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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 8


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (12:57): In Senator Bernardi we have six-and-a-half foot of ego but not an inch of integrity. I would have respected that speech if he had given it a year ago—before he stood as a Liberal Party candidate and waited to get himself a six-year term in the Senate. What a hypocrite, coming in here and talking about ensuring he is here to represent the values of people who have conservative views when he has shown himself to be a person lacking in integrity and substance.

What this reveals is that we have a divided government, where the right hand does not know what the far Right hand is doing anymore. This is a government now in turmoil—in absolute turmoil. We are seeing a sectarian split in the broad church that is the Liberal Party. We are seeing it come apart at the seams. There is a very clear message in this for Prime Minister Turnbull: you don't negotiate with extremists. You do not negotiate with extremists, because it does not matter how much you give them they always want more. It is never enough.

Look at the capitulation that we have seen from this Prime Minister on issues that he believed were issues of substance. Remember this was the Prime Minister who said that he would never lead a party that was not as committed to climate change as he is, but several days ago he was spruiking clean coal—straight out of the Senator Bernardi manual of conservative politics. He was out there spruiking for something that does not exist. We have entered fairy land here. On marriage equality, we have a man who has marched at a Mardi Gras now capitulating to the far Right in his own party. Perhaps he was convinced by Senator Bernardi's persuasive arguments around bestiality and the consequences that might flow if we allow people to marry each other, regardless of gender and sexuality. They are disgraceful contributions from a man who has not got the courage to put his views to the Australian electorate. On the republic, Malcolm Turnbull—the man who led the charge for Australia to become a republic—is now saying we cannot do anything until the passing of the Queen. Surely the point of a republic is that we do not have to take orders from the Queen, because we would be independent of the British monarchy. This is a man who has sold out on the most fundamental principles, who has so utterly capitulated to the likes of Senator Bernardi, Mr Christensen and so many others in his party room.

I heard this morning one of the Labor Party members refer to the Prime Minister as being paraded around like a prize bull at the Easter show, being paraded through the ring and being led by the nose by those on the far right. This is a prize bull who has now been knackered. This is a prize bull who now stands for nothing, incapable of doing anything. This is a man who is so hollow. This is a man who is so lacking in integrity and substance that perhaps he should join Senator Bernardi and they can form their own party: the Hollowmen. When it comes to taking a stand on the issues that matter—on climate change, on whether this country should end discrimination in marriage, on becoming a republic or indeed on taking on the dangerous lunatic that is now the President of the United States of America—what we see instead from this Prime Minister is appeasement. It is time for this Prime Minister to decide what he stands for and to ensure that the Australian community is given the opportunity to vote for somebody who at the very least will take a position based on principle, rather than for a Prime Minister who has sold out on his core beliefs and has capitulated to the likes of Senator Bernardi.

I say to Senator Bernardi: what is the point? How much further can the coalition go? What do they need to do to satisfy you? Zero taxes, is that what you want? No public health care or education in this country, is that what you want? How much further can this government go in tearing up the social safety net, in shredding universal health care and education, before the likes of Senator Bernardi and Mr Christensen will be satisfied?

The lesson here is very, very clear. Senator Bernardi is 6½ foot of ego and not an inch of integrity. If he had had the guts to do it a year ago he might have got some grudging respect, but to do it just after he has been given a six-year term shows the sort of person that he is. As for the Prime Minister, hopefully he will take stock now and recognise that in capitulating to the views of the far right he is not just selling out the Australian people but selling his soul, and the Australian people know a sellout when they see one.