Interview on Channel 7 Today Tonight with Rosanna Mangiarelli
Cory Bernardi

Rosanna Mangiarelli: Well, now the Cory Bernardi bombshell, the SA Senator quitting the Coalition to form his own party. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the PM and it could be a real game changer, both in Canberra and here. Now, earlier I spoke with SA Senator Simon Birmingham in Canberra.


Simon, thank you very much for your time. Look, he’s always been the party rebel, but what do you make of Senator Bernardi’s defection?

Simon Birmingham: Well, thanks Rosanna, good to be with you. Look, it is a betrayal of the many people in South Australia, the Liberal Party members, the more than 335,000 people who voted for the Liberal Party at the last federal election who expected to get Liberal senators. Cory Bernardi was elected alongside myself and two other individuals to serve terms as Liberal senators. Those voters had a choice: they could’ve voted for One Nation, they could’ve voted for the right-wing Liberty Alliance, but they chose the Liberal Party and they rightly expected to get Liberal senators serving out their term and that’s terribly disappointing and a betrayal of those voters and supporters.

Rosanna Mangiarelli: He’s saying he’s the same man, though?

Simon Birmingham: Well, he might be the same man but he no longer works as a cooperative member of the team in the Liberal Party, in the Turnbull Government and, of course, that is what people were voting for. They weren’t voting for another independent minor party player sitting on the crossbench, they were voting for a major party senator, working inside the Liberal Party as a member of the Turnbull Government, and they’ve been denied that now.

Rosanna Mangiarelli: But let’s face it, Simon, your polling’s a disaster and his defection is based on the electorate being fed up with the political machine. Should this serve as a wake up call?

Simon Birmingham: Well, there’s a lack of logic in some ways to Cory’s justification. He says he’s partly driven by a lack of trust yet he’s just broken the trust with many voters. He says he’s driven because he’s concerned about the rise of minor parties, yet he’s proposing to set up yet another minor party. So, I don’t understand the logic there but we will get on with the job of delivering effective government

Rosanna Mangiarelli: Just back on that disconnect, I mean these minor parties are gathering steam and if Cory Bernardi’s does, he could be a real threat at the next election, couldn’t he?

Simon Birmingham: Well, I don’t think that’s terribly likely and we shouldn’t overstate this. We’ve seen these trends and cycles before. Way back in 1998 when John Howard went to an election, Pauline Hanson got a big vote, almost double digits, one seat in the Senate, we saw a real rise of a different movement at that stage. We came past that stage and a few years later, John Howard was having a majority in the Senate himself and we saw the demise of that party. Only, yes, for it to come back again more recently.

Rosanna Mangiarelli: I’ve got to say, though, it did change the state of play in the US?

Simon Birmingham: Well, Donald Trump is one thing but Donald Trump stayed with one of the big parties. He became the presidential nominee for the Republican Party, one of the two big parties. So, I don’t know the analogy is quite the same. I don’t think people are looking for further fragmentation of Australian politics that will only deliver greater problems in terms of the way governments function. They want their governments to succeed.

Rosanna Mangiarelli: Well, it’s anyone’s game now. Simon, thank you very much for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you, pleasure.

[End of excerpt]