Outspoken Nationals MP George Christensen to quit politics
Nationals MP George Christensen will end his controversial decade-long career in federal Parliament at the next election, warning of the “broken” state of politics and signalling he won’t go quietly.
The conservative Queensland MP – who has been outspoken on social issues and spent up to 10 weeks a year in the Philippines and Thailand over a period of four years while a member of parliament – told the Courier-Mail in a statement he would not recontest his Mackay-based seat at the next poll.
Queensland MP George Christensen will not contest the next election.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
He said he had only ever intended to “serve three terms” after first being elected at the 2010 election and only contested the last election to ensure the Coalition held the seat and kept out a “Green-tinged Labor government”.
He listed several road projects and the Adani Carmichael mine as his best contributions as an MP. In a video uploaded to his Facebook page, he warned he was concerned about the trend on restrictions on freedoms of speech, abortion, the rights of doctors to promote alternate treatments and the rising of the Chinese Communist government.
The member for Dawson said he wanted to spend more time with his family, including his wife April Asuncion, who were “caught up overseas” due to pandemic border closures.
The pair met in a karaoke bar during one of the MP’s 28 trips abroad, spending almost 300 days in the Philippines between 2014 and 2018.
The Australian Federal Police warned Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the time he could be questioned in the Philippines by local police given rising concerns about his payments to women and lengthy stays in “seedy” hotels.
After almost a year of inquiries police found no evidence of illegality but raised concerns he remained an ongoing risk of being compromised.
Mr Christensen, 42, said in a statement that politics had become dominated by an “activist mainstream media along with other leftists cultural institutions” that were disconnected from the public.
“I will have more to say about [the broken politics] down the track,” Mr Christensen said.
“While I’m in Parliament until the next election and while there’s still breath in me, I’m going to continue speaking out on the issues that matter, without fear or favour, or the need to get re-elected.”
Despite the scandal involving his travel to the Philippines, which earned him the nickname the “Member for Manila” among colleagues, Mr Christensen was re-elected during the 2019 election with an 11.2 per cent two-party preferred swing — aided mainly by One Nation voters.
Mr Christensen has threatened on numerous occasions to cross the floor against government legislation since the Coalition came to power and was one of the leading proponents within the ranks to demand a royal commission into the banking sector.
He was a vocal support of former US president Donald Trump and a fierce critic of COVID-19 lockdowns, including directions from the Queensland government to mandate facemasks earlier this year.
Labor won the seat of Dawson under the leadership of Kevin Rudd in 2007 but it was regained by Mr Christensen in 2010, one of several seats won under Tony Abbott to reduce the Gillard government to a minority.
Mr Turnbull revealed in his memoir, A Bigger Picture, last year that he was briefed by then-AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin about Mr Christensen’s “unusually complex online presence” and was told he had been spending “substantial sums in Manila bars and nightclubs as well as making many small payments to women there”.
“Against the advice of our embassy in the Philippines, he had been staying in seedy hotels in Angeles City, which was not only recklessly unsafe but made him vulnerable to being compromised.”
In a sign of the personal and political fury over the matter, Mr Turnbull told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age he received a warning from Mr Christensen about what he might write in his memoir.
“He sent me a message on one of those immediately dissolving messages on Signal, which said: ‘remember two words: parliamentary privilege; and two more years of it’,” Mr Turnbull said in an interview to promote his book.
Mr Christensen at the time attacked media coverage of his visits to the Philippines as a “vile smear” and insisted he did nothing wrong.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Mr Christensen has been a tireless fighter for the people of central Queensland and his decision not to contest the next was “personally momentous”.
“George’s decision to step back, spend time with family and pursue a career after politics is one that he has not taken casually,” he said in a statement.
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