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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9850

Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (15:38): Before I address the substance of what I really wanted to do in taking note, I want to comment on what Senator Gallagher has said. Suicide is an extraordinary epidemic in our country. I do not think there are too many families who have not been touched by it in one way, shape or form either through extended friends or experience. In my own case, it caused me to reflect to when I was an employer and one of my employees took her own life. A couple of us went to inquire as to her welfare and we found her. It was a devastating experience for all involved—family, friends, work colleagues and everyone else. While Senator Gallagher was talking, I thought 'Could we have done more?' and it may have simply been to inquire further after someone's welfare. I support whatever endeavours are taking place on either side of the parliament in respect to inquiring as to the mental health and wellbeing of other people.

However, during question time there were lots of allegations made about misleading the parliament and misleading the Senate. In question time, I made a contribution which was to wish everyone a merry Christmas. I was not misleading the Senate when I said that. I was absolutely genuine in my good wishes for all of those in this chamber. Christmas is a time for reflection, where we think very carefully about the blessings that we have, the great fortune that we have and extend goodwill and best wishes to those all across the Senate.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Bernardi—

Senator BERNARDI: I wondered how long this would take.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: if you could resume your seat. Senator McEwen, on a point of order.

Senator McEwen: Yes, a point of order. The question before the chair is to take note of answers to questions asked by Senators Cameron and Collins about Minister Brough and also answers to questions asked by Senator Gallagher about mental health. I know Senator Bernardi addressed mental health, but I have no idea which of those answers he is addressing in this part of his contribution.

Senator BERNARDI: Mr Deputy President, in response to the point of order. It was very clear that I referenced how the allegations in question time were about misleading the parliament or the Senate and I was merely contrasting the allegations on that side with the fact that I was absolutely genuine in my contribution during question time, and I think the segue is perfectly legitimate and plausible. If the Christmas grinches on the other side do not want to hear about goodwill to all, that is for them and they can leave.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you. I cannot actually rule on this point of order. I do not want to upset you, Senator Bernardi, but I was not listening to your contribution because I was getting instructions from the Clerk about how we are proceeding for the rest of the day. So you have the call and I think you are going to finish in about two minutes.

Senator BERNARDI: Are you looking forward to me completing my response? I will not take it personally that you were not listening to me. I will I send you the Hansard, if you like, and you can enjoy my contribution once again! There was certainly a segue from the allegations that were made in question time to my own contribution, which was on a point of order, and it may have been spurious but it was about saying Merry Christmas to everyone. In the cut and thrust of political battle, where we often make all sorts of allegations about others and motives on the other side, it is important to reflect on the importance of the Christmas season. You do not have to be a particularly religious person to embrace the culture that arises out of it. That is where we give thanks for—

Senator Carol Brown: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order on direct relevance. It is quite clear that Senator Bernardi is responding to the motion before the chair. It is also quite clear that Senator Bernardi is not prepared to support his colleague in the House, Mr Brough. If he does not want to do that, he should just sit down.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Are you going to speak on the point of order, Senator Bernardi?

Senator BERNARDI: I would be delighted to respond. Senator Brown may have been asleep while I was addressing the important thing of suicide, which Senator Gallagher raised, and also in my subsequent response which has been about the allegations of misleading the parliament. I am proving my bona fides in that I have not misled the parliament. It is very clear.

Senator Cameron: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on the point of order. I just do not think Senator Bernardi has gone anywhere near the issue that is before the Senate. In relation to what he has been saying, it sounds as if he is looking for a new career outside of parliament as a Methodist preacher. He should not be doing an interview for a Methodist preacher and wasting the time of the parliament.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thankfully, I have been listening to Senator Bernardi's contribution since the last point of order and I think he may have strayed from the question before the chair. So I would remind him of the question.

Senator BERNARDI: Who am I to disagree with your ruling, Mr Deputy President. I want to thank the honourable senator's on the other side for allowing me to make a contribution. With only 10 seconds left, I would really like to take this opportunity to once again wish all of my colleagues the spirit of goodwill and merry Christmas, no matter where they sit in this chamber.

Question agreed to.