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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".


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’…

  11. James

    I get the feeling this article is based on a straw-man argument. From what I’ve seen he has not at any point claimed that it was impossible for single-parents or homosexual couples to be good parents, but rather that a child would ideally be raised by his biological mother and father in a committed (married) relationship. In this case he is 100% correct. Advocating for policies that promote and encourage this in the interest of children is a good thing.

  12. Newcastlegirl

    This man is offensive by any standards. My father died just before my 9th birthday, My mother who was in her 50’s went out and got a job to support her only child. There was no school kids bonus or any other kind of payment then, not even the endowment, my dad faught in New Guinea and was in Darwin when it was bombed.. my mother recieve $2.20 a month for me and that is all she got from anyone. She never remarried she said she only one true love in her life(my dad( and one beautiful butterfly (me) she did a great job and when she died she was buried next to my dad. I am not a criminal and none of the children of single parent or children with step parents will be criminals either. How dare this man!

  13. Caths

    “A bit of a liability” indeed! The best thing about the book is the opportunity to read the reviews on Amazon, some of which are simply hilarious. Even Sharman Stone finds him offensive. ’nuff said.

  14. Independently Thinking

    In the genteel environment of the SA Liberal Party there are plenty of the new and old guard who are keen to see the the back of Cory – with or without a number of fine silver knives in his back.

    Cory is waiting until an opportune moment (we are nearing a close State Election) to suggest to the party, accidentally publicly, that if they don’t want him – and his large number of followers, supporters and donors – he will take the lot to Family First.

    I don’t think the local Liberal Party will be so keen on THAT.

  15. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    I always wonder what he thinks on IVF? If we apply his logic to parents of IVF embryos, these parents should be forced to bear and raise all of the embryos created. And if we apply his logic to sperm donation and egg donation these should not be legal either as it obviously leads to children being raised by at least one non-biological parent.
    I’m also confused by the fact that these people don’t seem to understand that hormonal birth control works – as far as my limited knowledge goes most can prevent implantation of an embryo by altering the lining of the womb if conception occurs by accident. This means that any woman using hormonal methods of birth control (and her male partner if he is aware of it) are knowingly risking an inadvertent abortion. The ‘right-to-lifers’ are curiously silent on this as well.

  16. drmick

    Bernardis theory has been tested, and it failed again and again.
    The Stolen Generations of aboriginal children; who were taken from their families to be “rinsed” and “cleansed” and converted and made pure is a perfect example of the Bernardi credo.
    The cruel irony is that they did the same to single mothers in the white female Stolen Generation; Of course the white girls didnt need “rinsing” but they would forever be marked, psychologically and sometimes physically by “puritans” and “Christians” and Bernardi`s, and would never be “clean” or considered cleansed.
    These same Christians and puritans are now before courts and commissions, reporting how “their” rinsing and cleansing resulted in physical and mental abuse of the kind that lasts forever; and defending “their” decision to impose their bullshite on races and individuals “they” decided were inferior or needed to be taught the “right” way.
    Well join the conga line of the minority and hand in your credibility bernardi; your political party can only move you further and further away until they cant stand the smell any more. They already have a judgemental puritan christian running the show, and he out-ranks you by a cardinal.

  17. Bill Hilliger

    Benardi and Morrison are two of the best examples of Sunday Christians.

  18. Brett Coster

    Saugoof, the decline in crime rates has a much better correlation, worldwide, with the removal of lead from the environment. Kevin Drum, in Mother Jones, has brought a lot of the evidence together here (http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline).

    The same correlation appears across different countries, cities and even suburbs. Steven Levitt’s hunch about abortion being a factor doesn’t seem to have nearly as much evidence.

    The lead reduction theory probably has too much science and and not enough theology involved for that possibility to ever flit across Bernardi’s mind.

  19. rossmcg

    Well Independently thinking, that would be a good test for the SA Liberals. if they are people of principle, they will piss him off, if they are typical Tories they will embrace him and all the nastiness that goes with him.

  20. tonyfunnywalker

    Good point Independent Thinking. Adelaide is a hotbed of bigotry in many aspects and Bernardi’s views are not uncommon as a result. Support for Bernardi is not just confined to the Liberal party but the comment and editorial in the Advertiser are equally strident in their support and defence of his views.
    For a State that nurtured Family First Bernardi will at least guarantee that that he will capture for the Liberals / Family First the red neck vote at the State Election. The Bernardi preferences have already elected a Family First Senator and Family First MLA Robert Brokenshire is a key tormentor and leaker in the political debate to support him.

  21. Hamis Hill

    Bernardi, and the others like him, appear to be more Manichaean than Christian, attributing more power to evil than to good.

  22. zut alors

    Caths, thanks for the tip-off regarding the Amazon reviews. Multiple chuckles there.

  23. Ronson Dalby

    rockpaper123 quotes Morrison as saying that he keeps his faith private. Perhaps Morrison has already forgotten his maiden speech in parliament.


  24. MJPC

    “I’ve not seen a copy of it yet anywhere in the building,” a Liberal staffer said from Parliament House.
    In this time of fiscal belt tightening his colleagues are obviously waiting for it to appear in the $5 bargain bin at their local bookshop in about a weeks time before they indulge his fantasies; Revolution now!

  25. tmhayes2

    Only ‘Biological mother and father who are married’ can produce the right children? Not if they use IVF. Then, the children are ‘commodities’.
    Margaret Brennan

  26. Cathy Alexander

    Interesting suggestion about Bernardi perhaps switching to Family First.

    As a Liberal Senator, his vote doesn’t count in so far as he must follow the party line on everything except conscience issues. But as a minor-party Senator (or independent) after July 1, his vote would very much count – he would hold one of the votes in the balance of power bloc (that’s not to say the Coalition would need his vote, but his is one of the votes they could use). I’ll look into this rumour …

  27. Ronson Dalby

    Cathy, “But as minor party Senator” …

    You find this an interesting read:


  28. Slomo

    Cathy, was Bernardi elected in the 2010 or 2013 election? I.e does he have 3ish or 6ish years to run?

  29. Hamis Hill

    John Howard’s “Broad Church”, its doors thrown open to bolster a declining congregation, does seen to gathered an in-ordinate share of sectarian extremism.
    Bernardi’s blatant “negative attention seeking”, does it have a deeper purpose?
    A distraction from the right wing “Guilt”, accumulated over the years in the “City of Churches”?
    “All that is evil”, (thanks , Paul), fires up some smoke-screens to obscure the light?
    Gerard Henderson’s “Menzies’ Child”, however reveals all on Howard’s “broad church”, Liberal party.
    Good on ya Gerry.
    How Menzies’ child has changed, indeed.
    Bernardi and Abbott are Liberals, really?

  30. Sharkie

    So Bernardi and Abbott both oppose gay marriage, talk the same language on abortion, and both have very similar views on “traditional family values”. Their main difference is, Bernardi is stupid enough to explain his reasons in print, while Abbott is smart enough to keep his mouth shut about his reasons for supporting ultra-conservative positions.

  31. Venise Alstergren

    Cory Bernardi is a terrifying recreation of Medieval Spain’s Tomás de Torquemada. His beliefs, although few people seem to make the connection, are shared by Tony Abbott who, is presently sleep walking through his role as PM.

    Robert Menzies did a wicked thing when he named that mob the Liberal Party.

  32. Dalma Smithy

    I am all for the Senator. I share his views 100%. The man has guts..and balls. We are inundated with servile, toothless, and brainless Pollies, who have the ” herd instinct ” and ‘ follow-der-leader ” mentality. In Politics for the gratuitous handouts and freebies, they contribute absolutely zilch to the welfare of this Nation. My vote is for more Clive Palmer’s, who will radically change the Alliance, and put new impetus into debates and deny the ‘ toadies ‘, their characteristic ” head nodding “, in the back ground – as if that gives credence to buffoonery announcements ? The Nation is suffering a lack of direction, and TA is not half the woman Gillard is. All for PUP slogan.

  33. Hamis Hill

    Anyone other than Ali B’Abbott’s original Forty Thieves, (who stole the Liberal party for the DLP), would have to be in Bernardi’s bad books, surely?
    Wasn’t there a new party for “real” Liberals at the recent election?
    The “Democratic” Liberal Party; ouch!
    Will the real Liberals please stand up?
    Well, there’s Malcolm Fraser, and the other Malcolm?
    And John Hewson?
    And there has to be some residual resentment brewing against Murdoch choosing the Liberal leader, rather than the actual Liberal party itself doing so, no?
    Adapted from The Eagles song:
    Giving your political soul, to a succession of old men with hands as cold as ice,
    and your smile is thin disguise,
    Tony, you can’t hide your lying eyes,
    Tony, there is just no way that you can hide your lying eyes.
    Keep him out of sight, Peta, or you’ll lose your job.

  34. Cathy Alexander

    Slomo, Bernardi was re-elected in 2013 at number 1 on the Liberals ticket. So he’s there for a while. Simon Birmingham, who is definitely one to watch, was further down the Libs’ ticket. There were quite a few rumbles within the Libs about that preselection order, after the bestiality comments. But it wasn’t revisited in the end.

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