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Saturday 08 April 2017

Death by Incremental Faction Fights?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 15th January 2017

Over in Australia, conservative Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi is disgruntled at the current Turnbull administration and is reportedly intent on forming yet another right-wing Australian 'conservative' party.

Senator Cory Bernardi
The problem is, when it comes to Australian politics, there are already a shoal of such parties, usually regionally based (in Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland) or strictly religiously social conservative in nature- Katter's Australian Party,the Democratic Labor Party (Victoria), the Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile), Family First Party (South Australia) and One Nation in the Queensland Legislative Assembly or the Australian federal Senate. However, all of the above have remained microparties, with the temporary exception of One Nation in its earliest Queensland days, when it took advantage of the weakness of the post- Bjelke Petersen Liberal-National Coalition in that Australian state.

However, Pauline Hanson's political inexperience and resultant organisational problems led to the rapid disintegration of her state caucuses in Queensland and New South Wales. It looks like history is repeating itself, given that one of erstwhile senators, Andy Semple, has already left her party a matter of months after the last Australian federal election. In New South Wales, the Christian Democratic Party has had similar problems maintaining any more than two Legislative Councillors at a time, while Victoria's Democratic Labor Party has been similarly beset by factionalism between seperatist conservative Catholics and pragmatist conservative Catholics who want to work with kindred fundamentalist Protestants. None have grown very far, and One Nation's track record is ominous when it comes to long-term political stability.

South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi wants the Liberal Party to 'return' to the days of Tony Abbott and John Howard, characterised by anti-immigrant racism, climate change denial and religious social conservatism. While Malcolm Turnbull pandered to the Australian Christian Right when it came to the aborted marriage equality plebiscite, refusal to hold a free parliamentary caucus conscience vote on the issue on the issue and junking the anti-bullying Safe Schools Coalition programme after scaremongering from an unrepresentative coterie of social conservative MHRs and Senators, nevertheless that's not enough for Cory Bernardi.

There are two points of friction with the Turnbull administration. One is climate change denialism, which was party policy under Tony Abbott, but which has been abandoned under Malcolm Turnbull. The other may well be euthanasia law reform, given that Bernardi is a religious social conservative. While that isn't a federal issue, euthanasia 'reform' only failed by a single Legislative Council vote in South Australia last year.

While the Australian federal Parliament can override the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory due to constitutional constraints on their autonomy, the Australian Constitution prevents similar repudiation of Australian state legislation- and Victoria may vote on the matter again this year. All of these matters are propelling Bernardi out the door of the Liberal Party. He is understood to have already met with US President-elect Donald Trump's campaign team and Australia's richest woman, Gina Rhineheart, may bankroll the group, based on Bernardi's existing "Australian Conservatives" pressure group within the Liberal/National Coalition.

Bernardi also supports sumptuary laws that would ban Muslim women wearing the burqa in public, opposes continued government funding of the publically funded commercial free Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and supports the removal of barriers to racist hate speech through deleting Section 18C of Australia's federal Racial Discrimination Act. He has also praised One Nation's call for racist and sectarian immigration restrictions.

Given that Bernardi's threatened secession would occur in the Australian Senate, it won't affect the Turnbull administration's one seat House of Representatives majority, except through further erosion of public confidence of a stagnating governing party already languishing behind the Australian Labor Party Opposition in most opinion polls.


Latika Bourke: "Conservative Party could win up to ten percent: Tony Abbott lashes out at Cory Bernardi breakaway party" Sydney Morning Herald: 30.12.2016:

Cory Bernardi:The Conservative Revolution: Ballarat: Connor Court Publishing: 2013.


Australian Conservatives:

Craig Young - 15th January 2017

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