Divorce is almost always messy. After months of speculation and public bemoaning that the Liberal Party was ignoring its conservative base, hard right Senator Cory Bernardi today resigned from the Liberal Party and moved to the crossbench to represent a new Australian Conservative Movement.
In a brief speech to the Senate, Bernardi made clear the reason for his decision stating that the principles that have traditionally guided the Coalition have been disregarded in favour of measures that serve individuals and personalities – rather than the best interests of our nation.
Bernardi is clearly emboldened by movements such as Brexit and the rise of the Donald Trump, arguing that the political class is out of touch with hopes and aspirations of Australian people and that his new movement will prioritise stronger families, free enterprise, limiting the size, scope and reach of government, and rebuilding civil society.
While sticking strongly to his key message that the new Movement provides a “viable, credible, principled alternative” for those who no longer want to vote for a major party, Bernardi pointed to discussions around the reintroduction of an Emissions Trading Scheme and the growing disconnect between politicians and every day Australians as his explanation for standing as a Liberal candidate at the 2016 election.
What this means for the Coalition Government
The job of negotiating legislation just got one step harder for the Government. The Senate is currently made up of 29 Coalition Senators, 26 Labor Senators, now 20 crossbenchers (including nine Greens) and two vacancies (created by Bob Day and Rod Culleton). The Government will have to secure support from ten crossbenchers to pass contentious legislation.
Bernardi indicated he would be supportive of conservative policies particularly when it comes to the economy and budget repair – seeking “professional and productive” relationships with the Coalition, other parties and independents. Nonetheless, Bernardi did point to budget measures announced prior to the last election that he disagreed with, including superannuation, a long-term issue for families that the Government upended by changing its policy position.
Arguing that the Conservative movement can strengthen the centre-right grounding of a Coalition Government by providing a conservative “anchor” in the Senate, Bernardi will seek to run candidates at the next Federal election. But in the meantime – with Bernardi noting taxes, regulation and bureaucracy as areas for improvement while keeping further policy positions close to his chest – this move certainly puts a spanner in the works for a Coalition Government starting the year with dipping approval ratings and a now an even more challenging Senate negotiation process.
About Senator Cory Bernardi
Senator Cory Bernardi entered Parliament as Senator for South Australia in 2006, filling a vacancy following the resignation of Senator Robert Hill. Prior to entering Parliament, Bernardi was an investment adviser and fund manager for a decade and a self-employed hotelier.
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