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Jan 9, 2014

Cory’s hit-list: Bernardi’s colleagues who don’t make the grade

Cory Bernardi reckons "traditional families" are best and should be restored to their "prime position" in society. Crikey reveals the Liberal MPs who don't fit Bernardi's "gold standard".

Cathy Alexander — Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Cathy Alexander

Freelance journalist and PhD candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne

Maverick Liberal Cory Bernardi thinks “traditional” nuclear families are best for children — so why are his Coalition colleagues from “non-traditional” backgrounds doing better than he is?

Bernardi, who has a new book out, is on a crusade to defend his “gold standard” for families: a biological mother and father who are married. He says anything different — step-families, single parents, same-sex parents — is not equal. The South Australian Liberal Senator, a favourite of columnist Andrew Bolt (who penned the tag-line for The Conservative Revolution, retailing on Amazon for $26.96), has warned single-parent families can lead children into crime and promiscuity.

He might want to be careful with that theory. Crikey has applied the “Bernardi test” to federal Parliament and found quite a list of politicians who have what he dismisses as “non-traditional” families.

Coalition MP Sharman Stone told Crikey that Bernardi’s book contains “angry and hurtful views”, and talking down non-traditional families is “just nonsense”. Stone, a Victorian Liberal MP, was particularly annoyed at Bernardi’s description of those who advocate for abortion rights as “pro-death” and his claim that some women use abortion as “an abhorrent form of birth control”.

“I find that deeply offensive … it’s a hate-filled statement,” she said. Stone called on her author-colleague to donate the proceeds from his book to a women’s refuge. “I certainly don’t think we should have people trying to make profit out of books which are deliberately provocative and anti-women and children.”

As to Bernardi’s views on families, Stone said: “Well, certainly in stereotyping a particular group or individual, it’s just that — it’s not looking at the reality. Blended families have been the nature of Western cultures for generations. After each war there’s been single mother-reared families … what matters is if the child has stability and love.”

Liberal Senator Sue Boyce also criticised Bernardi’s views on the family, telling Crikey that “life happens. People make the best efforts they can to be loving parents in vast numbers of different situations. No one has the right to judge them.”

Crikey applied the Bernardi test to the man himself, and to some of his colleagues. Yes, Bernardi was raised by his biological parents who were married. He is married himself and has two sons. He meets his own “gold standard” — but this has not helped him into cabinet. He has twice held a ministerial role and twice lost his job (Malcolm Turnbull sacked him, and the second time Bernardi “resigned” under Tony Abbott for those bestiality comments). He’s now a backbencher.

Meanwhile, here are some successful Coalition politicians who don’t fall within Bernardi’s “gold standard” …

“I love my daughter to pieces. The love that I have in my family is as strong a bond as anybody’s.”

Tony Abbott had a love child at a young age, who was adopted out (it later turned out he was not the biological father). Abbott’s sister Christine Foster is divorced from her husband and raising her children in a lesbian relationship.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull was raised by a single father.

Attorney-General George Brandis was raised by a single mother after his father died. “We were a two-person family, and I was very much the focus of a very loving mother. I always felt her greatest gift to me was self-belief,” he told Fairfax last year. Brandis has two children and is divorced from his wife.

Former Coalition whip Warren Entsch recently remarried and is a stepfather. “I love my daughter to pieces. The love that I have in my family is as strong a bond as anybody’s,” he said this week.

Some of Bernardi’s Coalition colleagues may not be aware of his concerns about their upbringing, however. A number of Liberal sources told Crikey no one they knew was reading his book. “I’ve not seen a copy of it yet anywhere in the building,” a Liberal staffer said from Parliament House.

Crikey is aware of several other frontbenchers who don’t meet the Bernardi test, but as their situations haven’t been reported publicly, we won’t name them out of respect for their privacy.

And here are just a few of the Labor MPs who don’t meet Bernardi’s “gold standard”. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is a stepdad, and infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese was raised by a single mother. Defence spokesman Stephen Conroy had a baby via a surrogate mother (Bernardi criticised that practice as well). Trade spokeswoman Penny Wong is in a same-sex relationship and has a child.

Bernardi did previously enjoy some success within the Coalition; he was seen as one of Abbott’s favourites and was re-elected to the Senate last year in the number-one spot (the preselection happened before the bestiality comments). But a party source says support for Bernardi is dwindling due to his fringe statements. “I think a lot of people thinks he’s a bit of a liability,” the source said.

Bernardi is seen as a good factional operator capable of marshalling blocs of support, but it’s understood Bernardi’s popularity in South Australia may be fracturing.

Crikey contacted Bernardi for comment but has not heard back.

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34 thoughts on “Cory’s hit-list: Bernardi’s colleagues who don’t make the grade

  1. rockpaper123

    Good to have it said, Cathy.

    And let’s not forget that if Senator Bernardi is keen on allowing faith into politics, he should probably speak to Scott Morrison.

    The Immigration Minister was asked (4 Dec) how he reconciled his treatment of refugees with his Christian beliefs, an obvious reference to the cruelty the Minister dishes out regularly. With relish.

    Morrison (standing in front of a lectern) replied that “This is not a pulpit” and that he keeps his faith private.

    So Minister Morrison only allows his faith in politics when he’s running for re-election and there’s votes at his Hillsongs Church?

    Please clarify whether this is the case Mr Bernardi. We await an answer, with bated breath.

  2. Scott

    You mention Tony Abbott as having a love child but then say that he wasn’t the biological father. So he didn’t actually have a love child did he….
    As for the reference to Abbott’s sister, how is that relevant? She isn’t a member of parliament.
    Just an excuse to mention Abbott and his family in a derogatory way?

  3. Interrobanging On

    As someone else put it, a traditional family produced Cory Bernardi…

  4. Saugoof

    There is strong evidence that the steady falls in crime rate since their early 1980’s peak is mostly due to legalised abortion. As outlined in ‘Freakonomics’, the curve aligns nicely with the period where fewer unwanted and unloved children reach teenage and adulthood. So maybe Bernardi should pick one or the other to be opposed to.

    The argument that some women use abortion as birth control is one of the most idiotic statements I’ve heard from him yet, and that’s coming of a high base! Abortion is never an easy process for any woman and no one ‘wants’ to have an abortion. Using his logic, should we stop treating car crash victims too, to force people to take more care in traffic….

  5. David Penington

    Many years ago I was told by an ethics lecturer that in 1920, “Till death do us part” in Australia was on average 14 years. That means very many children were living in single parent or blended families. Cory Bernardi and John Howard are living in an imagined past, not the real one.

  6. Slomo

    Someone needs to put the acid on Bernardi to explain HOW he would achieve his vision of restoring primacy to traditional families(perhaps he explains in the book… like most I will never read it). Does he propose banning divorce and forcing people to stay in unhappy or abusive marriages? Sterilising divorcees? Removing children from non traditional families? Re-criminalising abortion (well yes no doubt he’s keen on that one). I really don’t see how he can possibly achieve his aim without restoring women to the status of property.

  7. Cathy Alexander

    Interesting question Slomo; the public / private divide. Is the question of what type of families you might ethically prefer / support one for public policy?

    Or is it more of a personal issue, where your beliefs affect your own behaviour, but it’s not appropriate to project them on to other people?

    On surrogacy for example the state does legislate (state governments, I think). But how would a politician legislate to put the ‘traditional family’ back in ‘prime position’?

  8. Interrobanging On

    Slomo, you are quite right, but the problem is applying logic to the lunatic rantings of a man who looks and acts as he is suffering from rabies picked from a dog bite on a visit to a shadowy right wing organisations in the USA.

    ‘…restoring women to the status of property.’ He might not disagree with this. Hard religious right thinking is mentally aberrant.

    It is good *if* the Liberal Party is tiring of him, but it has taken its time and I am sceptical. He was Abbott’s parliamentary secretary (more damnation for Phony Tony) and is still top of the Senate ticket.

    Maybe like Peter Slipper he will eventually be knifed, but only when convenient. His views are irrelevant and even beneficial, as there is a constituency for them and they make the rest of the Liberal Party seem moderate, even as they follow him to the right.

  9. klewso

    I’m BS intolerant – what does he say about divorce and adultery?

  10. zut alors

    Bernardi wants Australian society to be modelled on Leave It To Beaver. He’s dreamin’…

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