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Cory Bernardi will move to the cross bench after he announced his intentions to form a new party, the Australian Conservatives, in the Senate this morning.
Despite the ‘doom and gloom’ predictions for Malcolm Turnbull in the last 24 hours, the abandonment of one particularly painful Senator on his backbench could be helpful for the PM.
Other than the glitzy short term media coverage, it’s hard to see this is a positive move for Bernadi, who claims he has started his party in order to return the Liberal Party to its traditional beliefs and support base. For starters, no one is joining him in this party. How he survives the “rat” label and attacks from Government ministers is another challenge.
As a colourful government backbencher, every time he opens his mouth, the press reported what he said; he doesn’t need a new party to speak to his issues. Bernardi has crossed the floor multiple times in his voting life; sitting with the independents won’t make a difference either.
If he wanted to “serve the Liberal party” he’d still be in it, making the case for right leaning change. Moreover, if he wanted to “serve the Liberal Party”, he’d be working hard to axe his Prime Minister; a man who is seen as an enemy in his eyes.
With Bernardi walking away, Turnbull doesn’t need an excuse to agree with him every time he says something controversial in the public sphere. With Bernardi gone, Turnbull’s chance of winning a leadership challenge just increased by 1 vote.
Cory has chosen to put himself outside of the decision making tent, with a few good headlines for himself every now and then. Every policy battle just got easier for Malcolm Turnbull with this move. By far the biggest issue he needs to solve is how will he get re-elected at the next election?
His home state of South Australia is also home to Nick Xenophon, who has several Senate seats. Bernardi has been at the top of the Liberal ticket for the last few elections, meaning that he’s seat is assured. But as an independent, the fight to get that last senate seat is extremely difficult. Cory will have to work very hard to win it.
So sure, today is a nice day for Cory Bernardi.
But he’ll be in trouble at the next election and now he’s now outside the sphere of influence, sitting on he cross bench, with a Prime Minister that can now disregard anything he says in the same way the PM disregards Pauline Hanson’s comments from time to time.
If today is a nice day for Cory Bernardi, it’s a great day for Malcolm Turnbull.