Full disclosure: the only time I’ve ever seen any of ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet is when it featured on Gogglebox a few weeks ago. If I wanted to watch a cooking show, I’d watch Top Chef. If I wanted to watch a series about politics… well, I wouldn’t. I know more about Jed Bartlet than Malcolm Turnbull, but even I have heard of Cory Bernardi.
The ultra-conservative Liberal politician who’s not only spoken out against same-sex marriage and the wearing of burqas but done so in a wholly objectionable way played host to Kitchen Cabinet’s Annabel Crabb this week. The results were far from riveting, but in between showcasing Bernardi’s artwork, mango-peeling skills and fancy BBQ, there were a few genuine insights into the controversial parliamentarian.
People in his office tease him about those gay marriage bestiality remarks.
Remember that time when Bernardi compared gay marriage to bestiality?
Seems his headline-grabbing stance is a source of mirth among the members of his office, who love nothing more than to give the Liberal senator novelty bottles of wine, including one with a label depicting him involved in some canine love. “They’re clearly very creative and that’s what we encourage in my office,” he smiled like an indulgent uncle. There’s also clearly no sense of shame over the comparison Bernardi made in Parliament.
He's just like any of us. Any of us who've been on a rowing team.
The whole point, I assume, of Kitchen Cabinet is to profile politicians in their natural environment, showing a more human side to the men and women elected to office. The benefit for the politicians themselves must no doubt be to work on their public image – proving that they are real people, too. To achieve this, Bernardi regaled host Annabel Crabb with an anecdote about how the team he used to row with only became good after he left due to injury. That team? The Oarsome Foursome.
He says things no one wants to say and so he's some kind of martyr maybe?
Or, at least, he likes to think of himself as one. Of the lambasting he’s received for his outspoken views, Bernardi said, “Ultimately, I think there are things that need to be said. For those who… want to achieve a higher office for the sake of higher office, they can’t say them. They need someone else to open it up.”
And he’s perfectly happy to bear the brunt of the outrage – and sacrifice his own career advancement – to make other politicians’ lives easier. “I’m strong enough to take the slings and arrows that politics dishes up. I don’t lose any sleep over it. If I can make it easier for others to venture down a path and deal with issues, then I think that’s a worthwhile endeavour.” #whataguy.
As the champion of the politically incorrect, he does not go over well at dinner parties.
Not everyone, it would seem, disagrees with Cory Bernardi’s views. The senator seemed quite proud of the fact that a number of people told him to “keep going, mate”. Of course, the fact that those people whispered that encouragement in his ear rather than saying it aloud didn’t set off alarm bells for him. In fact, he acknowledged that those people realised that their shared stance was politically incorrect. “You don’t raise it any dinner parties for fear of everyone turning on you,” he said.
He thinks no one tells pollsters the truth… because he once lied to one.
Bernardi dismisses the idea that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage. His justification for this? Oh, well, no one tells pollsters what they really think. He mentions a time when he deliberately deceived a pollster during the Keating government. “They came and did a survey about unemployment and I wanted to make the figures as bad as possible so I told then my whole family was unemployed.”
He’s not flinching on his stance on burqas.
The only time Bernardi’s perfectly pleasant meal with Crabb seemed in danger of getting awkward was when she challenged him on his attitude towards women wearing burqas in Australia. “Anyone who wants so to go around covering their face in a burqa or a niqab is flouting every single one of our cultural norms,” he replied. “When you engage with people in the street, you expect to be able to see their face. I just find it extraordinary that people say, ‘That’s OK. Someone else’s culture, which is so alien to ours, we should be accepting and embracing here.’”
He’s supportive of migration, though, saying it’s “added so much to our country” – but argued that “the success of our migration program has always been about integration – let’s accept that there are certain premises that take place in this country and let’s add our little bit to it to make it better.”
Sounds a little like he wants to have his baklava and eat it too.
Sure, Bernardi. That’s what it’s about.
He's ready for a fight.
As Crabb prepares to leave Bernardi’s comfortable abode, he joked, “There are times where if I haven’t been criticised by the ABC at least once a week, I have to go to confession and examine my conscience. If they’re not picking on me, I go, ‘Maybe I’m not doing my job properly.’” Except he probably wasn’t actually joking.
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