Craig Kelly, one of the proudest and most vocal climate change deniers in Federal Parliament, has left the Liberal Party to become an independent MP.
In a resignation letter to the PM, Kelly said he was following his 'conscious' (sic) in leaving the party, saying his goal in promoting hydroxychloroquine had 'only been to save lives'. He said he would continue to support the Government on supply and confidence.
The move, though, could be strategic, as it will mean he will be able to run for his Sydney seat of Hughes as an independent. He was looking increasingly certain to lose Liberal preselection for the seat in south-west Sydney.
Kelly's departure means the Government has lost its working majority, with just 75 seats in the lower house not including speaker Tony Smith. However, Kelly's promise to support matters of supply and confidence will mean Morrison's government is not under threat.
While it was Kelly's position on COVID-19 that drew the most negative attention in recent weeks and prompted his resignation, his position on climate change has been an ongoing source of controversy.
Unlike some climate "sceptics" in the Coalition who pay lip service to the science, Kelly's position has been one of unashamed denial.
In a Facebook post in December last year, for instance, he declared 2020 the 'year of global cooling', claiming the average global temperature had fallen 0.5 per cent in 2020.
His Facebook page displays a steady stream of posts questioning climate science and pooh-poohing efforts to reduce emissions. These sassy posts are often furnished with facts that appear to prove that climate change is not a problem and that those who claim it is have cherry-picked the facts to suit their "alarmist" agenda.
In a post on 30 January, for example, he said:
The same day, he posted a picture of a car buried in snow, with the caption:
On 1 February this year, he posted:
On the same day, he posted a picture of a rainstorm in Canberra, with the caption:
Kelly achieved international fame during the height of the Black Summer bushfires last year when he appeared on British TV to downplay links between the bushfires and climate change. This drew a heated response from presenter Piers Morgan, hardly known for progressive politics, illustrating the unusual degree to which climate denialism remains acceptable in the Australian political mainstream.
News.com.au's political reporter Samantha Maiden reported that, following Kelly's delivery of his resignation letter, Nationals MP and equally proud climate denier Barnaby Joyce left the Coalition meeting to chase Kelly down the hall - from which she inferred a move to the Nationals could be on the cards.
James Fernyhough writes about telecommunications, insurance and financial services.