Cory Bernardi just quit the Liberal party, announcing the start of his own conservative movement and lambasting politicians for pursuing “expedient, self-serving, short-term ends”.
“The body politic is failing the people of Australia and it’s clear we need to find a better way,” Bernardi said.
Bernardi told the Senate he had become detached from the values held by the Liberal party and was not longer inspired to continue as a representative.
“The enduring beauty of the conservative tradition is that it looks to the past, to all that is great and good, to inform the future. It is a rich paradox where the established equips us for the new.
“And so today I begin something new, built on enduring values and principles that have served our nation so well for many decades,” Bernardi said.
Bernardi, a long-standing opponent of same-sex marriage, said his new movement would be “united by the desire to create stronger families”, and promised it would “give hope to those who despair at the current state of Australian politics”. (The full text of his address is below.)
In a press conference after his Senate appearance, Bernardi said he was aiming to create a “Senate movement” which would be an “anchor” for centre-right government, suggesting his movement is not looking to put forward candidates for seats in the House of Representatives for now.
Bernardi has recently been on a three-month secondment to New York as a UN observer, during which time he witnessed Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the presidential election.
His decision to rat on the party has invited the fury of his partyroom colleagues, with fellow South Australian Chris Pyne saying he should quit the Senate altogether and try and regain his seat as an independent.
Cory Bernardi was elected as a Liberal. The honourable course is for him to resign his seat and for him to recontest it as an independent.
— Christopher Pyne (@cpyne) February 6, 2017
In this morning’s partyroom meeting, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull told MPs: “I asked [Bernardi] how he could justify remaining in the Senate having been elected as a Liberal only seven months ago. He could not answer that question,” according to the AFR.
Here’s the full text of Bernardi’s speech
Mr President, I rise to inform the Senate that this morning I have resigned as a member of the Liberal Party.
I consider it my duty to inform the Senate of this decision prior to making any public comment.
After a membership spanning my entire adult life, having been a State President and a Federal Vice President, this has been a very difficult decision for me – perhaps the most difficult of my life.
I stand here today both reluctant and relieved; reluctant because this decision has weighed heavy on my heart but relieved because, whilst difficult, it is the right thing to do.
When, as a younger man I first joined the ‘ship of state’ I was in awe of its traditions and the great captains that had guided us on our way. But now, as the seas through which we sail have become more challenging, the respect for the values and principles that have served us well have been set aside for expedient, self-serving, short term ends. This approach has not served our nation well.
There are few, if any, who can claim that respect for politics and politicians is stronger now than it was a decade ago.
In short, the body politic is failing the people of Australia and it’s clear we need to find a better way.
The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, lack of confidence in our political process and concern about the direction of our nation is very strong. This is a direct product of the political class being out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.
Politics at its best has always been the shared contribution of men and women of conscience who bring their skills to bear for the nation. It is not in the interests of our nation to yield to the temptation of personality politics which shrink the debate to the opinion of the few whilst compromising the good sense and values of the many.
For many years I have warned of the consequences of ignoring the clear signs. I have spoken of the need to restore faith in our political system and to put principle back into politics. I regret that too often these warnings have been lost on those who needed to hear them most.
It really is time for a better way; a conservative way.
The enduring beauty of the conservative tradition is that it looks to the past, to all that is great and good, to inform the future. It is a rich paradox where the established equips us for the new.
And so today I begin something new, built on enduring values and principles that have served our nation so well for many decades.
It is a political movement of Australian Conservatives…a community of individual Australians who will share their unique gifts and talents to chart a better way.
We will be united by a desire to create stronger families, foster free enterprise, limit the size and scope and reach of government whilst seeking to rebuild civil society.
We will give hope to those who despair at the current state of Australian politics and who demand a better way for themselves, their children and their country.
The journey ahead will not be for the faint of heart but worthwhile ventures rarely are.
And every journey begins with a first step.
Today I take that step, knowing the direction in which I will head and hoping that those truly concerned for the future of our nation will choose to join me.
Mr President, in light of this statement you may like to consider the Senate seating arrangements.
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