mr Kelly in the Liberal party.
“[Craig and I] had a discussion a couple of weeks ago as you’ll be aware,” he said.
“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.”
The Prime Minister said he learned of Mr Kelly’s resignation when he announced it to the party room.