Cory Bernardi (born 6 November 1969, Adelaide) is an Australian politician. He has been a Liberal Party member of the Australian Senate since 2006, representing the state of South Australia.

On 19 March 2008, Senator Bernardi, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Families, was named in a story published in The Australian newspaper as having been linked to a scheme that sold financial advice on how divorcees could hide money from their former spouses.

In a media statement released shortly after the article was released, Bernardi described the story as “a rehash of a factually incorrect story that first appeared in 2006 before my appointment to the Senate”. He further claimed that he had been “made aware that a colleague has been approaching numerous journalists in an attempt to ‘push’ this matter as a means of personally attacking me”.

The statement went on to say, “I find it disappointing that there are people who clearly pine to background journalists with half-truths and mischievous suggestions in an attempt to smear others. The people who creep out of their darkened closets to resurrect previously discredited accusations do no service to themselves or the community. Politics is a battle of ideas, not a battle of smears.”

On 20 March 2008, Bernardi introduced a motion calling for a Senate inquiry into swearing on television and the effectiveness of the Code of Practice after a television show was broadcast at 8.30pm containing the word “fuck” eighty times in 40 minutes. The Senate supported the motion.

In June 2008, Senator Bernardi stated his personal view on regarding proposed gay reform. He states that “Same-sex relationships are not the same as marital relationships and to treat them the same is to suspend common sense”.

Writing on the ABC “unleashed” website in July 2008, Bernardi questioned the ethics of granting human rights to great apes while ignoring the rights of the unborn child.

In August 2008, it was reported in the Herald Sun newspaper that the Federal Parliamentary Library had, following a request from Bernardi, identified a loophole in government legislation that allowed some women who aborted their pregnancies to claim the $5000 “baby bonus”. The Government stated that the bonus was not available for aborted pregnancies and committed to following up any occurrences of this.

Senator Bernardi caused a stir in October 2008 with a speech to the Senate protesting against the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws-Superannuation) Bill 2008. The bill, which was supported by the Liberal Party under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, led to discontent within the Party’s conservative faction, of which Bernardi is a leader.

Turnbull was “unhappy that Party authority was being challenged” by Bernardi. In Bernardi’s speech, he complained that society should not “throw open the doors and welcome into the fold those whose relationships are uncharacteristic of the most basic elements of a marital union”. Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull rang Bernardi the next morning to “chip him”, having felt that the speech was intemperate in tone, went against the party line, and against Turnbull’s leadership.

Bernardi was removed from the Shadow Ministry by Turnbull after reportedly making unsubstantiated claims regarding a fellow Liberal MP in his weekly blog. Recalling an encounter with the Liberal MP at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club about 14 years before, he wrote:

In response to my question of why he joined the Liberal Party, the MP blithely responded “I live in a Liberal seat so I had to be a member of the Liberal Party to get into Parliament. If I lived in a Labor seat I would have joined the Labor Party”. Frankly I was aghast at this response. Where was the conviction, the beliefs, the values that I believe should motivate our political leaders? Several follow up questions disclosed that the only motivation for his own political involvement was for him to become Prime Minister.

The MP involved was thought to be Christopher Pyne, who denied the allegations as “preposterous”.

Following the election of Tony Abbott as the leader of the federal Liberal Party in late 2009, Senator Bernardi was appointed Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Population Policy. In August 2012 Senator Bernardi was appointed as the Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate.

In September, 2012, Bernardi resigned from his position as parliamentary secretary as a result of statements he had made the day before, when he argued that permitting same-sex marriages would lead to legalised polygamy and bestiality.

In January 2013, Bernardi was reported to have links to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which The Age newspaper called a “right-wing, pro-tobacco group fighting gun controls.” Labor and Greens MPs argued that Bernardi breached parliamentary disclosure rules in failing to declare a conflict of interest. Fairfax media later issued an apology to the senator for its reports of January 2013.

In January 2014, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, once again distanced himself from Bernardi after Bernardi called for a new debate on abortion, called for more flexible industrial relations laws, stated his belief in the primacy of the traditional family and claimed that non-traditional families may cause negative social outcomes, linked a secular polity with Australia having lost its way and claimed that Christianity was under siege from both the political Greens party and the religion of Islam.

Political views

Global warming

On 21 April 2007 Bernardi published an essay questioning whether global warming was caused by human activities. Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other Liberal parliamentarians promptly distanced themselves from his views.


Bernardi has been publicly critical of Islam.] In 2010, he wrote an opinion piece calling for a ban on wearing the burqa in public.

In 2011, Bernardi referred to the controversy over the paying of funeral expenses for asylum-seekers, declaring that it was “wrong” for the government to pay. He also said that “Islam itself is the problem - it’s not Muslims”, and that multiculturalism had failed. He subsequently clarified his remarks by stating “When I say I’m against Islam, I mean that the fundamentalist Islamic approach of changing laws and values does not have my support.”

For these comments he received death threats. Liberal leader Tony Abbott distanced himself from the comments.

Bernardi has been associated with Dutch politician Geert Wilders whose vocal concerns about Islam are shared by Bernardi, and met Wilders in Europe.

Bernardi offered to assist Wilders in a visit to Australia but, in February 2013 when Wilders did come, Bernardi did not meet him. Wilders stated in an interview that Bernardi’s decision not to meet him was a “sad but true” reflection on politics, particularly in an election year.

The opposition treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, said in response “Neither Cory Bernardi nor the Coalition will be facilitating this visit.” Opposition leader Tony Abbott also rejected suggestions that Senator Bernardi was trying to bring Mr Wilders to Australia, saying that the Coalition had nothing to do with the organisation of any trip.

Publicly Funded Broadcasting

Bernardi has publicly expressed his concern over the effect of Australia’s public broadcaster (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation) on commercial operators. His view is that the ABC has grown beyond its initial charter and its size is unjustifiably encroaching into the online news sphere at the expense of commercial operators and media diversity. However, Bernard supports the continued existence of iView (internet based television service) and podcasting services. Bernardi agrees that the ABC provides useful services to regional areas often under-serviced by commercial operators however he suggests that the scale of the ABC’s funding should be reviewed.


2015-05-22 Cory Bernardi

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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2015-05-16 Cory Bernardi

It's all about Cory.


The wall in Cory Bernardi’s Canberra office is adorned with mementos of some of his political paragons: framed portraits of Margaret Thatcher, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a young Queen Elizabeth; a letter from Robert Menzies, penned to an admirer in 1966; John and Janette Howard beaming from an old Christmas card.
Bernardi has certainly wasted no time in the five years since he was elected a senator for South Australia. He’s played a key role in killing off the former Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme, toppling Malcolm Turnbull as Liberal leader and replacing him with Tony Abbott. He’s “carved a niche as one of Australia’s leading conservative voices”, according to his website. He’s riled Greens, gays, feminists, Muslims and small ‘l’ liberals with his campaigns against action on climate change, gay equality and the burqa.

“Cory is deluded,” says a Liberal Party colleague. “He is one of the least effective or important members of the parliamentary team. Cory is a person without any intellect, without any base, and he should really never have risen above the position of branch president. His right-wing macho-man act is just his way of looking as though he stands for something.”

Bernardi shrugs off the criticism. Beneath his Ken-doll good looks, smooth manner and radio announcer’s baritone lies a political hide as tough as any in Canberra. “I have a number of strong beliefs that I believe reflect the concerns, the hopes and I think the aspirations of mainstream Australia,” he says.

Bernardi owes his ascendancy in the Liberal Party to a powerful mentor, the right-wing faction leader and long-time South Australian senator, Nick Minchin, who was struck by the younger man’s physical stature (he’s 195 centimetres tall), sporting achievements and political potential. “He is confident without being overbearing, intelligent and committed, with a well-thought-through philosophy on life and a strong sense of direction,” says Minchin.

Thanks to Minchin’s backing, Bernardi became the Liberal Party’s youngest ever South Australian state president in 1998, and the youngest federal vice-president in 2005. The moderates in the branch were never impressed. One recalls: “There was nothing memorable about his term. Even his own supporters got sick of waiting for him to do something effective.” Bernardi rejects this, saying he boosted the branch’s membership by 40% and its bank balance by half a million dollars during his term.

Minchin’s support also got Bernardi onto the senate ticket and into parliament in 2006. In his maiden speech he extolled the importance of a strong economy, small business, the defence industry and entrepreneurship, and derided the “new culture of rights” in Australia. He thanked his mother for staying at home to raise him, hailed “the sanctity of human life” and marriage as “a sacred bond between a man and a woman”, and pledged: “I shall be guided by my conscience, my family, my country and my God.”

Sinead, with whom he has two sons, aged ten and 12, says they have the perfect marriage because they’re “both in love with the same man”. “Cory obviously has this huge belief in himself … If you didn’t love a guy who was so in love with himself you’d have a lot of trouble living with Cory. Life – I don’t think he’d mind me saying this – it’s all about Cory. I am all about Cory, and he is all about Cory, so it makes it easy.”

I asked Bernardi what he loves. He replied: “Family. And my wife says myself, but you know [that’s] a bit unkind.”

Bernardi’s singular achievement is having helped destroy the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme in 2009 and, with it, Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. His opposition to the ETS, and later the carbon tax, was first inspired by veteran climate sceptic, University of Adelaide’s Ian Plimer. It was girded by a 2009 visit to the United States where he sought advice on strategy from America’s foremost climate-change deniers; among them Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner who, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “routinely ignores and denies even the most robust, vetted scientific findings”, and Senator James Inhofe, a beneficiary of generous energy industry funding, who has described global warming as “the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state”.

Inspired by the tactics of the Tea Party, Bernardi established the Conservative Leadership Foundation in 2009, which in turn set up the Conservative Action Network (CANdo) that Bernardi likens to “a Facebook for conservatives”. CANdo rallied dozens of like-minded groups and thousands of individuals to join an orchestrated ‘grassroots’ campaign – also known as ‘astro-turfing’ – against the ETS. Their efforts persuaded Liberal MPs to revolt against Turnbull, killing the ETS and propelling Abbott into leadership.

Some of his moderate colleagues are caustic about Bernardi’s role in undermining Turnbull and others on the small ‘l’ side. One colleague calls him “disloyal and treacherous”, while another says he spends more time attacking those in his own party than the others. Some colleagues privately blame him for circulating a “shit sheet” before the 2007 election implying that an unnamed Coalition minister was gay. Bernardi categorically denies he had anything to do with it, adding he’s a “convenient scapegoat for those on the Left”. He has maintained a poisonous feud with fellow South Australian Christopher Pyne, who signed him up to their local branch in the 1980s before they acrimoniously fell out.

He was sacked from the front bench by Malcolm Turnbull in 2009, after writing on his blog that the “wannabe” MP who had recruited him had told him during a golf game that he only ran as a Liberal because he lived in a Liberal seat. Bernardi refused Turnbull’s demand that he apologise to Pyne, and remains unrepentant today. “Why would I apologise for [writing] something that is true?” Turnbull had previously rebuked Bernardi for speaking against the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws–Superannuation) Act 2008, which had bipartisan support. Bernardi opined in the senate that the bill would throw open the doors of “the marriage club” to people “whose relationships are uncharacteristic of the most basic elements of a marital union”.

While he seems to be sincere in his convictions, the foundations of Bernardi’s ‘philosophy’ appear shallow. He claims to be widely read but admits his favourite fare is airport novels, especially the late Dick Francis’ formulaic thrillers. His recommended reading list includes a book called Confrontational Politics by a retired US senator, HL Richardson, published by the Gun Owners Foundation. The author’s credo is “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-God” and he was once voted ‘Chauvinist of the Year’ by the National Organization for Women. His book is a crude polemic that rails against homosexuals, tree-huggers, humanists, pagans and abortionists, whom he likens to Hitler. It calls evolution a “scientific justification” for rejecting God, and argues for “the necessity to limit the power of man and government” as the Holy Bible should be the basis for human law (a proposition starkly similar to that advanced by the Islamists Bernardi condemns). Bernardi liked the book so much he bought 100 copies to hand out.

Many of his ideas are borrowed from others. He embraced the nickname ‘Ju-liar’ for Julia Gillard, coined by his friend Alan Jones, with whom he served on the board of the Australian Sports Commission. The slogan on his website, ‘common sense lives here’, mimics that of another of his icons, US talk-show host Phil Valentine, who wrote The Conservative’s Handbook and uses the catchphrase: ‘It’s just common sense’. Bernardi’s assertion that Islam is a “totalitarian, political and religious ideology” echoes the phraseology of right-wing anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders, whom Bernardi met and invited to Australia, earning another rebuke from the Liberal leadership.

A frequent commentator on the ‘dangers’ of Islam, Bernardi has the Koran on his iPad but acknowledges he hasn’t read it, except for the passages he quotes to advance his arguments. He doesn’t know the ‘five pillars’, or basic tenets, of the Islamic faith. He claims his warnings about Islam are based on the “unique perspective” he gained while travelling in Europe where, he says, Muslim migration has led to “almost unprecedented levels of social unrest”.

“I keep saying this is not about Muslim people,” Bernardi insists. “A lot of Muslims eat pork, there’s a lot of Muslims who don’t pray five times a day or go to mosque, there’s a lot of Muslims who decide to drink alcohol. There’s a lot of Muslims who are terrific people, that are fantastic, like people of any faith.” In other words: Muslims are fine, as long as they don’t practise their beliefs.

“He wants to be some sort of conservative warrior but he’s not up to it intellectually,” says a Liberal associate. “In reality he’s like the kid in the playground who pulls his pants down so everyone will look at him, but he has no idea how he’s embarrassing himself in the process. He’s basically kryptonite for any serious person in the party because he’s a complete embarrassment.”

For a man who espouses “compassion, acceptance and personal integrity”, to quote his website, there’s also a pitiless quality to Bernardi. He calls asylum-seekers “welfare squatters” and condemned the government for flying survivors of the Christmas Island refugee boat disaster to Sydney to attend their loved ones’ funerals.

“There’s plenty of Australians who miss out on going to funerals too because they can’t afford it,” he says, unmoved by the fact that the mourners included young children who had lost both parents. “It’s tragic,” he adds, stone-faced. The same steely tone is employed when he talks about the elder brother he hasn’t spoken to for a decade, although they see each other at the park when their sons play sport together. He won’t say why they fell out. When I ask if it saddens him, he replies: “You’re gonna say I’m cruel and heartless but no, it doesn’t … It’s just one of those things. I’m estranged from my brother. Big deal.”

Bernardi was rewarded for his role in elevating Abbott to the leadership with a promotion to the position of shadow parliamentary secretary assisting the Opposition leader. Asked why he got the post, he replies: “I guess he [Abbott] thinks I’m someone who can help him get to where he wants to go.” What role Bernardi would play in an Abbott-led government is an open question. Minchin says Bernardi “has a very substantial support base”. Another senior Liberal believes Abbott and Bernardi are “very close”. An alternative view from within the party is that Abbott and his office think Bernardi is “a total liability” and “even the conservative wing finds him to be a complete screwball”. Abbott was not available to comment.

“If you look at some of the great people of history, they all had trenchant critics,” says Bernardi, citing his hero, Ronald Reagan, whose speeches he listens to on his iPhone for inspiration during his evening walks. “You can’t go through life being loved by everybody, that’s a recipe for nothingness.”




Sally Neighbour is a multiple award-winning journalist and author, best known for her work as a reporter with Four Corners, recognised by three Walkley Awards. She is the author of The Mother of Mohammed and In the Shadow of Swords.

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2014-02-16 Cory Bernardi

On Thursday February 13 Greens Senator, Dr Richard Di Natale, moved a motion in the Senate to stop opening the parliament each day with the Lord’s Prayer and to replace it with a minute’s silent reflection or prayer.

Senator Di Natale debated Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi about the issue on The Project.

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