Nationals warn George Christensen after he calls for embassy protests on US conspiracy show

The acting Nationals leader, David Littleproud, has counselled MP George Christensen over his decision to appear on far-right American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s online show.

But Labor has said the Morrison government has not done enough to condemn Christensen over the controversial appearance on InfoWars, in which he encouraged people to protest outside Australian embassies against the loss of freedom during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the 35-minute video, which Christensen shared with his followers on Monday, the Nationals MP laughed as Jones compared Australia’s Covid-19 quarantine facilities with Auschwitz because they both had “big fences”.

“The rest of the free world, please stand with us, please support us, and every time we see people out there protesting, whether it be in front of an embassy or elsewhere, protesting for our rights in Australia, it really does embolden the patriots, the people who are for freedom in our country to stand up,” Christensen said.

Christensen, who announced in April he will retire at the 2022 election, is a growing problem for the Coalition. The MP crossed the floor on government legislation in the final sitting fortnight of parliament and called for civil disobedience in response to vaccine mandates.

The Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, has previously said he won’t demand Christensen desist from contradicting public health advice about the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns because the Coalition governs with a “thin margin” and if you “start prodding the bear, you’re going to make the situation worse”.

But on Tuesday the acting leader, Littleproud, said: “We as a National party have to condemn – we respect his right for freedom of speech. But with that comes a responsibility.

“We want to work constructively with George, but know that there are limits and there are boundaries that we as federal politicians have to adhere to.

“He is a respected member of the party room, and we want to have a conversation with him about respecting the party room back.”

Littleproud later confirmed he’d spoken to Christensen “about his judgement on going on the show” and said the MP agreed with “some of my comments”. “He understands both my position and the views of the party room.”

In November Jones was found liable for damages in lawsuits brought by parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, over Jones’s claim the massacre was a hoax.

In a 2019 court deposition, Jones described his conspiracy thinking as a kind of mental disorder, blaming his false statements about the massacre on “psychosis”.

Joyce, who is in the UK, responded to the controversy through a spokesman: “A conversation has been had with Mr Christensen. While the deputy prime minister doesn’t agree with the comments made, Mr Christensen has the right to say what he believes.”

On Tuesday Labor MP Andrew Leigh called on Scott Morrison to condemn Christensen’s comments:

Leigh later slammed Joyce for his muted response, accusing him of being unable “to really recognise he’s the deputy prime minister”.

“Once you’re playing footsies with Alex Jones, one of the great conspiracy theorists of the age, you’ve really got to worry about what George Christensen is doing,” he said.

“You can be sure if it was somebody on the left of politics, Scott Morrison would be out there quick as a flash having a go at them, saying that they ought to be denounced.

“But when it’s George Christensen … people like that seem to get a free pass from the prime minister.”

A spokesman for Morrison said the government had already responded through Joyce and Littleproud.

In November when Labor urged Morrison to directly condemn Christensen, the prime minister replied that he condemned “any encouragement, any encouragement whatsoever by any person in any place regarding acts of civil disobedience”.

In July Morrison defended Christensen for his anti-lockdown activism in Queensland, stating Australians have “free speech” and can attend rallies where public health orders allow.

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