“Go to the credible sources’ information on vaccines, and George Christensen is not one of them.
“Don’t listen to him. He is not a doctor, he can’t tell you what to do with vaccines … He is allowed to speak his mind, but Australians shouldn’t be listening to it.”
Mr Morrison said people should not “amplify” Mr Christensen’s anti-vaccination views by drawing attention to them.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, the Nationals’ leader, told journalists in Brisbane he had spoken to Mr Christensen on Tuesday and Wednesday, but would not reveal details of the conversations.
“I don’t intend to go on a tirade about Mr Christensen because it serves no purpose,” he said. “The only thing that serves a purpose is to talk one-on-one with Mr Christensen.”
Mr Joyce said Mr Christensen’s views “are not backed up by the medical evidence”.
“I’ve been double vaccinated,” Mr Joyce said. “I’ve got no problems if children are vaccinated, because people who are vastly wiser than me and have studied immensely in that field have given me the confidence.”
Deputy Nationals leader David Littleproud labelled Mr Christensen’s comments “irresponsible and inappropriate”, tweeting: “The only advice parents should take on vaccinating their children is from a doctor”.
Former Nationals leader Michael McCormack described Mr Christensen as a conspiracy theorist “who should be pulled into line”.
Darren Chester, the Nationals MP for Gippsland, tweeted: “Mr Christensen’s comments are reckless, irresponsible and ill-informed … just more of the same conspiracy theory crap.”
The Queensland MP, who has announced he will not contest the next election, released a podcast on Tuesday under the title “Do NOT vax your children”, accompanied by an interview with Dr Robert Malone, whose views on COVID-19 vaccinations have been debunked.
LNP Senator Gerard Rennick, who has said COVID-19 vaccinations amount to “experimenting” on children, is also on the joint standing committee with Mr Christensen.
Before Mr Christensen’s announcement that he would step down from the parliamentary committee, Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said the MP and others, such as Senator Rennick and Alex Antic, were using government resources to “promote these deeply dangerous and divisive messages”.
“George Christensen is the chair of a very important parliamentary committee, giving him status, giving him extra resources, extra salary, at the nomination of Scott Morrison,” he told the ABC.
“He continues to hold this position, he continues to be welcomed into the party room. It’s time for some action, not just words from Scott Morrison.”
Labor frontbencher Katy Gallagher, whose daughter had COVID-19 last year, on Wednesday said it made her “absolutely furious” to see the government accepting Mr Christensen’s vote. She called on the Coalition to “boot him out”.
“He gets a bit of a slap down in terms of his comments, but then the government goes on as normal,” Senator Gallagher told the ABC.
“The vaccine is safe. It’s been through all the processes it needs to go through … Kids need it and parents should feel confident when they’re taking their children to get it, not scared by some of this misinformation.”
On Friday Mr Christensen is set to appear at an online event hosted by an anti-vaccination group alongside fellow Queensland Nationals Senator Matt Canavan and South Australian Liberal Senator Alex Antic. Former government MP Craig Kelly and One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts are also due to attend.
The “Pray and Pushback” online event series, organised by former Hillsong and C3 Churches pastor Pat Mesiti, promotes anti-lockdown and anti-vaccination propaganda.
A spokesman for Senator Canavan confirmed the event was in the senator’s diary, but said he did not intend to push an anti-vaccination message, only stand up against vaccine mandates.
“He believes that he should be talking to everyone because if you ignore them, they’re never going to listen to you anyway,” the spokesman said.
Mr Mesiti has posted on his Instagram account comparing Mr Morrison to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over his support of vaccine mandates.
Labor seized on the participation of government politicians in the online forum as evidence the prime minister could not control his MPs.
“Mr Morrison cannot pretend that he is a wolf, tough on Novak Djokovic and his anti-vaccination views, but a lamb in front of his own party room, unwilling to tell George Christensen and senators Canavan and Antic to pull out of this event … the prime minister is utterly spineless,” Labor frontbencher Kristina Keneally said.
“This is a test for Mr Morrison – he is either on the side of the 92 per cent of Australians who have rolled up their sleeves and gotten vaccinated, or he supports his mates in his government spreading anti-vaccination propaganda on the taxpayer dime.”
While advising people to ignore Mr Christensen, Mr Morrison said on Wednesday: “We can’t go around locking people up for what they say as Australians. I’m sure the media wouldn’t be suggesting we’re doing that.” He declined to comment further.
Senator Antic confirmed he planned to speak at the event.
Comment has been sought from Mr Christensen.
Also scheduled to speak on Friday were Monica Smit, managing director of Reignite Democracy Australia; Joel Jammal, head of Turning Point Australia; and prominent American anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
with Tony Moore