Five things to know about Craig Kelly, the conservative Liberal backbencher saved by Scott Morrison – Politics

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December 03, 2018 16:12:43

Craig Kelly is a three-term Liberal MP in the southern Sydney seat of Hughes.

He was the most vocal critic of his party’s energy policy and has threatened to sit on the crossbench.

His political career has also just been saved by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, following a challenge to his preselection for the coming election.

Who is this man and why was he worth saving?

Rugby man, business backer and disability advocate

As the head of a local retailers’ association, Mr Kelly won preselection for the seat of Hughes in 2010 after the retirement of Donna Vale.

After growing the Liberals’ winning margin in the seat in 2010, his first speech to Parliament described the challenges of raising a son with Down syndrome.

“The special experience I have had with Trent has made me a better person,” he said.

“It has made me fully appreciate that each individual has a real value of their own and that the dignity of every individual must be respected.”

He also recollected his rugby career for St George and described sport as “one of our greatest educators”.

Media performer

Mr Kelly is one of the Government backbench’s most prolific media performers.

He provides regular political commentary on Sky News, relentlessly defends his political opinions and rarely — if ever — backs down.

Even when he has overstepped the mark, he has survived the fallout.

Earlier this year he said Russia’s role in bringing down MH17 should be “looked over”, angering families.

But as the outrage escalated, he apologised and claimed his comments were taken out of context within a day.

Saved before

The preselection drama is nothing new.

In 2016 he also faced a challenge, after Mr Kelly — a conservative — was targeted by the “moderate” arm of the NSW Liberal Party.

It prompted a letter of endorsement for Mr Kelly from then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Kelly easily reclaimed the seat. Despite suffering a slight swing against him, his margin was more than 9 per cent.

Energy rebel

As head of the backbench energy committee, Mr Kelly has been a regular contributor to the country’s long-running energy debate.

He has unashamedly pursued policies he believes will lower power prices at the expense of reducing carbon emissions.

But his most telling contribution was the role he played dismantling the Turnbull government and its signature energy policy.

Although the policy won support of the Liberal party room, Mr Kelly threatened to vote against the policy if it reached Parliament — a grave threat given the Government’s tenuous hold in Parliament.

His contribution partly prompted the policy to be tweaked, then scrapped, and indirectly led to the removal of Mr Turnbull as leader.

Conservative and controversial

Mr Kelly has consistently been a vocal supporter of conservative causes.

Early in 2017 he said there was nothing wrong with Donald Trump’s Executive Order that blocked access to the US for people from Muslim-majority countries Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Last year he also warned colleagues that crossing the floor to prevent the same-sex marriage plebiscite and force a parliamentary vote would be breaking an election commitment.

Mr Kelly is a monarchist and has been a strong supporter of conservative Peter Dutton, particularly in the lead-up to the Liberal leadership spill in August.

He has also been critical of the artwork that hangs in Parliament House.

“Call me a philistine, but I think most of the artwork around Parliament House is appalling,” he said in 2016.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

international-aid-and-trade,

conservation,

energy,

australia





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