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18C not proxy for leader change: Bernardi

AAP logoAAP 3/09/2016 Rashida Yosufzai

Outspoken Liberal senator Cory Bernardi says his push for changes to racial discrimination law isn't a proxy for changing the party's leadership but an opportunity for the Liberal party to reconnect with its base.

Senator Bernardi has managed to secure the backing of all Liberal members in the Senate bar one to support the watering down of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

"The Liberal party clearly needs to reconnect with its base, and I think I'm pretty close to the base on this, they want the Liberal party to honour its commitment from the 2013 election and also Malcolm Turnbull who supported these reforms when he wanted to be prime minister," the senator told Sky News.

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke suggested most of those backing the changes only wanted to have a form of racial abuse sanctioned.

"What do they want people to be allowed to say that they are not allowed to say now?" he asked on ABC TV.

But the fact that there's no chance for the changes to pass parliament showed Senator Bernardi and his supporters also wanted party instability.

"The only possible reason this is being advanced is to cause further instability within the Liberal party partyroom, and the signatures that Cory Bernardi got together, getting an extraordinary number of backbenchers together I think says it all."

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