The controversial senator who once warned same sex-marriage would lead to polygamy and bestiality has left the door open to rejoining the Liberal Party after hailing Scott Morrison’s elevation as Prime Minister.
South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi has revealed he is ready to consider a return to the fold if the Prime Minister picks up the phone and asks him.
“I am open to having a conversation with the government about how best I can support their agenda but I’m not compromising myself,” he told Sky News.
The Prime Minister is holidaying on an island in Fiji with his family after his historic election victory.
If Senator Bernardi ultimately rejoins the Liberal Party he will strengthen Mr Morrison’s position in the Senate from 35 to 36 votes – just three votes short of a majority.
“I do want to see this government succeed so I’ll think about how best I can do that,” he said.
In practice, Senator Bernardi is already expected to vote with the Liberals on key legislation, but it would formalise the arrangement and force the Coalition to rely on Centre Alliance and Senator Jacqui Lambie to pass legislation, or Pauline Hanson and Centre Alliance.
By rejoining the Liberal Party at this stage in the electoral cycle, Senator Bernardi would never be forced to fight an election as an independent because he left the Liberal Party in 2017, just months into a six-year term that expires in 2022.
Senator Bernadi has previously rebuffed talk of returning to the Liberals but said his goal when he left was that his independence would become “redundant”.
“I do think Scott Morrison has claimed a lot of the territory that was very fertile for the Australian Conservatives. He’s a man of faith, he’s a relentless campaigner,” he said.
The South Australian said he was pleased that Mr Morrison’s leadership had seen many conservatives return to the fold compared with Malcolm Turnbull’s reign. The pair had a testy relationship.
In 2012, Senator Bernardi resigned from the Liberal front bench over a speech where he warned that permitting same-sex marriages would lead to legalised polygamy and bestiality.
“There are even some creepy people out there who say it is OK to have consensual sexual relations between humans and animals,” he said.
“Will that be a future step? In the future will we say ‘These two creatures love each other and maybe they should be able to be joined in a union?'”
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at the time the views were “hysterical.”
“They are hysterical, they’re not the views of the mainstream Australian society – let alone of the Liberal Party,” Mr Turnbull said.
Senator Bernadi entered politics in 2006 for the Liberal Party after a casual vacancy sparked by the resignation of former defence minister Robert Hill.
But he quit the Coalition to sit on the crossbench two years ago after clashes with Mr Turnbull and Tony Abbott.
The former financial adviser proved controversial from the start. In 2007, he rose to a junior position as parliamentary secretary for families and community services.
A devout Roman Catholic, he was a campaigner against abortion and questioned the ethics of granting human rights to great apes while ignoring the rights of the unborn child. In his maiden speech, he praised his mother for staying at home to raise him.
He later claimed to have identified a loophole in government legislation that allowed some women who aborted their pregnancies to claim a $5,000 “baby bonus” – a claim the government denied.