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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 4

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (12:40): by leave—Mr President, I rise to inform the Senate that this morning I resigned as a member of the Liberal Party. I consider it my duty to inform the Senate of this decision prior to making any public comment. After a membership spanning my entire adult life, having been a state president and a federal vice-president of the party, this has been a very difficult decision for me—perhaps the most difficult one of my political life. I stand here today both reluctant and relieved: reluctant because this decision has weighed heavy on my heart but relieved because, whilst it is difficult, I believe it is the right thing to do.

When as a younger man I joined this ship of state I was in awe of its traditions and the great captains that had guided us on our way, but now, as the seas through which we sail become ever more challenging, the respect for the values and principles that have served us well seem to have been set aside for expedient, self-serving, short-term ends. That approach has not served our nation well.

There are few in this place or anywhere who can claim that respect for politicians and politics is stronger today than it was 10 years ago. In short, the body politic is failing the people of Australia and it is clear that we need to find a better way. The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, the lack of confidence in our political process and the concern about the direction of our nation are very strong. This is a direct product of us, the political class, being out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.

Politics at its best has always been the shared contribution of men and women of conscience who bring their skills to bear for the benefit of the nation. It is not in the interests of our nation to yield to the temptation of personality politics, which shrink the debate to the opinion of the few whilst compromising the good sense and values of the many.

For many years I have warned of the consequences of ignoring the clear signs. I have spoken of the need to restore faith in our political system and to put principle back into politics. I regret that too often these warnings have been ignored by those who perhaps needed to hear them most. It really is time for a better way, for a conservative way.

The enduring beauty of the conservative tradition is that it looks to the past to all that is good and great to inform the future. It is a rich paradox where the established equips us for the new. And so today I begin something new, built on enduring values and principles that have served our nation so well for so long. It is a political movement of Australian conservatives, a community of individual Australians who will share their unique gifts and talents to chart a better way for our nation.

We will be united by the desire to create stronger families, to foster free enterprise and to limit the size, scope and reach of government whilst seeking to rebuild confidence in civil society. We will give hope to those who despair at the current state of Australian politics and who demand a better way for themselves, for their children and for the nation.

The journey ahead will not be for the faint of heart, but worthwhile ventures rarely are. Every journey begins with a first step. Today I take that first step, knowing the direction in which I will be heading, and I hope that those who are truly concerned for the future of our nation will choose to join me. Mr President, in light of this you may like to consider the seating arrangements in the Senate in your further deliberations. I thank the Senate for their time.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Bernardi. Yes, I will consider the seating arrangements and discuss that with you later.