Federal MP Craig Kelly has announced his resignation, stating he would only be able to speak "frankly and fearlessly" from the crossbench.
Controversial backbencher Craig Kelly has quit the Liberal Party to join the crossbench as an independent.
Mr Kelly, the Member for Hughes, told the Coalition party room on Tuesday morning he would resign but continue to support the government on matters of supply and confidence.
His defection leaves the government with a slim majority in the House of Representatives, with just 76 of 151 seats.
In his resignation letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Mr Kelly acknowledged that some of his "recent conduct" had "made it difficult" for the Government.
"However, at all times, I have acted upon my consciousness and my beliefs - not political expediency," he said.
Mr Kelly has recently come under fire for sharing misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, increasing pressure on the Government to denounce his views.
He has repeatedly used his official social media pages to promote unproven treatments for the virus, including the anti-malaria medication hydroxychloroquine.
"My only goal has been to save lives and ensure that my constituents and all Australians, were not denied access to medical treatments if their doctors believed those treatments could save their lives," the letter continued.
He said he had made the decision to leave the party with a "heavy heart" but that it was a necessary move so he could speak "frankly and fearlessly".
“To honour the commitment to the voters of Hughes who elected me under the Liberal banner, I will, of course, support the government on matters of supply and confidence and I will seek to vote in a manner consistent with all official policies that the Coalition took to the 2019 election," he said.
Mr Morrison confirmed Mr Kelly's resignation in a media conference following the party room meeting, where he was first alerted to the resignation, declaring the government would continue to function effectively.
He referred to a discussion with Mr Kelly weeks earlier during which he "set out some very clear standards" on his social media usage.
"He made some commitments that I expected to be followed through on. He no longer felt that he could meet those commitments, but I can tell you, my standards don't change," he told reporters.
"By his own explanation, he has said that his actions were slowing the government down and he believed the best way for him to proceed was to remove himself from the party room."
Mr Kelly, one of the parliament's most prolific social media users, was recently banned from posting on his official Facebook for at least seven days for breaching the social media giant's misinformation policy.
Facebook also deleted a number of Mr Kelly's past posts from his page, including one where he linked to the results of a non-peer-reviewed study that said forcing children to wear face masks was akin to "child abuse".
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