Rogue ex-Liberal MP Craig Kelly has backed a ban on unsolicited text messages just weeks after spamming the nation with 14 million anti-vax texts.
Clive Palmer’s sidekick in the United Australia Party last month sparked outrage when he bombarded Australians with a message warning against Covid vaccines.
Furious voters demanded to know how he had access to their phone numbers and were incensed to receive the fake news text from the fringe party politician.
But now Mr Kelly has backed a bill to outlaw unsolicited texts, providing it will also ban Labor and the Coalition from sending them too.
The Spam Amendment (Unsolicited Political Communications) Bill 2021 – sponsored by South Australian Senator Stirling Griff – has had its first reading in Parliament.
Rogue ex-Liberal MP Craig Kelly (pictured) has backed a ban on unsolicited text messages just weeks after spamming the nation with a salvo of 14 million anti-vax texts
The proposed new law would allow Australians to unsubscribe from unwanted texts and robocalls from political parties.
‘I think that’s a good idea,’ Mr Kelly told Nine Radio. ‘All United Australia Party has called for is a level playing field – that’s all we want.
‘If both the major parties are unable to use unsolicited text messages, we’ll happily go along with that.’
But while Mr Kelly said he was in favour of the ban, he was unrepentant about his mass text blitz.
‘To be honest, it is a microsecond swipe of the finger that deletes the text message. So there’s a lot of beat-up about this,’ he insisted.
‘Everyone gets countless spam emails across their computer. I know they do become annoying, but you wipe them out.
‘It takes you a microsecond to wipe the things out if you don’t want to read them.’
And he warned that if Labor or the Coalition started using mass texts again, he would immediately return fire too.
‘We will be playing by the same rules that the major political parties play by,’ he said.
‘We can’t have a situation where it’s one rule for Labor, Liberals or the Greens, and another rule for United Australia.’
Mining billionaire Clive Palmer’s political sidekick in the United Australia Party last month sparked outrage when he bombarded Australians with a message warning against Covid vaccines.
At the last federal election in 2019, UAP was accused of running a massive $60 million scare campaign for the Coalition when it failed to win a single seat despite the massive ad blitz.
Mr Kelly said the party would use similar tactics at the next election too, regardless of whether they are allowed to use text messaging spam.
‘We will be using every advertising manner that we have that is lawful,’ he said. ‘From large billboards, television advertising, newspaper advertising, radio advertising…
‘We will be competing against the major parties on that level playing field to give the Australian public a real choice.’
Mining magnate Clive Palmer is picking up the bill for the media spend which has already begun with billboards popping up across the country.
The party is also said to have spent $1.2 million promoting a UAP YouTube clip that has been seen 4.5 million times.
The massive ad spend appears to be paying off, with the latest Newspoll survey this week showing a sudden rise in support for ‘Other’ candidates, including the UAP. (Pictured, a voting booth in Sydney at the 2019 federal election)
The massive spend appears to be paying off, with the latest Newspoll survey this week showing a sudden rise in support for ‘other’ candidates, including the UAP.
In just three months, support for independent parties has soared more than 50 per cent, from an eight per cent share of the vote now rising up to 13 per cent, well ahead of One Nation on just three per cent.
However, they are still far behind Labor and the Coalition on 38 and 35 per cent each, but they could make a significant enough impact at the polls to hold the balance of power after the next election.
The second reading of anti-spam bill targeting the mass text messages was adjourned when it came before parliament last week.
But the notes for the bill highlighted the threat posed by UAP’s exploitation of the rules as they stand.
‘During the 2019 Federal election the use of robocalls and text messages to target voters…by the UAP and more recently by UAP again resulted in thousands of complaints to ACMA,’ it said.
Craig Kelly has sent another round of unsolicited text messages to Australians claiming to promote the adverse reactions of Covid-19 drugs (pictured)
‘Voters are concerned about the intrusive nature of this type of political campaigning and are concerned about such messaging disseminating disinformation.’
It called for all election-related electronic messages to include an unsubscribe link.
‘[This] would give voters some control over unsolicited and unwanted electronic communication, without interfering with the implied freedom of political communication protected by the Constitution,’ it added.
One of the text messages sent by the the NSW Member for Hughes claimed to report adverse reactions to Covid-19 jabs.
‘Australian Government’s Covid-19 Vaccines Adverse Events Report,’ the text message reads, along with a link directing recipients to a UAP website.
The site appears to contain a list of adverse reactions to three Covid vaccines claiming to be from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The link does not direct the recipient to the actual TGA website.
The text message was slammed for distributing ‘misleading’ information, with one Melbourne doctor criticising the MP on Twitter.
‘So odious Craig Kelly is sending text messages to scare people off vaccination now. Note I had blocked their number after the last unsolicited text message,’ Dr Shaun wrote.
A Melbourne doctor slammed Mr Kelly on Twitter for attempting to ‘scare people off vaccination’ (pictured)
The former Liberal MP-turned-UAP member (pictured) was slammed for appearing to promote vaccine hesitancy
‘Driving vaccine hesitancy while people are on ventilators and dying from Covid in this city. They should be ashamed.’
‘Next round of Craig Kelly texts out here promoting vaccine hesitancy. If we had a code of conduct and donation laws maybe Clive Palmer wouldn’t be able to bankroll this auspol spam,’ another tweeted.
‘Who’s paying for Craig Kelly’s vaccine misinformation SMS messages that have been sent out en masse? Clive Palmer? Does he have to declare funds received for that purpose?’ one user asked.
‘Next round of Craig Kelly texts out here promoting vaccine hesitancy…’ claimed one Twitter user
One Tweet questioned how the text messages were being funded
The 57-year-old riled up Australians with his unwanted text messages, after a previous SMS made the rounds earlier the same week.
‘You can never trust the Liberals or Labor, or Greens again. Authorised by Craig Kelly, United Australia Party. Click on this link,’ the text read.
‘Not sure if this is within your ambit but probably should be. Had an unsolicited text message from Craig Kelly UAP, How did he get my number? I regard this as impinging on my privacy & is intrusive spam,’ one person wrote.
The Australian Communications Media Authority received more than 4,036 complaints about the text messages within days of the text campaign’s launch.
He has ruffled the feathers of Australians earlier in the week after thousands of people received an unsolicited UAP text message promoted by Craig Kelly (pictured)
Political parties are permitted to distribute calls, emails or texts without the recipient’s permission as long as it is not for commercial reasons according to the media regulator.
‘[Text messages that] don’t offer, advertise or promote goods or services—are not required to comply with the obligations under the Spam Act 2003,’ ACMA told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Communications about elections or political matters are usually not commercial and [the text messages] do not appear to include a commercial purpose.
‘There are, however, rules that apply to the disclosure of authorisation details for matters related to elections on non-broadcasting media platforms.’
The Liberal MP-turned UAP member has publicly promoted the dangerous use of drugs such as ivermectin and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as treatments for Covid-19.
Mr Kelly previously claimed he resigned from the Liberal party because he wanted to speak freely about treatment drugs, which have not been proven as appropriate treatments for Covid-19 in Australia.
He has also accused governments of taking an ‘authoritarian’ approach to Covid-19.
‘In those last six months, I’ve witnessed the very fabric of our society unravelling,’ he said.
‘With endless authoritarian lockdowns, censorship of expert opinion, the emergence of a biomedical security state, our state borders shut, contrary to the vision of our Federation, and the freedoms that were once the birth right of every Australian, stolen.’