Senate debates

Monday, 7 November 2011

Matters of Public Importance

Gillard Government

4:18 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to comment on the matter brought forward by Senator Bernardi and spoken to by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Abetz. I note that neither of them are in the chamber—so much for the urgency of this particular proposal. I am not surprised that Senator Bernardi has brought forward a climate change denying, anti-climate-action proposal to the Senate. I note that he wants to discuss the wholesale adoption of the policy agenda of the Australian Greens. I think that it is much more interesting to look at the wholesale adoption by Senator Bernardi of the policy agenda of the extreme US radical Right and the policies that he brings to the coalition in Australia.

Disgraced Liam Fox was a former minister in the UK who was forced to resign because of his association with a Mr Werritty. Mr Werritty was one member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. It is fascinating to see that the Australian representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council is none other than Senator Bernardi. The American Legislative Exchange Council is backed by big oil, big tobacco, the National Rifle Association, the climate change deniers and the defence hawks in the US.

I note with interest than on 2 June this year the American Legislative Exchange Council wrote to the Department of Health and Ageing opposing plain packaging and making a strong case, on behalf of big tobacco, against plain packaging. Among the people they copied it to was none other Senator Bernardi, their Australian representative. You have to wonder about the extent to which Senator Bernardi has adopted their agenda and, indeed, the agenda of another US right-wing radical organisation, none other than the Heartland Institute. We recall that Senator Fielding went across to the US at the expense of the Heartland Institute and came back and told us that global warming was not real and was to do with solar flares et cetera.

Let us have a look at what Senator Bernardi has been up to that might give me cause for concern. It was reported in the Age recently that what appears to be a proliferation of community based anti-government activism sites is not necessarily what it seems. Several sites are part of an orchestrated political campaign by Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi and conservative organisations that he is linked with. Using American Tea Party style tactics, Senator Bernardi has built a network of grassroots political websites that promote limited government, lower taxes, free enterprise and traditional values, as well as campaigns against the government and its policies, most potently against the carbon tax. What we found from this article was that this disgraceful set of websites was linked to the Conservative Leadership Foundation, of which Senator Bernardi is the chair. But it was not until you actually got to donate money that you worked through and found out who the backer was. And where do you find where this domain is registered? Of course, it is in the US. So what we find is this very close link with Senator Bernardi, who is the representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council. They are a council that develop model laws, model legislation, on behalf of major corporates in the US, and they are laws which are undermining wages and legal rights—it is a way that corporations get what they want, and corporations are on every single task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Interestingly, Donald Rumsfeld was a chair of one of their business boards in the past.

So, looking at this issue of the policy agenda and adoption of policy agendas, one has to ask the question about the links between the coalition in Australia and the Tea Party in the United States, the US radical Right, through the connection of the now acting Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. This goes to the heart of Tories in the UK and it now apparently goes to the heart of the coalition in Australia. So let's look at this link between fake websites, very real corporate astroturfing organisations and the connection that Senator Cory Bernardi has with both.


Henare Degan
Posted on 28 Nov 2011 5:05 pm (Report this comment)

Here's the article referred to in this speech: