Craig Kelly’s ego is the real reason behind his decision to leave the Liberal Party for the crossbench.
He knows he’ll grab more media headlines, more spotlight, more attention and more opportunities to wreck existing plans and tear apart progressive policies if he works for no one but himself.
He’ll be able to further spew misinformation and unproven theories about COVID-19 vaccines and treatments – unhindered by the pressure the PM has been facing to reign him in.
He’ll be free to continue representing Australia internationally across social media with his denials of science and prehistoric perspectives. Once, of course, his one week ban from posting to Facebook is lifted.
Already boasting one of the most engaged Facebook pages in the country, he’ll continue his claims of speaking “frankly and fearlessly” as he put it, to be “faithful to the oath I took when I was sworn in as a member for Parliament.”
He’ll be able to keep his current senior aide Frank Zumbo employed – the same man who is at the centre of an apprehended violence order and facing allegations from six young interns of inappropriate behaviour including unwanted touching. (The PM is believed to have requested multiple times for Kelly to remove Zumbo from his office. Zumbo denies the allegations.)
And he’ll be able to block policies and negotiate his own indulgences into legislation whenever he gets an opportunity. Necessary emissions targets? Not likely given Kelly’s rampant denials of climate change.
Craig Kelly is the absolute portrait of a privileged man – a “mate” – who has received some pretty special boys’ club like protections over the years.
A quick recap: Scott Morrison intervened in the 2018 preselection to prevent Kelly from being replaced as the Liberal candidate and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull did the same thing – describing him as one of his government’s “most consistent performers”.
Kelly made his way into politics and into becoming an “expert” on everything from medicine to science and the environment, following a career as a furniture salesman and export manager – including questions (he denies he was a director) about his role in the Kelly family business that was ultimately wound up on orders by the ATO following financial troubles.
These are the qualifications that get you preselected, and ultimately gain a seat in parliament. This the type of “merit” Morrison talks about when dismissing the idea of pre-selection quotas to ensure better representation of women in the Liberal party.
Tossing about science-denying and reality-avoiding views are the traits that enable you to keep your plum job, earning more than $200,000 a year and – for a few years at least – retaining the support of multiple prime ministers of Australia.
While I’ve read that Kelly does share the occasional mention of relevant events and issues within his Sydney electorate – they’re difficult to find among the COVID and climate-related conspiracies he prefers to talk about.
There’s one silver lining in Kelly’s shift to the cross bench. He’s no longer a mate of the PM (we presume) and thus no longer afforded the special Liberal party protections he’ll need to hold his seat in Hughes in NSW at the next election.