Barnaby Joyce panned for failing to distance himself from George Christensen in fresh conspiracy controversy
Barnaby Joyce’s decision to again stand by a federal politician accused of peddling “irresponsible” conspiracy theories has come under fire by Labor.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has called on the Deputy Prime Minister to immediately dissociate himself from rebel backbencher George Christensen, after he launched a new podcast to spread widely debunked Covid-19 conspiracy theories.
“Barnaby Joyce is someone who is, frankly, all over the shop,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Mackay.
“He is the Deputy Prime Minister of this country and he can’t bring himself to dissociate himself from comments of George Christensen in a podcast that he said he hasn’t seen.
“He just has to listen to it in the car. It is promoting conspiracy theories that represent a danger to people‘s health; that could have a real impact.
“There are a range of people in this country who haven‘t been vaccinated because of misinformation spread, unfortunately, including by some MPs. That’s not a responsible thing to do.
“And it’s not responsible for a Deputy Prime Minister to refuse to dissociate himself from those comments and to say, ‘Well, that’s just George.’
Mr Christensen is under fire for promoting discredited theories such as “mass formation psychosis”.
The debunked theory suggests the political and media elite have been “hypnotised” to believe established facts about Covid-19.
Asked about the comments at a media conference with Mr Christensen on Tuesday, Mr Joyce defended his right to express his views.
“George has a right, as everyone has, to express his views,“ Mr Joyce said.
“We live in a country where people have died to express their views.
“You can agree with them or not, that’s up to you.”
He added while he “loved” his colleague, he would not be “watching his podcast”.
The criticism has not deterred Mr Christensen, who on Wednesday told his Facebook followers he stood by his statements.
The controversy is just the latest for the outspoken backbencher, who in December likened state Covid restrictions to Nazi Germany.
Mr Joyce has previously said he advised Mr Christensen to be “far more aware of any platform he speaks on and to ask himself of the history of those platforms and if participation on it is wise”.
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