Australians are fed up with the growing spread of misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic and want Prime Minister Scott Morrison to do something about it.
New research by The Australia Institute shows that 77 per cent of Australians think Mr Morrison bears a responsibility to correct and criticise members of his own government who post misinformation online.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who has previously championed the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, posted a link to Facebook last week examining the impact of mask-wearing on children during the pandemic and likening it to child abuse.
“What other conclusion can be drawn from this first ever published study, other than that forcing children to wear masks is causing massive physical and psychological harm – that can only be defined as child abuse,” Mr Kelly wrote.
Acting prime minister Michael McCormack refused to criticise the post and defended the right to post the information.
“Facts sometimes are contentious and what you might think is right, somebody else might think is completely untrue,” Mr McCormack said. “That is part of living in a democratic country.”
On Monday, opposition leader Anthony Albanese called on Mr Morrison to condemn the Facebook posts by Mr Kelly and others.
“Labor condemns Craig Kelly for spreading misinformation in a pandemic,” Mr Albanese tweeted. “It’s on all of us as leaders to call it out. Now it’s your turn, PM.”
Labor condemns Craig Kelly for spreading misinformation in a pandemic. It’s on all of us as leaders to call it out. Now it’s your turn, PM.
– Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 17, 2021
The Australia Institute surveyed 1003 Australians on the subject of misinformation and found that support for the prime minister to rebuke misinformation from with his own government went across party lines.
Overall, 77 per cent of respondents believed that Mr Morrison had a responsibility to criticise and correct health misinformation from politicians.
Broken down by the political party respondents supported, there was 77 per cent support from Coalition supporters. Support was even higher among Labor (81 per cent) and Greens (83 per cent) voters, but lower from One Nation (69 per cent) and independent voters (59 per cent).
Deputy director of The Australia Institute Ebony Bennett said the prime minister was ignoring the needs of the public by allowing the misinformation to go unchallenged.
“By remaining silent on misinformation spread by members of his own government, including the promotion of unproven drugs and describing face masks for schoolchildren as ‘child abuse’, the prime minister is putting the health of Australians and the health of our democracy at risk,” Ms Bennett said.
“More than three-quarters of Australians think the prime minister has a responsibility to publicly criticise MPs like Craig Kelly when they spread misinformation, including three-quarters of Coalition voters.
“Vaccinating the Australian population against COVID-19 will be one of the largest peacetime operations in Australian history and if MPs who spread misinformation like Craig Kelly have the tacit endorsement of the prime minister it will only jeopardise and undermine the success of the public health effort.”
Last week the Australian Medical Association called on the government to invest in advertising to counter health misinformation being spread on the internet and social media.
Do you think the prime minister should publicly rebuke members of parliament who spread misinformation during the pandemic? Are you worried that allowing these posts to go unchallenged will encourage people to shun vaccinations?
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