Pauline Hanson says her party will campaign on a platform of demanding a royal commission into Australia’s Covid-19 response at the upcoming federal election.
Speaking at an online Christian anti-vaccine mandate event on Friday, the One Nation leader claimed Australians had been “lied to” about the number of people who had died during the pandemic.
The third live “Prayers and Pushback” event featured a who’s who line-up of conservative commentators and anti-vaccine mandate politicians including Senator Hanson, ex-Liberal MP turned United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly and rogue Nationals MP George Christensen.
The event was hosted by disgraced former Hillsong pastor and self-styled “millionaire coach” Pat Mesiti, who addressed his audience from the Gold Coast in front of a digital Australian flag backdrop.
Senator Hanson, who has been an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates throughout the pandemic, revealed to Mr Mesiti some of her plans for the election.
“I’m going to stand on a platform that I believe that we need a royal commission into Covid and the way it was handled, because if we have another pandemic we have to know the answers to this,” she said.
“We’ve had premiers, health professionals and other people that have just bumbled their way through this. They haven’t been truthful with the public and it means we need to have answers to this.”
Senator Hanson said she and fellow One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts would continue to block government legislation when parliament resumes.
“We’re not going to vote for government legislation until they deal with the states, the premiers, the way they’re dealing with Covid and keeping families apart,” she said.
The upper house descended into chaos late last year after Senator Hanson attempted to introduce a private member’s bill seeking to ban mandatory vaccinations and overturn state and territory requirements for full vaccination to be required in some settings.
The bill was defeated by an overwhelming majority but five Coalition senators crossed the floor to vote for it.
These included Alex Antic and Matt Canavan, who both spoke to Mr Mesiti and his audience on Friday.
“(The bill) related to discrimination, to people having a choice. People should have a choice over their own medical autonomy … We had to make a stand on this issue,” Senator Antic said.
“It’s not easy – I don’t relish crossing the floor against my own party. Many shared the same view, there were five of us: me, Gerard Rennick, Matt Canavan, Sam McMahon and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. It’s an important issue, a real line in the sand.”
Senator Antic and fellow Coalition rebels Mr Rennick and Mr Christensen abstained from backing government legislation in December in protest amid an internal revolt over vaccine mandates.
While their motivations are likely to be different to Senator Hanson’s, individual Labor MPs and independent Senator Rex Patrick have also called for a royal commission into the pandemic response.
Senator Patrick earlier this month called on Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to take a stand, saying the need for a comprehensive national investigation was greater than ever.
“A royal commission inquiry is essential to establish precisely why Australia is in the position we find ourselves in and to learn all the lessons we can from the Australian Covid-19 response,” he said.
“Full opposition support is essential to put more pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to accept a proper measure of accountability.”