Australia Lawmaker Quits Ruling Party, Erasing Morrison Majority

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A lawmaker in Australia’s ruling conservative Liberal party has quit the party but will remain in parliament as an independent.

Craig Kelly, first elected in 2013 representing the lower-house seat of Hughes in Sydney’s southern fringes, told the party-room meeting on Tuesday of his decision to resign, he later told Sky News. He said he would support the government on matters of supply and confidence.

Kelly said he would move to the cross bench, which is comprised of independent or minor-party lawmakers not tied to the major political parties.

Australia Lawmaker Quits Ruling Party, Erasing Morrison Majority

Prime Minister Scott Morrison won the May 2019 election by claiming 77 seats in the 151-seat lower house. That gave it a slim two-seat majority, which was effectively reduced to one seat after it appointed a house Speaker. While Kelly’s decision to become an independent effectively erases the government’s majority, it still should be able to pass legislation without needing support of the cross bench as Kelly said he will guarantee supply.

Kelly has attracted controversy in recent weeks by refusing to confirm that he would receive the coronavirus vaccine. Australia began administering its first vaccines on Sunday. Last year, he promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, even as the majority of scientists say the anti-malaria drug isn’t an effective treatment against the pandemic.

“There are no changes required as a result of the announcement,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday. “The government will continue to function, as it has successfully.”

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