Senator Cory Bernardi has called time on his political career. Picture: Morgan Sette/AAP
Senator Cory Bernardi has called time on his political career. Picture: Morgan Sette/AAP

Bernardi’s most outrageous comments

SENATOR Cory Bernardi will say goodbye to politics next month, bringing his 13-year career, often marred by controversy, to an end.

Despite his combative reputation and divisive remarks, the South Australian said he has "few" regrets, telling Sky News this morning he was leaving politics with his "integrity intact".

"The timing is right, I just don't want to go back to it next year, I feel in a very happy and comfortable place," he said.

"One of the great things is my integrity is intact. I feel very comfortable with who I am and what I have spoken about and if I have regrets, there are very few."


Cory Bernardi has called time on his political career. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP
Cory Bernardi has called time on his political career. Picture: David Mariuz/AAP



Wiping his Twitter clean today, Senator Bernardi, 50, was well-known for his conservative stance and dividing views - which often landed him in the headlines.

In 2012, Senator Bernardi was asked to resign by then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a parliamentary secretary after he linked gay marriage with polygamy and bestiality.

"They're views that I think many people would find repugnant," Mr Abbott told reporters, after accepting his resignation.

"I think it's pretty clear that I have sent a very strong message to every member of the team that ill-discipline is unacceptable."

The night before he lost his job as parliamentary secretary, the South Australian senator had been in the middle of a Senate debate when he made the disparaging comments.

"The next step, quite frankly, is having three people or four people that love each other being able to enter into a permanent union endorsed by society - or any other type of relationship," Senator Bernardi said.

"There are even some creepy people out there … (who) say it is OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals.

"Will that be a future step? In the future will we say, 'These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union'.

"I think that these things are the next step."


Senator Cory Bernardi speaking in the Senate. Picture Kym Smith
Senator Cory Bernardi speaking in the Senate. Picture Kym Smith


But that wasn't the first time Mr Bernardi focused his political fight on stopping the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

In 2008, the South Australian senator published his personal opinion about marriage to the website Online Opinion.

"Same-sex relationships are not the same as marital relationships and to treat them the same is to suspend common sense," Mr Bernardi wrote.

Later that year, Mr Bernardi gave a speech to the Senate condemning a bill that was going to give gay couples the same legal and financial rights already afforded to heterosexual couples.

"Is it fair that same-sex couples be treated the same as married couples? I say no," Mr Bernardi said in his furious speech later claiming "the great institution of marriage" had "taken a beating in the last three decades or so".

"We have expanded the membership of the marriage club to include heterosexual couples who do not, for whatever reason, actually want to get married," he said.

"Now we want to throw open the doors and welcome into the fold those whose relationships are uncharacteristic of the most basic elements of a marital union."

Eventually, Senator Bernardi broke away from the Liberals, forming his own political party in 2017.

The Australian Conservatives was announced as a political party in February 2017. Mr Bernardi had already set it up as a right-wing activist group in 2016.

"It really is time for a better way - for a conservative way," he told his colleagues at the time.

But by 2019, Senator Bernardi's political party was flailing. In June, the senator announced he was voluntarily deregistering the Australian Conservatives with the Australian Electoral Commission, citing a poor result in the 2019 federal election.

Struggling to find support among his right-wing colleagues, who were happy to serve under an already-conservative Scott Morrison-led government, Senator Bernardi remained an independent until his resignation announcement last night.


Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and Labor Senator Penny Wong debated same-sex marriage.
Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and Labor Senator Penny Wong debated same-sex marriage.


Same-sex marriage views aside, the senator also found himself in the middle of a number of other controversies.

In 2007, he found himself standing alone after publishing a piece questioning if climate change had been caused by humans.

Some of his controversial comments even attracted death threats.

In February 2011, Senator Bernardi was threatened after he denounced Islam in a radio interview.

"Islam itself is the problem - it's not Muslims," he told radio station MTR, as reported by The Adelaide Advertiser .

"Muslims are individuals that practise their faith in their own way, but Islam is a totalitarian, political and religious ideology."

In that same radio interview, Senator Bernardi also said it was "wrong" the government should be forced to pay for the funerals of asylum-seekers.

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils President Ikebal Patel called the senator "bigoted" over the remarks.

"These comments are more than offensive; they are bigoted," Mr Patel said.

"Cory Bernardi needs to have a good read of the Bible if he is a practising Christian.

"This is hardly the language of a religious person."

He has also called for the burqa to be banned.

In February 2017, the senator faced further criticism when he spoke at a dinner for the Q Society of Australia.

The anti-Islam, far-right society describes the Halal certification of food as a "tax that benefits terrorism".

Nationals MP George Christensen also spoke at the dinner, which was marred by dozens of protesters.


In his 2013 book, The Conservative Revolution, Senator Bernardi described the apparent attack on "Christian values and traditional sexual mores" as a communist plot.

"The first salvo was the introduction of sex education in Soviet Hungary's public school system," he wrote.

"This initial success inspired other Marxists to establish the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt University … this is where the concept of 'political correctness' was born; an insidious doctrine that has led an assault on our culture ever since and made its presence felt in social and political ­discourse on almost any subject today."

The senator was also fiercely opposed to abortion, calling its supporters "pro death", and was also labelled a "disgrace" over comments he made about women in the military.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds called the senator a "complete and utter disgrace" in February 2018 after he suggested women serving in the defence force was against our national security interest.

"It's about blurring the lines between political correctness and sound tactics in the name of what I think is social justice," Senator Bernardi told parliament at the time, arguing against removing an exemption in the Sex Discrimination Act that stops women being given combat roles.

"I don't believe incorporating women into combat units is in the best interests of Australia's national security," Senator Bernardi said.

Despite his years of controversy, Senator Bernardi maintains his comments "opened up lots of conversations".

"Other people will define it (my career) how they want," he said earlier today.

"If nothing else I opened up lots of conversations, I remained true to my values and principles. People will make judgments about whether they were right or wrong."

Senator Bernardi entered parliament in 2006, replacing retired minister Robert Hill.

In July, the 50-year-old said it was a "safe bet" he would retire before the next election.