Former Liberal Senator and now independent Cory Bernardi has confirmed he will be exiting politics at the end of the year.
South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi will quit politics at the end of the year but says he stands by his principles and sometimes divisive views.
The Liberal-turned independent defected from the party two years ago to found the Australian Conservatives movement amid discontent with former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.
He attracted controversy during his time in Parliament over calls to ban burqas, critical views on same-sex marriage and climate change scepticism.
But the Senator, who entered Parliament 13-years ago, said he stands by his convictions and had few regrets.
“One of the great things is my integrity is intact – I feel very comfortable with who I am – what I’ve spoken about,” he told Sky News.
“Other people will define [my career] how they want to.”
Senator Bernardi deregistered his Australian Conservatives movement in June after a poor Federal election result.
He claimed a lack of support for his own party was based on the more conservative leadership of Scott Morrison.
His break-away from the Liberals came from concerns the party was veering too far to the left.
Senator Bernardi said his views had sometimes been “twisted and distorted” by critics of his positions.
“People use what they want to use for their own purposes," he said.
“I’ve never backtracked from anything I’ve said because I believe it – I strongly stand by convictions and people can make their own judgements.”
Because the South Australian was elected as a Liberal, his retirement will allow them to fill the casual vacancy.
But Senator Bernardi had already generally voted with the Government.
The Senator said the “timing” was right for him to step away from politics.
“If nothing else I’ve opened up lots of conversations – I remain true to my values and principles,” he said.
“People will make judgements about whether they were right or wrong – and whether there were injustices or good fortune.”
The Coalition will have 36 senators when the vacancy is filled, requiring only three extra votes for a majority to pass legislation and motions.
Earlier this year the former investment adviser and hotelier said it was a "safe bet" he would retire before the next election.
“I strongly stand by my convictions and people can make their own judgements.”
“I know that there is another chapter of my life that is going to unfold and I feel in a very comfortable and happy place,” he said.
With additional reporting from AAP