Senate debates

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Parliamentary Representation

Valedictory

5:44 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party, Minister for Agriculture) Share this | Hansard source

On behalf of the National Party, I'd like to make a short contribution. Those of us who are privileged to work here in this place know of Senator Bernardi's passion, his passionately held views and, importantly, his strongly lived conservative values. We'll be very, very sad to see him go. He has at times been a headline writer's dream because of those impassioned speeches in this chamber. But wider Australia got to know him a little bit better thanks to fellow South Australian Annabel Crabb, who asked him some probing questions. He handled those with his strong conviction. As Nats, we were all incredibly impressed with how he handled the Australian sustainably harvested prawns and salmon on the barbecue! He did that very, very well during that episode. In hindsight, we could have recruited you, Senator Bernardi, to the grill at the National Party annual Christmas seafood barbecue over the years!

Senator Bernardi is a true friend of regional Australia and agriculture. During one of the many debates in this place on water he said, 'When I look at the river, I see a river, I see trees and I see aquatic life, but I also see communities and agriculture, and I actually see them as necessary.' He went on to talk about the economic lifeline that water is to agriculture for rural and regional communities in this country.

Regarding his past as an elite athlete, as a past sports minister I think he'd make a great contribution in a certain ongoing organisation that deals a lot with sport in the future—

Senator Farrell interjecting—

He is an excellent chair, Senator Farrell, but his past as an elite athlete has served him well—his ability to work with and lead successful teams, his work ethic, his focus and his discipline. And I think you saw today, and through his entire work, his respect for his foes. I think that's important.

He has defended and argued for his beliefs and passions with conviction, often in the face of substantial public criticism that was, in the majority, completely unnecessary. But quiet Australians appreciated Senator Bernardi's contribution to the public debate. They recognised their values, their opinions and their perspective in a lot of what he has been able to contribute in this place and outside it, over time. He has paid politically and personally for those views. It is lovely to see his family here. Families are our sometimes unwilling conscripts to the work that we do. Those beautiful boys really are a testament to you and Sinead. Well done to everyone there.

Senator Bernardi has always presented his views in a respectful way. I think the word 'integrity' sums up the way Senator Bernardi has chosen to approach his politics. Importantly, he's always accepted the majority public decision when it is against his own personal views—a true democrat, but in a good way. I think that shows his strength of character.

We've got three new National Party female senators after the election, and they've all made comments around wanting to thank Senator Bernardi for making them feel so welcome and for being so generous in sharing his experience and knowledge. I know that if two National Party members of 'the G8' were here they would also want to say a huge thank you. For us Nationals, for that group to stand so strong in the face of such fierce opposition—you changed the course of our nation, and I think we all owe you and that group of eight people a debt of gratitude.

Senator Bernardi, your pre-political life covered a lot of areas. The National Party love a good small business owner. If you are tired in your retirement, if it doesn't deliver all you're hoping it will, there is a conservative party looking for new South Australian members. It shares your Christian values and your family values. It also seeks to represent rural and regional Australia. It's a party that enjoys a seafood barbecue and a Christmas party with family and friends. It's a party of patriots. Go well, Cory, the Nationals thank you for your friendship, integrity and values and for your contribution to our nation.

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