George Christensen says he will resign from a lucrative parliamentary committee role after the backlash over his latest anti-vaccine outburst.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce held talks on Wednesday about Mr Christensen's future as chair of parliament's joint standing committee on trade and investment growth, after the Nationals MP urged parents not to vaccinate their children.
Labor had called Mr Christensen a "menace to public health" and said he should be dumped as committee chair and pushed out of the Coalition party room.
The committee chair position earns the backbencher an extra $23,000 on top of his base salary of $211,250.
In a post to Facebook late on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Christensen said he would advise the Speaker of his intention to resign as committee chair when parliament returned next month.
He said the decision was of "my own making and not a demand or request from any third party".
Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce denounced Mr Christensen's views - but made clear their colleague was free to express them.
Mr Morrison told parents to ignore the Dawson MP's "dangerous" and "unwise" views, however he stopped short of trying silence his colleague or seek to have him expelled from the Coalition party room.
"It's a free country, people are allowed to say what they think," Mr Morrison said. "But we don't have to listen to them. And we don't have to amplify their views. And I'm certainly not seeking to do that."
Mr Christensen, who has been spouting anti-vaccine views for months without direct rebuke from Mr Morrison, will not contest this year's election.
The 43-year-old is part of a small, but vocal group of Coalition backbenchers who have waged war against vaccine mandates, including by crossing the floor to vote against the government in Federal Parliament.
Mr Morrison has been under mounting pressure to call out vaccine critics within his own ranks - including Mr Christensen - after his government deported Novak Djokovic on the grounds his presence in Australia might stoke "anti-vaccination sentiment", potentially threatening the booster rollout.
Labor's immigration and home affairs spokeswoman, Kristina Keneally, said if Mr Morrison was genuinely concerned about high-profile figures derailing the rollout he would confront his outspoken colleagues.
"I mean, you can't be a wolf, Mr Morrison, acting all tough in front of Novak Djokovic, but then be a lamb; weak and timid as you're standing in front of your own party room," Senator Keneally said on Monday.
The pressure intensified on Tuesday after Mr Christensen promoted his podcast interview with American virologist Robert Malone, who claims to have invented mRNA technology.
Mr Morrison belatedly reprimanded Mr Christensen via a statement late on Tuesday, in which he urged parents to "disregard his [Mr Christensen's] dangerous messages in relation to vaccines."
At Wednesday's press conference, Mr Morrison repeated that point.
"Don't listen to George Christensen, he's not a doctor, he can't tell you what to do with vaccines," he said.
However, Mr Morrison steered clear of trying to silence his party room colleague, insisting Australia was a free country in which we "can't go locking up" citizens for expressing views.
Mr Morrison also dodged the question of whether he would seek to have the Nationals MP booted from the Coalition party room.
"I think the most important thing to do is to simply say that these views are not the government's views, they have in no way whatsoever influenced policy at all," he said.
Asked directly if he too believed Mr Christensen's views were dangerous, Mr Joyce told reporters in Brisbane: "his comments are not backed up by the medical evidence of people proficient in that field".
Mr Joyce suggested people had to be cautious about pushing for Mr Christensen's resignation as it was an offence to threaten someone with removal from public office.
"You've got to be aware that you can go so far. But as soon as what you say start amounting to a threat of removal from office, you're in dangerous territory," he said.
Mr Christensen has been a longtime supporter of Mr Joyce.
The Nationals leader would not comment on his conversation with Mr Morrison about Mr Christensen's future as chair of the parliamentary committee.
"But quite obviously, if you're at odds with the positions that are held by the appointed medical authorities on this very important issue, that is definitely something that is taken into account," he said.
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Asked if Mr Christensen should be allowed to keep his committee position, Mr Butler said: "Of course he shouldn't".
"I don't think George Christensen and others who don't follow the public health advice at a time of a national emergency should have any favours from the government, indeed should not be part of the government party room," he said.
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