Cory Bernardi to spearhead no campaign on Recognise vote.

by Jared Owens

Outspoken Liberal senator Cory Bernardi is prepared to spearhead the “no” campaign against recognising indigenous Australians in the constitution, arguing the proposal is racially divisive and “doomed to fail”.

As indigenous leaders meet with Attorney-General George Brandis in Broome this week, Senator Bernardi this morning lashed out at proposals to recognise the First Australians in the nation’s foundation document.

“Let me tell you that anything that seeks to divide our country by race, and every proposal that I’ve heard of seeks to do exactly that, I think is doomed to fail,” the deeply conservative South Australian told ABC Radio.

“Within the Coalition … virtually no one is talking about this. Like most of Australia, this is a fifth-order issue at best.

“In order for a ‘no’ campaign to be funded there needs to be a ‘no’ vote in the parliament. I think that is inevitable, if only to give the Australian people an informed choice.”

Asked if he would be prepared to lead the ‘no’ campaign, Senator Bernardi said: “I’m always prepared to do what I think is in the best interests of Australia.”

NSW Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos rejected Senator Bernardi’s view, saying the referendum was “about bringing Australians together”.
“This has to be a very positive moment for Australia. It has to be the moment where we draw a line under the last couple of hundred years and appropriately recognise the contribution that indigenous Australians have made to this country,” Senator Sinodinos said.

“They were the first here 40,000 years ago, they made the important contribution to us understanding this country and when you go overseas one of the things that makes Australia unique is the centrality of our Aboriginal culture.”

Senator Bernardi was Tony Abbott’s parliamentary secretary until 2012, when he was sacked over “ill-disciplined” remarks suggesting recognising same-sex marriages could lead to polygamy and bestiality.

He is the author of several books on conservative politics and is sympathetic to Britain’s right-wing UK Independence Party and Dutch nationalist politician Geert Wilders.

Last week Senator Bernardi won government and crossbench support for an inquiry into Halal certification schemes.


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