Craig Kelly (politician)

Craig Kelly (born 29 September 1963), an Australian federal politician, is a member of the Australian House of Representatives. Since the 2010 federal election, he has represented the electorate of Hughes, in New South Wales, for the Liberal Party of Australia, succeeding Danna Vale.

Craig Kelly

Member of the Australian Parliament
for Hughes
Assumed office
21 August 2010
Preceded byDanna Vale
Personal details
Born (1963-09-29) 29 September 1963 (age 56)[1]
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
NationalityAustralian
Political partyLiberal Party of Australia
Spouse(s)Vicki Kelly
Children2

Kelly is considered to be part of the informal conservative right-wing faction inside the Liberal party, he is a self-described "climate change sceptic" and is a frequent guest on conservative-leaning Sky News and other Sky programs,[2] often speaking on subjects related to the parliamentary environment and energy committee.

Early years and backgroundEdit

After finishing high school, Kelly played first grade rugby union with Southern Districts, and worked for his parents as an "export manager" at their furniture business DV Kelly Pty Ltd. The firm imported Asian furniture and onsold it to retailers such as Harvey Norman, but financial troubles resulted in the Australian Taxation Office issuing wind-up orders in 2012, leaving creditors and employees owed over $4 million.[3][4] Kelly denied that he was a director of the bankrupt business, despite signing himself as a director in several documents.[5]

Kelly established the "Southern Sydney Retailers Association",[6] now defunct, which allowed him to advocate for small business by writing letters to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.[7][8]

Political careerEdit

At age 46,[9] Kelly was elected to Federal Parliament as the Member for Hughes in 2010, which was considered a marginal seat.[8] In his maiden speech, he spoke about raising his son, who has Down syndrome.[10] He served on the Standing Appropriations and Administration Australian House of Representatives committee from 2010 to 2013.[11] In 2012, Kelly was referred to the parliamentary privileges committee over a range of allegations, including a failure to declare on his register of interests his directorship of several companies.[12] The then Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, alleged Kelly failed to disclose his directorship of three entities which he had not officially relinquished until March 2011, eight months after the 2010 election.[13] Kelly denied the allegations and the Parliamentary Privileges Committee did not pursue the matter further.[14] Some media outlets suggested the move was an attempt by the Labor government to divert attention from accusations against Craig Thomson.[15]

In 2013 Kelly was nominated by then Opposition leader Tony Abbott as the representative of the Coalition on the bipartisan committee overseeing the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Kelly was the only sitting member of the House of Representatives with firsthand knowledge of raising a child with severe disabilities and said that he would use this experience in the position.[16] Kelly has suggested the greater use of 457 visas for disability care workers.[17] Kelly also served on the Joint Standing Committee on Migration from 2013 to 2016.[11]

In April 2014, Kelly spoke at an event commemorating the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia, which was associated with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during the Second World War.[18] A Croatian-language newspaper described Kelly's speech as conveying congratulations from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.[19] Kelly subsequently described the speech he gave as condemning fascism and communism, and apologised for appearing to endorse the flag of the Independent State of Croatia.[18]

Kelly served on the Joint Standing Committee on Law Enforcement from 2015 to the present, and he became the committee's chair in the same year.[11] In the Liberal Party of Australia leadership spill, September 2015, Kelly supported Tony Abbott as prime minister.[20]

In the lead-up to the 2016 election, the moderate faction of the Liberal party planned to challenge Kelly in his seat.[21] Radio commentator Alan Jones threw his support behind Kelly,[22] and Prime Minister Turnbull wrote a letter of endorsement, stating that Kelly was one of the government's "most consistent performers" and that Kelly had a "fine reputation".[23] Tony Abbott had also "pushed aside moderate challengers" to Kelly when Abbott was Prime Minister.[24] The redistribution of Hughes was thought to strengthen Kelly's hold on the seat,[25] and Kelly was returned with a margin greater than 9 points, despite a small swing against him.[10]

Kelly travelled to Azerbaijan for a week to observe the 2016 referendum, listing the trip on his statement of members' interests.[26] Kelly returned to Azerbaijan to observe the presidential election in 2018, praising the use of photographic ID to obtain a ballot paper.[27]

Kelly was expected to be challenged for preselection for his seat for the next Australian federal election, and former prime minister Tony Abbott endorsed Kelly.[28] Again being challenged by the moderate faction of the Liberal party, Kelly reportedly threatened to join the crossbench as an independent if he does not win preselection, but stated that he has confidence in the preselection committee.[29]

On 18 July 2018, Kelly commented on Sky News, in response to a Facebook post by the father of three children killed aboard MH17: 'if some of the things that Russia has gotten away with in the past has to be slightly looked over, well I'm sorry that's the price that we have to pay sometimes to have good relations going forward'.[30]

In the Liberal Party of Australia leadership spill, 2018 on 21 August, Kelly confirmed he voted for Peter Dutton to become leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party and therefore Prime Minister.[31] In the second spill on 24 August, Kelly was one of the first few to sign the petition calling for a party room meeting to vote on the leadership of the Liberal Party.[32] While he voted for Dutton in the second spill, Kelly stated that he would throw his support behind Scott Morrison.[33] Kelly criticised Julia Banks' decision to retire following the spill in a Sky News interview, defending politics as a "rough-and-tumble game."[34]

As of August 2018, Kelly's electoral conference had raised $5,000 of a $75,000 fundraising target for the Liberal Party.[35] Kelly was approached to run for the electoral district of East Hills, a state seat, but declined.[36] Scott Morrison reportedly intervened in the pre-selection process for Hughes, indicating that he wanted Kelly to run unchallenged,[37] but local branch members argued that as Kelly was an important figure in the August leadership spills, he should go.[38] The pre-selection contest was reportedly being delayed by the party as long as possible, and Kelly was advised by former Liberal Party presidential candidate John Ruddick to quit the party and run as an independent.[39] Kelly affirmed that he intends to remain in the Liberal Party, although he refused to rule out a move to the crossbench if he lost pre-selection.[40] Morrison reportedly floated using state executive powers to save Kelly from a pre-selection challenge, taking the decision-making process away from grassroots members.[41] This has been described by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull as unacceptable.[42] Turnbull dismissed comparisons to his own 2016 intervention to save Kelly, and cited recent campaigns in NSW to allow grassroots members more say in pre-selection contests as the reason for his intervention.[42]

When the government moved to head off a dispute by using state executive powers to automatically endorse sitting members, Turnbull launched a failed intervention to prevent the outcome, hoping Kelly, a Dutton backer, would be ousted. When Turnbull's representations were leaked to the press, Turnbull confirmed them,[43][41] and the intervention made it harder for the moderates to do anything other than tacitly re-endorse Kelly.[44] Kelly has stated that he was unaware of a job offer being made to his challenger, Kent Johns, on the condition that Johns drop out of the pre-selection race.[45] During the 2019 election campaign, there was a grassroots campaign to unseat Kelly, "Hughes Deserves Better".[46] They used dinosaur suits to draw attention to Kelly's views on climate change.[47] Kelly was returned with a small swing towards him.[48]

Kelly cherry-picks "rich meme content that is stimulating, share-able and attractive to his base voters" on social media. He achieves higher levels of engagement than either the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader by selectively reinforcing the conservative opinions of his followers.[49] A scientist has used Kelly's Facebook page to rebut Kelly's "blatant misrepresentation" of her study,[50] with another scientist saying that Kelly had taken an anomoly out of context to make his point.[51]

PositionsEdit

Kelly is considered to be part of the informal conservative right-wing faction inside the Liberal party.[52] Kelly is a frequent guest on Sky News[53] and other Sky programs, often speaking on subjects related to the parliamentary environment and energy committee,[54] notably criticising the Turnbull Government's position on energy.[55] Kelly replaced Ross Cameron on Sky program Outsiders after Cameron was fired, becoming a regular co-host.[56] As of January 2020, Kelly's Facebook page had higher levels of engagement than either the Prime Minister or the Opposition Leader, leading the Sydney Morning Herald to call Kelly "one of Australia's most influential politicians" on the platform.[49]

Climate change and renewable energyEdit

Kelly has been described as a "climate sceptic".[57] He was appointed chair of the backbench environment and energy committee, giving advice to environment minister Josh Frydenberg. He has previously written that convict arrivals to Australia in the 18th century found the weather warmer than in recent years,[57] and has invited climate deniers from the Institute of Public Affairs to present to the government prior to the Paris Agreement.[58] Kelly advocates for a "hockey-stick" approach to meeting the Paris 2030 emissions target for the energy industry, which has been characterised as delaying action to the last possible moment.[59] Kelly has criticised renewable energy, saying that it causes higher electricity bills. He has furthermore stated that this could kill people who are afraid to turn on their heaters.[60] Kelly has written to NSW education minister, Rob Stokes, criticising the year 10 textbook 'Pearson History New South Wales' for describing Tony Abbott as a climate change denier.[61]

Kelly opposed carbon pricing in Australia and in 2012 addressed a rally of about 2,000 people on the issue in Hyde Park, describing the carbon pricing as a "poisonous, toxic tax" and claiming the Federal Labor Government was destroying Australia's prosperity by undermining the country's competitive advantage. He also stated that "Every Coalition member will sign a blood oath to get rid of this tax."[62]

Kelly has been a critic of federal subsidies for industrial wind farms. In a speech in parliament he criticised the use of federal funds to obtain wind power of "questionable reliability" in favour of spending on other critical social needs.[63] He attended a "wind power fraud rally" of 150 people in front of Parliament House, Canberra, which called for the abolition of the renewable energy target and a ban on new wind farms.[64]

Kelly is one of the members of the Monash Forum ginger group which aims to influence the design of the National Energy Guarantee.[65][66] The group advocates for a "Hazelwood 2.0" coal-fired power station to be built.[67] Other confirmed members of the forum include Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Kevin Andrews, Barnaby Joyce, George Christensen, and Ian Goodenough.[68] Kelly has stated that Labor's proposed increases in the emissions reduction target undermines policy certainty, and has stated that the emissions reduction target for the agriculture industry in Australia could result in farmers having to cull their livestock.[69] Kelly has warned that Josh Frydenberg's offer to the states of a review of the NEG emissions target in 2024 could lead to the target being reduced from its current level of 26%.[70] Kelly also began the Parliamentary Friends of Coal Exports, which was joined by Joel Fitzgibbon, Mike Freelander, Meryl Swanson, Milton Dick, George Christensen, Kevin Andrews and Phillip Thompson.[71]

Kelly was not allowed to appear on Australian TV show Q&A during the election campaign. Kelly was preparing charts to display during the program supporting his views on climate change.[72]

In September 2018, speaking at a Liberal Party function, Kelly stated that the Pacific island of Tuvalu was growing, not sinking, as evidence in favour of his climate scepticism[73][74] In September 2019, at a monarchist league dinner, he claimed that this increase was because coral islands float, further complaining that this was not reported on Australia's public broadcast network, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation[75].

In January 2020, he was heavily criticised through global media for an appearance on UK television, in which he denied climate change was a contributing factor to the 2019-20 Australian bushfires. High school educated Kelly was further criticised for racism and misogyny after referring to meteorologist Laura Tobin as an "ignorant Pommy weather girl" who had "no idea what she's talking about", despite her university degree in physics and meteorology.[76][77][78] Tobin told Kelly that "You're not a climate skeptic, you're a climate denier", and host Piers Morgan labelled Kelly a "disgrace" who should "wake up".[77] Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Scott Morrison distanced themselves from Kelly's comments,[79] and his fellow conservative and NSW Energy and Environment Minister, Matt Kean, said that "Craig Kelly is as qualified to talk about atmospheric physics as he is to perform brain surgery".[80]

Defence travel leave entitlements 2012Edit

Kelly and the President of the NSW Commandos Association, Barry Grant, fought Labor Government cuts in the 2012 budget to entitlements for defence personnel to travel home during holiday times. Kelly and Grant put together a petition in favour of reinstating the entitlements that was circulated Australia-wide, attracting well over 10,000 signatures. With Kelly's help a disallowance motion was moved in the House of Representatives that forced the Labor Government to reinstate the entitlements. This affected upwards of 22,000 service men and women.[81]

2013 proposed constitutional amendment on local governmentEdit

Kelly was one of only three members of the House of Representatives to speak against the proposal to change the Australian Constitution to enable the Federal Government to place any terms and conditions on financial assistance given to local government councils. He cited the built in checks and balances of the constitution and its longevity as a reason for opposing the change.[82]

Chair of parliamentary inquiry into methamphetamineEdit

Kelly has chaired a parliamentary inquiry into methamphetamine,[83] and has urged his colleagues to look at the drug policy of Portugal.[84] Kelly opposes pill testing.[85]

Tobacco taxEdit

Kelly has stated that government taxes on tobacco are driving the creation of a black market.[86]

Marriage law reformEdit

Kelly has stated his support for a plebiscite into same-sex marriage, and predicted the majority would vote against it.[87] He stated on his Facebook page that he would vote with his electorate in the marriage survey.[88] In the conscience votes which sought to amend the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017, Kelly voted for all the amendments, none of which passed.[89]

MonarchyEdit

Kelly is a constitutional Monarchist.[90]

Proposal for signage warning about car stealingEdit

Speaking in relation to his position as chairman of the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, Kelly proposed that signs at Mildura should warn drivers of an increased risk of car theft in the town.[91]

Liddell Power Station ClosureEdit

Kelly is strongly critical of AGL's decision to close the coal-fired Liddell Power Station in 2022. Kelly has stated that it is anti-competitive of AGL not to consider selling Liddell before retiring it.[92]

Petrol pricesEdit

Kelly has suggested that the fuel excise should be reduced by 10 cents per litre,[93] and that divestiture powers should apply to the petrol industry.[94]

Cardinal Pell convictionEdit

In February 2019, after Cardinal George Pell's conviction for child sexual abuse, Kelly posted a series of Facebook posts labelling the trial a "grave miscarriage of justice", and the media a "lynch mob". He refused to answer questions from The Project about how his Facebook posts might impact on people who had experienced childhood sexual abuse in his community.[95][96] Kent Johns, who was to challenge Kelly before preselections were waived, criticised Kelly's statements casting doubt on the judicial system, saying, "It makes [people] question who is there to stand up for them, if their own parliamentarian doubts the justice system."[97]

Indigenous recognitionEdit

Kelly opposes the proposed First Nations' voice to parliament described in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, describing it as "divisive", and as a reverse form of apartheid. He has suggested that he would actively campaign for the "No" side in a referendum for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.[98]

Personal lifeEdit

Kelly has a daughter and a son. His son, Trent, has Down syndrome and has been diagnosed with autism.[99]

ReferencesEdit

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  96. ^ @theprojecttv (28 February 2019). ".@HamishNews: "You have not heard the evidence that they heard." @CraigKellyMP: "What I'm saying is this matter is on appeal." We speak to Craig Kelly MP after his decision to speak out about George Pell. #TheProjectTV" (Tweet). Retrieved 3 March 2019 – via Twitter.
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External linksEdit

Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Danna Vale
Member for Hughes
2010–present
Incumbent