Another Government politician has vowed to withhold support from Scott Morrison unless action is taken to stop vaccine mandates.
George Christensen, the LNP member for Dawson, said he will not follow Government directions on how to vote in the lower house.
It comes after five Coalition senators crossed the floor and voted to support Pauline Hanson‘s bill to end vaccine discrimination before it was comfortably voted down.
Five Coalition senators crossed the floor and voted to support Pauline Hanson’s bill to end vaccine discrimination. From left to right: Sam McMahon (NT), Matt Canavan (QLD), Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW), Gerard Rennick (QLD), Alex Antic (SA)
The Government has a wafer-thin majority in the lower house where it controls 76 out of 151 seats, meaning Mr Christensen has the potential power to bring down Government bills.
The outgoing MP, who will not contest next year’s election, has been campaigning against vaccine mandates for months.
In a blog post on Monday, he explained he’s told Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce of his decision to potentially withhold his support for the Government.
‘To be clear, until federal action is taken against vaccine discrimination, I will be voting according to my conscience (or abstaining from votes) on bills and substantive motions rather than just voting with the government as MPs usually do,’ he wrote.
George Christensen, the LNP member for Dawson, said he will not follow Government directions on how to vote in the lower house
‘As I was elected as a member of the Liberal National Party, I will continue to support the government with confidence motions and supply as well as procedural motions (except if they relate to ending vaccine discrimination).
‘My support is not guaranteed on bills or substantive motions. When action is taken to stop vaccine discrimination, I will go back to the normal process of voting with the government on most, if not all, bills and substantive motions.’
Mr Christensen said he feared his stance would ‘result in personal attacks on me.’
‘But far more important than my political and personal reputation is the prospect of ending the tyranny, the discrimination, the segregation, the job losses and the negative business impacts that are all being wrought (or are about to be wrought) on my fellow Australians,’ he wrote.
The Federal Government insists the Covid vaccine is optional but state and territory governments as well as private companies have enforced vaccine mandates, requiring jabs for activities like going to work, the pub or the shops.
On Monday One Nation leader Senator Hanson – who is unvaccinated – introduced a bill to over-ride the states and ban all vaccine discrimination.
In her passionate speech introducing the bill, Senator Hanson called Mr Morrison ‘weak’.
‘The Prime Minister is weak, he says there should be no vaccine mandates – then do something about it,’ she said.
The bill was supported by five rogue Coalition senators Matt Canavan, Gerard Rennick, Alex Antic, Sam McMahon and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
But it was voted down by the Government, Labor and the Greens.
Senator Canavan, who is fully vaccinated, said no-one should be denied the right to work and put food on the table for their families if they don’t want the vaccine.
Kristina Keneally said Labor supports vaccine mandates
‘This division has to end,’ he said.
‘I trust Australians to be the masters of their own healthcare… without the heavy hand of Government.’
After the bill was voted down, Senator Canavan said the ‘rebel alliance’ was looking at ‘other options’ for pushing back on vaccine mandates.
‘There remains opportunities for the PM to pressure state governments to back down from their threat,’ he said.
Ministers on Monday morning said the Federal Government only supports vaccine mandates in certain healthcare settings and said the states were responsible for economy-wide mandates.
Labor Senator Kristina Keneally slammed the Government for allowing Senator Hanson’s bill to be debated and accused Mr Morrison of pandering to ‘extremists’ to gain votes ahead of next year’s election.
‘Is he willing to pander to violent extremists? Is he willing to incite division and hatred and fear? Is that the path to victory? He is pandering to One Nation.’
Senator Keneally said Labor supports vaccine mandates guided by health advice to reduce Covid deaths.
Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie slammed Pauline Hanson, saying the One Nation leader normally favours discrimination on other issues such as immigration.
She said vaccine mandates are necessary in healthcare settings and aged care homes to keep people safe.
‘You have a right to choose. You don’t have the right to put vulnerable people’s lives at risk,’ Senator Lambie said.
She also backed businesses to impose vaccine mandates on their customers, saying she knows business owners who have auto-immune diseases who would be ‘risking their lives or shutting down their businesses’ if mandates were banned.
Last week Mr Morrison said vaccine mandates to enter pubs and cafes should not be in place after states reach the 80 per cent vaccination threshold.
While NSW will drop vaccine passports on December 15, Queensland will introduce them to enter hospitality venues on December 17 and Victoria has vowed to keep jab requirements in place well into next year.
Mr Morrison, who is under pressure from pro-choice politicians in his party, on Thursday said the only mandates he supports are for health workers.
Pauline Hanson (pictured on Monday appearing in the senate via videolink) has moved a bill to ban vaccine mandates with a passionate speech in the Senate