Bernadi strikes out on his own

Almost two years to the day after Tony Abbott faced a leadership spill, after granting Prince Philip a knighthood, parliment has started with a flurry, most notably Cory Bernadi resigning from the Liberal Party to start his own Australian Conservative Party. Bernadi says:

    he aims to provide the many disillusioned conservative voters with “a principled, credible and stable alternative in which they can vest their vote”.

Nick Economou has a good take on the affair, Bernardi exits stage right: mayhem now, obscurity later.

Ecocomou points out that there were 33 right-of-centre parties in the 2016 election, gaining 16.9% of the vote. That’s not counting Nick Xenephon. South Australia with the Greens, Xenephon and Family First all well-established outside the two majors, is probably the worst place to start a new party.

In the last election the LNP, Labor and Xenephon collared 10.5 of the 12 quotas on first preference votes. Hanson-Young took one reasonably comfortably. Bob Day got about 0.4% and scraped in on preferences.

It seems unlikely that anyone would be silly enough to follow him.

At Crikey William Bowe (Poll Bludger) takes a look at the electoral reality of Bernardi’s ‘silent majority’

    Cory Bernardi is no Donald Trump, and he is not going to sweep in a conservative revolution.

Bowe sees Bernadi fighting for the religious conservative scraps, good for the very occasional upper house seat, but precious little else.

    A couple of years ago, an unidentified Liberal MP put it to Sally Neighbour in The Monthly that Bernardi was “a person without any intellect, without any base, and he should really never have risen above the position of branch president”.

    Today at least, that’s looking pretty hard to argue with.

He was actually second on the Liberal ticket, according to Economou. Many feel they were voting Liberal rather than for a person, and now feel dudded. His former Liberal colleagues think he now occupies his senate seat under false pretenses, with some justification.

Guy Rundle, also at Crikey, feels Bernardi will be successful. Generally right wing parties are shambolic. He says:

    For though, compared to your bog-standard mainstream senator, Bernardi is a towering toga-wrapped-plaster-statue-in-a-Roman-themed-pizza-restaurant of pomposity, false self-estimation and historical delusion, compared to the rest of the right rabble, he is rationality itself. He knows how to get the numbers, build a movement, rope in a fundraising base. He’s a decent enough speaker, competent enough at TV interviews, and I’m guessing, a little more capable of strategic thinking than, say, Angry Anderson. With five years, and an office on the hill, if he can’t organise a multi-state movement and a South Australian base, I will be surprised.

Rundle feels that in Australia there is a class cleavage running between the progressive-knowledge class and everyone else.

    He [Bernadi], and the rest of the right, will find many people who feel that large-scale immigration has gone far enough; that the obsessions of the progressive-knowledge class are being imposed through their outsize power and presence in media and policy organs; and that they are being relentlessly targeted with statist behavioural engineering around smoking, fast food and a range of other causes.

Much will depend on whether he can find someone with the political and organisational skills that Pauline Hanson seems to have found in James Ashby.

So far Bernadi is known for such things as worrying that same sex marriage will lead to polygamy and bestiality, for climate change denialism, for free trade and small government, and a firm commitment to Judeo-Christion values which tips into an anti-Muslim stance.

I’ll be astonished if Bernadi is the man to rally Australian conservatism. Most see him as working in a small zone of about 5% of the population occupied by the religious right, which is not necessarily fluid, some of it being committed to existing minor parties, and indeed to Labor and the LNP. It remains to be seen whether he can break out and create a broader appeal.

Bernard Keane at Crikey says there is some justification in Bernadi’s contention that the Liberal Party’s values had been “set aside for expedient, self-serving, short-term ends”. However, Bernadi seems to be moving further away from traditional Liberal values.

Ben Eltham at New Matilda is intelligent and perceptive, as usual. Basically Bernadi wants to find a space further to the right of a Liberal Party that has already moved in that direction.

9 thoughts on “Bernadi strikes out on his own”

  1. It is a dilema facing both major parties. How much effort should the LNP spend fighting for the center against Labor and and how much trying to stop leakage to the far right. At the moment the toxic right is making it hard for the LNP to fight for the center.

  2. I’ve heard of Cori, he seems to have been a stone in the shoe for some time. I have no idea what he stands for or how he thinks he can change things. His influence, if any, would perhaps dilute the parliament of real reformist energy and lead to an extension of the current malaise.

    On another topic, the Bill to allow access to the Bass Straight gas seems to be progressing albeit with Lambi’s sensible objections. She demanded that some gas be retained for domestic consumption. The “responsible” Minister came out and said that there are no plans for any gas resources to be reserved for Australia, justifying that by saying the USA had no such policy. He added that such policies could inhibit capital investment.
    Given that our gas has been over-sold that would increase upward pressure on gas prices that is already occurring.
    Another speaker (my hands-free cut out who) said it was much about oil as gas. Xenophon was supportive of the Bill but I liked Lambi’s aggressive plain-speak drawing attention to the right of Australian consumers to have a guaranteed supply of Australian gas at affordable rates. And for the Minister to immediately rule our any retention immediately following Lambi’s words was just inept.

  3. Geoff: I think that, as a general rule, companies that are extracting non-renewable resources that we the people own should commit to meeting Australian demand before exporting surpluses. We should also make clear that royalties are not taxes. They are the price that they have to pay for extracting our non-renewable resources.
    I am a bit more ambivalent about gas. Increasing prices and making supply unreliable may accelerate investment in renewable energy and storage. On the other hand numerous industries do depend on gas a raw material for a whole range of products as a source of heat for purposes where electrical heating is difficult.

  4. Some previous defections were of greater moment if judged by the seniority of the ratter.

    Don Chipp had been a Minister, Cheryl Kernot a party leader, and Billy Hughes PM.

  5. Peter Brent thinks Bernadi lacks the name recognition to make an impact on the national level. I tend to agree with him. If you think how much coverage Xenephon gets, yet he doesn’t cut it outside his state. Still, if he really does have Gina Rinehart behind him, it might make a difference.

    Charles Richardson at Crikey says that amongst conservative groups in Australia you will find free marketeers and social conservatives, in varying proportions, but not much overlap between the two.

    Bernardi, however, has swallowed whole the idea that the two go together.

    That gives him a unique opportunity: a clever, charismatic leader with Bernardi’s views could potentially unite the disparate elements into a major force. But it seems to me more likely that Bernardi, lacking both intelligence and charisma, will be distrusted by both and before long will vanish without trace. Time will tell.

    Buzzfeed drags up this quote from Cory’s wife, Sinead, from 2011, which I knew about:

    Sinead, with whom he has two sons, aged 10 and 12, says they have the perfect marriage because they’re “both in love with the same man”. “Cory obviously has this huge belief in himself … If you didn’t love a guy who was so in love with himself you’d have a lot of trouble living with Cory. Life – I don’t think he’d mind me saying this – it’s all about Cory. I am all about Cory, and he is all about Cory, so it makes it easy.”

  6. JD thanks for adding the suggestion that high gas prices might stimulate renewable growth. If household energy costs rise certainly more home owners will opt for renewables, and especially so if storage becomes even cheaper.
    I’m not sure how it will affect larger institutions where often the defence against rising cost is simply to raise their selling price.

    Gas powered generating stations are already looking at on-selling their gas contracts rather than generate electricity because the returns are better. Swanbank is apparently an example – here’s an old link:

    According to the report, Stanwell Power intends (intended) to re-start a coal powered station to fill the power gap caused by closing the gas powered plant.

    Perhaps a way forward might be a retention policy that has a sunset clause, limiting the retention to say, five or eight years. That would help the short term issue and perhaps allow renewable policies to mature into renewable practice.

  7. Bernardi will not go anywhere much – SA field is too crowded – his strand of conservatism is already represented in SA by Family First. Could he “merge” with them? Too many big egos in a small party? Family First does have at the moment a short term senate seat while Bernardi has a six year term which might make a deal possible

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