When Cory Bernardi announced in February this year that he was leaving the Liberal Party to found a new conservative party, the mainstream media lined up to ridicule him predicting Australian Conservatives would be a flop. They predicted it would meet the same fate as other minor parties rising and falling over the past decade.
No less than six months later, Cory Bernardi has already began to achieve what others before him had failed to do, that is unite the disparate conservative parties in Australia under one banner. This was needed because of the abolition of group voting tickets in the Senate which meant that conservative parties could no longer easily swap preferences with each other in an effort to get one of them elected.
His first major breakthrough was the announcement that Family First would be absorbed into Australian Conservatives. The decision by Family First to join forces was a unanimous decision of all its state executives, and its two South Australian MLCs would become sitting members of Australian Conservatives. Family First has had a moderate level of success in Australian politics during its 15 years of existence, including electing two federal Senators, so the merger obtained a healthy voting base for Australian Conservatives.
Now Cory Bernardi has made inroads in Victoria with Democratic Labour Party MLC Dr Rachel-Carling Jenkins now joining Australian Conservatives in an effort to unite conservatives from across the state. The Democratic Labour Party has had a long history of internal implosions so Carling Jenkins is making the wise decision to be part of a stronger team. She has achieved a lot in the Victorian Parliament in blocking Daniel Andrews’ far left agenda on transgender birth certificates and removing religious discrimination exemptions. It now gives Australian Conservatives four elected representatives, in three parliaments and from two states.
It is worth adding that future merges with other conservative parties are likely, as Cory Bernardi is currently in talks with Australian Christians about joining forces. He has also had the most high profile member of the Australian Liberty Alliance Kirralee Smith of Halal Choice join the party as well. This is still very early days for the party, yet already so much has been achieved.
The leftward drift of the Liberal Party is also playing into Australian Conservatives’ hands. They just delivered a Labor-lite budget, they are committed to a high renewable energy target and international action on climate change, they will not address the problems with Islam and are looking at ways to get out of their promise to the Australian people to hold a plebiscite on same sex marriage. It was only revealed yesterday that the left-faction of the party is intent on dragging the Liberals further to the left.
Add to this Scott Morrison (an alleged conservative in the party) at the Liberal Federal Council on the weekend claiming that the Australian people are “not terribly interested in partisanship, not interested in the ideological debates that consume the extremes or the niche commentaries”. Cory Bernardi on the Bolt Report last night felt vindicated in his decision to leave and said that the Liberal Party left him, he did not leave them.
The mainstream media would appear to be letting Australian Conservatives fly under the radar. They continue to focus on the developments in the Coalition and One Nation as the only news coming from the ride side of politics. Perhaps it is because Bernardi has been so successful in his objectives and such a smooth political operator that there is no negative spin for the media to put on it.
Australian Conservatives already has a membership of 10,000. An astonishing achievement not only for a party founded just this year but also given that membership of the major parties continues to shrink. With such a strong membership base, it’s quite achievable for Australian Conservatives to be registered as a party in every state and run in all upcoming state elections.
A lot of commentators have been eager to point out that Australian Conservatives has not been tested yet at the ballot box and is only made up of MPs who have defected from other parties (including Bernardi himself). But looking at the Senate results from the last federal election and adding up the results of six conservative parties (Family First, Democratic Labour Party, Australian Christians, Christian Democratic Party, Australian Liberty Alliance and Rise Up Australia) the total is 4.71%.
Australian Conservatives is guaranteed to get at least the Family First votes, and will get a large chunk of the votes from these other conservative parties. We also shouldn’t discount the fact that he may get votes from One Nation, Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party and of course disillusioned Coalition voters. Given that the next Senate election parties will need a full quote (14.33%) informed conservative voters are likely to vote more strategically and vote for the conservative party most likely to get elected.
The upcoming state elections where Australian Conservatives are running and of course the next federal election might throw up a result which the media were not expecting. They certainly did not predict Pauline Hanson’s political comeback, they never thought Tony Abbott could become Prime Minister. Australian Conservatives could finally be the major breakthrough that conservative and right wing voters have been after to finally address the issues that Australians are currently concerned about.