SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

7 February 2017

STATEMENT BY SENATOR BERNARDI

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What we have seen today Mr President is extraordinary. Extraordinary. A government senator leaving on ideological grounds and on grounds of conviction and philosophy from the government benches.

What we have seen today really tells us something very important about this government because what it is emblematic of is of a government that is bitterly divided, a government that is coming apart at the seams, a government so riven with internal division it is more focused on their own issues than on the matters that matter most to Australians.

Senator Bernardi’s resignation is not a cause of the deep divisions that we now see on open display in the Senate chamber. It is symptom. It is a symptom, because we know Senator’s Bernardi view is far from an isolated one in this government. Because we know that amongst those opposite he is one of many, one of many, who believe that this government stands for nothing. This government stands for nothing, who believe that this government is led by a man who doesn’t believe most of the things that he is now forced to say and that this is a government that is riven by factionalism, by dissent and distrust.

This resignation is a consequence of the failure of leadership by the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister is leading a government that doesn’t have an agenda, that doesn’t have a philosophical framework.

This is a government led by a man who has sold his soul for leadership. A Prime Minister so weak he’s only allowed to remain in the job for as long as he betrays virtually everything that he ever stood for. Virtually everything that he ever stood for. A man who used to believe in marriage equality and now he’s not even allowed to grant his members the right to vote. A man who used to believe in an Australian Republic, he is not even allowed to talk about it now. A man who said that he understood the need to change the tax system so young people could actually aspire to home ownership, he is now not even allowed the talk about negative gearing. A man who came to the job vowing to end the three word slogan forced to stand up every night endlessly repeating the three-word slogans of his predecessor and of course a man who used to believe that action on climate change was actually important.

Well, as has been said, I don’t think Tony Abbott was much of a Prime Minister, but he was a hell of a lot better at being Tony Abbott than Malcolm Turnbull will ever be.

Now, there are very few issues, in fact there are almost no issues upon which I agree with Senator Bernardi. But I do respect one thing – he does stand up for what he believes in and he is clearly no longer prepared to stomach the rank hypocrisy of a leader who clings to office by parroting views in which he does not believe. In which he does not believe.

But there is another lesson here for the Prime Minister. It is never enough. It is never enough. No matter how much you bend, how many times you sell your soul to the hard right of the party, no matter how often you betray everything you have ever stood for, it is never enough. That is what Senator Bernardi today has demonstrated. For every concession another will be demanded and when you cave in on that, they will just ask for another and when you cave in on that, another will be demanded of you.

So I say to those opposite and I say to the Prime Minister, time to call time on this farce. Why don’t you do a little of what Senator Bernardi suggested. He said put principle back into politics. Well, Australians await this from Malcolm Turnbull.