Queensland MP George Christensen is the latest coalition member to threaten to deny his federal vote on COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Mr Christensen became the first government member of the lower house to fail to guarantee his support for coalition legislation, amid a growing rebellion in the Senate over mandatory vaccination regimes in states and territories.
“Until federal action is taken against vaccine discrimination, I will vote according to my conscience, or I will abstain from voting … rather than simply voting with the government as MPs usually do,” he said. he said in a statement.
“I intend not to be indebted for party hall discipline when voting in the House of Representatives.”
It comes after five government senators – Gerard Rennick, Alex Antic, Matt Canavan, Sam McMahon and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells – walked across the floor of the upper house on Monday to support a One Nation bill to end the vaccination warrants, which was defeated in the Senate.
However, Mr Christensen is the first member of the lower house to publicly state that he will refuse his support, threatening the passage of coalition bills in the chamber.
Currently, the government has the support of 76 deputies out of 151, including the President, in the lower house, a minimum number for an absolute majority.
If Mr Christensen were to speak, the government would need the support of at least one interbank MP to pass legislation.
Cross-supporters including independent Bob Katter and former coalition MP Craig Kelly have indicated they would consider abstaining from voting because of their stance on vaccination mandates.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said vaccination warrants were important steps in states and territories.
He said Scott Morrison was sending mixed messages to different groups on the issue of mandatory vaccines, after the Prime Minister opposed Queensland’s upcoming terms.
“He is a prime minister who cannot control his own party hall, let alone able to govern us in the future in a way that we need,” Mr Albanese told ABC News.
Although he crossed the floor to vote in the Senate for a repeal of the vaccine mandates, Senator Matt Canavan said he would not refuse his support for the government on all issues.
“I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. Those kind of tactics… would make this place more chaotic than it already is,” he told Sky News.
“While I would vote normally with the government, I reserve the right to vote against politics as my conscience dictates.”
The coalition seeks to pass key legislation in the last two weeks of the year, including its long-awaited religious freedom laws.
Mr Christensen said he would continue to support the government on the offer, as well as the confidence motions.
“My support is not guaranteed on bills or substantive motions,” Christensen said.
“When steps are taken to end vaccine discrimination, I will return to the normal process of voting with the government.”