George Christensen threatens government agenda over vaccines

Maverick government backbencher George Christensen says the government cannot rely on his vote until it moves to end state coronavirus vaccine mandates and passports.

Mr Christensen’s threat means the government will need the support of an independent or opposition MP to get bills through the House of Representatives, meaning three Coalition MPs in Canberra are now holding unrelated legislation to ransom over the issue.

Nationals MP George Christensen says the government will not be able to rely on his vote until it ends vaccine “discrimination”.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Two government senators, Alex Antic and Gerard Rennick, have already declared they will not support government legislation in the upper house over the issue and five government senators sided with One Nation on an anti-vaccine mandate bill on Monday.

If Mr Christensen makes good on his threat, which he issued via his newsletter late on Monday evening, the government will struggle to pass laws such as its proposed religious freedom, voting and class action changes.

Mr Christensen did not say if he would oppose every government bill but he said he would support the government on supply and confidence motions, which it requires to stay in power.

“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,” Mr Christensen said.

Mr Christensen, who represents the Queensland electorate of Dawson for the Liberal National Party and sits with the Nationals in Canberra, but has repeatedly taken fringe positions during the pandemic that have alienated his colleagues.

“I have no doubt this stance will result in personal attacks on me,” Mr Christensen said of his vaccine decision.

“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.”

Other politicians such as Jacqui Lambie have pointed out that vaccination is a way of stopping lockdowns, keeping people safe and described it as a patriotic act to protect others.

“That is the way it is and we do that to keep people safe. How about that? We put others before ourselves,” Senator Lambie said on Monday.

Rules that allowed only vaccinated people to work in some industries or go into some businesses were not discrimination, Senator Lambie said, but rather established a sensible choice for adults to take much like requiring taxi drivers to hold a license.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought to downplay the Senate vote on Monday, declaring the Liberal and National parties tolerated dissenting votes.

“We don’t kick people out of our party if they happen from time to time to disagree on issues on which they feel strongly,” Mr Morrison said at a press conference.

But in Parliament Mr Morrison also declared that while individual businesses have a right to require their staff to be vaccinated, it was not Commonwealth policy to encourage states to mandate jabs outside of narrow categories of key workers.

“We support mandatory vaccines for health workers, for aged care workers, for disability workers, those who are working with vulnerable people.

“But when it comes to what happens in somebody’s business, we believe business should make that decision and shouldn’t be told by the government what they should be doing.”

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