Cory Bernardi to disband Australian Conservatives


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Senator Cory Bernardi will wind up his Australian Conservatives party, after its abysmal showing at the election.

Bernardi, who defected from the Liberals and formed the party in 2017, said on Thursday: “The inescapable conclusion from our lack of political success, our financial position and the re-election of a Morrison-led government is that the rationale for the creation of the Australian Conservatives is no longer valid.

“Accordingly, I will shortly begin the process of formally deregistering the Australian Conservatives as a political party.”




Read more:
As South Australia heads to the polls, the state is at a crossroads


There has been speculation that the South Australian senator – who is making it clear he wants to do all he can to help the Morrison government – may seek to rejoin the Liberals.

He told The Conversation: “I have not thought about it. My focus has been on the future of the [Australian Conservatives] party and will now consider what role I may or may not play in the next parliament”.

In his statement he said, “the Morrison government victory and policy agenda suggests we are well on the way to restoring common sense in the Australian parliament. That is all we, as Australian Conservatives, have ever sought to do.”

The Australian Conservatives attracted some disillusioned Liberal supporters while Malcolm Turnbull was prime minister.

The party swallowed the small conservative party Family First, which briefly gave it two South Australian state parliamentarians. It also briefly had representation in the Victorian parliament, with the defection to it of a Democratic Labour Party upper house member.




Read more:
Bernardi split is symptomatic of a fractured political system, here and abroad


Bernardi said times were “very different” when he launched his party in early 2017.

“Malcolm Turnbull was leading a Labor-lite Coalition into political oblivion. As they abandoned their supporter base in pursuit of green-left policies, major party politics became an echo chamber rather than a battle of ideas.

“The fact that over 22,000 people formally joined the Australian Conservatives in our first year demonstrated just how badly the Coalition were haemorrhaging supporters who wanted their enduring values and traditional principles upheld.

“However, the decision to make Scott Morrison prime minister truly changed the political climate and our political fortunes.

“Rather than punish the Coalition for another new leader, many Conservatives breathed a sigh of relief that a man of faith and values was leading the Liberals back to their traditional policy platform.”




Read more:
Bernardi should have resigned his Senate seat: here’s why


Bernardi said that at the election the party polled “a tiny fraction of the votes” required for success.

“We can make all the excuses in the world for the result but it is clear that many of our potential voters returned to supporting the Coalition when Malcolm Turnbull was replaced by Scott Morrison.

“Although we made it clear in the lead-up to the campaign that we were only running in the Senate so as not to be the catalyst for a change of government, our message didn’t get through.”

He said that while he had been urged to “deliberately court controversy” during the election to win attention, this “would have undermined the very premise of what we offered to the Australian people – a credible and principled alternative to the political fringe.

“Unfortunately steady and sensible didn’t work and it was frustrating that some single interest parties gained more votes than we did.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Merged minor parties chase votes on the right as identity crisis grips Coalition



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Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party has amalgamated with Family First, which shares similar social conservative values.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Zareh Ghazarian, Monash University

Cory Bernardi entered a new phase of his political career by announcing this week that his nascent Australian Conservatives party was to merge with Family First. The Conversation

The merger makes sense. Both parties advance a socially conservative agenda; both have origins in South Australia. And the merger is a savvy response to the changes to the Senate voting system that were introduced in 2016.

Benefits of minor parties merging

The changes to the Senate voting system abolished the group voting ticket. So, parties can no longer make the same preference deals they had in the past.

Merging, however, will provide like-minded minor parties with benefits.

First, they will be able to consolidate their human and financial resources for election campaigns and the party’s day-to-day operations.

Second, by merging into a “super” minor party, they maximise their chances of winning Senate representation: they pool their electoral support.

This sense of electoral fragmentation has been a greater problem for minor parties on the right of the political spectrum. The Greens, after decades of evolution, appear to have consolidated their role as the lightning rod for voters from the left who are unhappy with the choices provided by the major parties.

No such party, however, exists on the right, where myriad minor parties with competing agendas are clamouring for attention.

Social conservatism

The Australian Conservatives and Family First shared similar policies on a range of issues. In particular, they opposed same-sex marriage and abortion, and expressed deep suspicion about the role humans have played in climate change.

Both parties also sought to advance “traditional” family values and have been sceptical of the socially progressive policies promoted by the likes of the Greens.

But their opposition to same-sex marriage contrasts with others on the right of political spectrum – such as Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm, who supports it.

In 2016, Family First won a national primary vote in the Senate of 1.38%. Its best performance was in South Australia, where Bob Day – who is to be replaced in the Senate by Lucy Gichuhi – won a seat after polling 2.87% of the statewide primary vote. Gichuhi, however, will sit as an independent – not as an Australian Conservatives senator.

Race and immigration

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation made a remarkable return to the Senate in 2016, almost 20 years after it first emerged. Reflecting an approach common to right-populist parties in other liberal democracies, One Nation was deeply concerned about race, migration and religion.

Led by the charismatic Hanson, the party sought to advance the interests of “ordinary” Australians in a political system that it believed was over-run by professional politicians and political elites.

At the 2016 election, One Nation won a national primary vote in the Senate of 4.29%. Its best performance was in Queensland, where 9.2% of the statewide vote garnered it two Senate seats. It holds four seats in the Senate.

Libertarian

In 2013, Leyonhjelm led the Liberal Democrats to an unexpected triumph when he won the party’s first seat in the Senate. Since then, he has built a high public profile by advancing his party’s agenda, which focuses on individual liberties and freedoms.

The Liberal Democrats advance free trade, freedom of choice, and winding back the welfare state. The party supports euthanasia, the use of cannabis, and same-sex marriage.

It is also in favour of citizens having the right to own firearms as well as ending prosecutions for victimless crimes, which it describes as illegal but not threatening the rights of anyone else. These include “crimes” such as abortion, public nudity and the consumption of pornography.

However, Leyonhjelm differs from One Nation’s positions on some economic issues. For example, he supports cuts to weekend penalty rates and the privatisation of state assets – in contrast to One Nation’s opposition to both of these measures.

In 2016, the Liberal Democrats won 2.17% of the national vote in the Senate. Leyonhjelm held onto his seat after winning 3.1% of the statewide vote in New South Wales.

Liberal-National Coalition

While the minor parties mentioned above are advancing specific policy agendas, the major right-of-centre force appears to be grappling with internal divisions about the direction of its policies.

The belief that One Nation, Family First and the Liberal Democrats are chipping support off the Coalition has prompted some MPs to agitate for the party to promote more socially conservative policies. Former prime minister Tony Abbott has continued to advocate for the Liberal Party to shift to the right.

As a major right-of-centre force, however, the Liberal Party risks alienating socially progressive voters who have supported the party in the past. And the sense of a growing threat from minor parties on the right may be overstated.

As the electoral performances demonstrate, these minor parties were successful in 2016 thanks primarily to the double-dissolution election making it easier to win seats in the Senate. These parties would struggle to have as much success under the new electoral system at an ordinary half-Senate election.

Notwithstanding these elements, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s recent announcements of changes to citizenship laws suggest the Coalition leadership is responding to demands of the right from within the partyroom. Whether these will be enough to placate those seeking greater shifts to the right remains to be seen.

Zareh Ghazarian, Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bernardi split is symptomatic of a fractured political system, here and abroad


Tony Walker, La Trobe University

When political parties splinter, the consequences can linger for generations. Consider the Labor “split” of the 1950’s between the Catholic right and the Labor centre and centre-left.

In those days, the word “progressive” to describe a political tendency was not in general use, but those who remained in Labor’s ranks were forerunners of today’s “progressives”.

The Labor “split” kept the party out of power for a generation and reverberates in Australian politics to this day. It can be seen in elements of an old Labor working class constituency gravitating towards the populism of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and now, potentially, South Australian maverick Cory Bernardi.

It would be a stretch to compare Bernardi’s defection this week from the Liberal Party to establish his own “conservative movement” with the Labor split of the 1950’s. But combined with Hanson’s One Nation, these are perilous developments for the major parties.

Are we, as it seems, observing a further crumbling of the political centre with unpredictable consequences for the country’s direction? Or will we revert to the norm in which the major parties – aided by a voting system that favours the status quo – reassert themselves?

In the short term, I doubt that we will return to status quo politics.

If there was a detail writ large by this week’s Newspoll it was that one in three Australians were attracted to non-mainstream parties of left and right.

On top of that, a shrinking Coalition primary vote – which is down seven percent from the election to 35% – will have been especially worrying for a right-leaning alignment.

This far out from the next election due in 2019, polls are snapshots of the electorate’s mood. They are in no way prescriptive, but there is an unmistakable trend: support for the Coalition is continuing to bleed to movements of the right.

Just as Labor support has, over many years, bled to the populist Left in the form of the Greens, so is the conservative mainstream suppurating to Hanson’s One Nation and others on the right.

What makes all of this even more concerning – and less controllable – for the mainstream is that whatever is happening here is part of a global trend that is manifesting itself across Western democracies.

Donald Trump’s election on a populist anti-status quo platform in which he emphasised an inchoate antagonism towards outsiders – accompanied by nativist America First theology rooted in a need to build walls, economic and otherwise – is echoed by Hanson and now Bernardi, along with others.

Bernardi tells us he wants to “make Australia great again”.

Expectations Trumpism will crash and burn sooner rather than later may prove to be misplaced. Assumptions on which a rules-based, liberalising global order rests are being revisited, and risk being torn apart.

In France, for example, likely standard bearers in the forthcoming presidential election are espousing a form of anti-status quo populism of left and right as they compete for an army of disaffected voters across the political spectrum.

Historians and political scientists are scrambling to explain a populist phenomenon whose waves have crashed across the political landscape in the past year. It began with Brexit, followed by the Trump earthquake and accompanied now by indications German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leader – in the abdication of a US president – of liberal Western democracies, is in deep trouble with elections pending.

At home, Malcolm Turnbull, who has burnished his progressive credentials over many years, is himself a victim of a global antagonism towards identity politics and progressivism.

Turnbull can seek to reinvent himself by yielding ground to the right, but in the process he is squandering a valuable commodity – authenticity. And indeed inviting questions about whether he believed in anything in the first place, separate from acquiring power.

His give ‘em hell speech in parliament this week – in which he eviscerated opposition leader Bill Shorten over contradictions inherent in Shorten’s criticism of the prime minister’s elitist pretentions – is unlikely to be the game changer his supporters crave, unless it is accompanied by a marketable political narrative, and there is not much sign of that.

So, where is all this leading?

Margaret MacMillan, professor of history at Oxford and one of this generation’s more perceptive commentators, contributed a characteristically thoughtful assessment of where we stand now in the development of populist movements.

She makes a good point about what distinguishes the present from the past when she writes:

Protest movements throughout history have furnished ideas and leaders that have eventually become part of the political mainstream. The populist campaigns that gained so much ground in 2016, most notably in the UK and the US, are different, because they categorically deny the establishment’s legitimacy.

MacMillan reminds us that populism was first described in the late 19th century by American farmers railing against banks and railroad monopolies. These days, populist movements decry an establishment represented by the media, industrialists and politicians.

When Trump talks about “draining the swamp, these are his targets, especially a media that questions his word and his integrity, since his world is built on make-believe.

As MacMillian writes:

Political orientation is unimportant in populism, because it does not deal in evidence or detailed proposals for change, but in the manipulation of feelings by charismatic leaders.

Unlike traditional conservative or socialist parties, the new populism does not appeal to a socioeconomic class, but to identity and culture. Populists’ target audience is anyone who feels economically threatened by globalisation, worries that immigrants are taking jobs and changing the composition of society, or is simply unhappy with a perceived loss of status (a sentiment reflected in hostility, especially among white men to “political correctness”).

MacMillian’s essay describes the condition, but is less sure about what might be done to counter a trend that is upending the status quo.

Bernardi’s defection from the Liberal Party this week is less important in itself than what it says about a wider trend towards a fracturing of Australian politics. We have entered a new phase in which a split in conservative ranks risks proving the harbinger of an unsettling political environment unseen since the early days of Federation, and more recently the Labor split.

The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bernardi should have resigned his Senate seat: here’s why


Narelle Miragliotta, Monash University

Senator Cory Bernardi’s decision to quit the Liberal Party comes as no surprise to most political observers. For quite some time, and certainly since Malcolm Turnbull’s elevation to the Liberal leadership, Bernardi’s resignation from the party was always a distinct possibility.

However, his decision to quit the party without resigning from the Senate has sparked (the inevitable) condemnation from his former party colleagues. While he might well be feeling “reluctant and relieved”, many Coalition MPs are savage about this decision.

The perils of ratting out the party

Parties have little mercy for those in their ranks who quit the party but continue to occupy their seat in parliament. Such persons are often decried as “deserters” or “rats”.

In this case, the displeasure with Bernardi runs even deeper. From the Liberal Party’s perspective, it believed it had gone to some lengths to accommodate some of the senator’s policy concerns. Yet the efforts to appease Bernardi ultimately proved insufficient to prevent him from tendering his resignation only seven months after the federal election that granted him a six-year Senate term.

On a more practical level, Bernardi’s resignation makes an already complex Senate even more so for the Turnbull government. Once the vacancies triggered by Rod Culleton and Bob Day are filled, Bernardi will be among a 21-strong cross bench. The Turnbull government’s numbers have been reduced to 29 senators, 10 votes short of the 39 it needs to transact most business in the chamber.

High-profile, senior Liberal Party ministers, such as George Brandis and Christopher Pyne, have argued that Bernardi should resign as senator to give rise to a casual vacancy. This would enable the party to select a replacement senator.

The problem for the Liberals is that Bernardi does not believe he is under any particular obligation to do this. For Bernardi, the decision to resign from the Liberal Party is a matter of principle, and therefore justified and imperative.

In constitutional terms, Bernardi is not obliged to quit the Senate just because he has resigned from the Liberal Party. The party can do little to force his hand, except to hope that he might eventually fall foul of the Constitution’s various eligibility requirements to serve in the federal parliament. This would be unlikely.

Should Bernardi resign on ethical grounds?

While there is no constitutional basis for Bernardi to resign from the chamber, there is a compelling ethical case for him to do so.

Before I outline my reasons, I must clarify the scope of my claim. First, the argument is not directed exclusively at Bernardi. This is an argument that should apply to any senator who quits his or her party, short of reasons of their party imploding, or being fired by the party.

Secondly, this argument is not one that I would extend to members of the House of Representatives who resign from their party. It is particular only to party defections when the member was elected in a seat through proportional representation.

My argument is essentially tied to two particular features of the Senate electoral system: the statewide basis of that system and group ticket voting. In combination, these elements greatly heighten the importance of the party label to the electoral success of major party candidates.

The statewide basis of the electoral system creates a geographical obstacle for all but a rarefied group of candidates to build a sufficiently strong personal mandate to secure a Senate quota. For this reason most independent candidates choose to contest lower house electorates rather than nominate for the Senate, where campaigning is conducted over a much wider, often more diverse electoral terrain.

Group ticket voting has further elevated the importance of the party label to the election of Senate candidates. Known colloquially as “above the line” voting, it allows parties to predetermine their preferred order of election of their candidates. While voters are permitted to vote for any candidate in any order that they wish, most do not. Only a very small proportion of voters cast their vote within the party list.

The combination of these features of the Senate electoral system means that most major party senators would struggle to make a convincing case that they were elected on the basis of personal appeal and support.

If we use Bernardi as the case in point, of the 345,767 votes cast for the South Australian Liberals at the 2016 election, he attracted just 2,043 of the first preference vote. Bernardi’s re-election had almost nothing to do with his personal vote and almost everything to do with the Liberal Party label and the favourable number two Senate spot that South Australian party officials awarded him on the party’s ticket.

Established parties can legitimately claim, therefore, that the single most decisive factor that accounts for the election of their senators is the power of the party label. For this reason, senators who quit their party under the current rules should feel compelled on ethical grounds to resign their vacancy, so that the democratic will of the party’s supporters is fulfilled.

The Conversation

Narelle Miragliotta, Senior Lecturer in Australian Politics, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bernardi says his new party will offer a ‘principled’ alternative for disillusioned conservative voters


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Cory Bernardi, who formally defected from the Liberal Party on Tuesday, says he aims to provide the many disillusioned conservative voters with “a principled, credible and stable alternative in which they can vest their vote”.

As some ministers lashed out bitterly at him, accusing him of betraying those who had voted for him, Bernardi said the July election had seen one million votes leave the Liberal Party for alternatives.

“My ambition was always to bring those people back into the tent. I regret over the last seven months or so we see more of them leaving the tent. That says to me there is a serious problem,” he told a news conference.

Earlier, in a speech lasting less than five minutes, he told the Senate: “The body politic is failing the people of Australia”.

“When as a younger man I joined the ship of state, I was in awe of its traditions and the great captains that it guided us on our way. But now, as the seas through which we sail become ever more challenging, the respect for the values and principles that have served us well seem to have been set aside for expedient, self-serving, short-term ends. That approach has not served our nation well.

“The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, the lack of confidence in our political process and the concern about the direction of our nation is very, very strong. This is a direct product of us, the political class, being out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.”

Before his announcement, Bernardi rang Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but he did not attend the Coalition parties meeting to inform it of his decision. He justified this later by saying he had already resigned from the party and so was not eligible to attend.

Turnbull told Coalition MPs the honourable course would be for Bernardi, having been elected as a Liberal, to resign from the Senate – a line reflected in sometimes bitter comments from other Liberals, including South Australian Liberal cabinet minister Christopher Pyne, who tweeted that Bernardi should quit and recontest as an independent.

Tony Abbott, in a post on Facebook which appeared to indirectly criticise Turnbull, said he was “disappointed that more effort has not been made to keep our party united”.

“No government entirely satisfies all of its supporters. This is not an argument to leave; it’s a reason to stay in and fight more effectively for the things we believe in,” Abbott said.

Although critics such as Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the defection “dilutes our efforts to defeat the Labor Party”, Bernardi claimed it could “strengthen the ideological grounding of a centre-right government and that is my wish”.

His Australian Conservatives party will run Senate candidates, he said.

Asked whether as a crossbencher he would still vote for Coalition policies, Bernardi said: “My heart, my ethos is steeped in the Liberal Party. … If they put forward good policy, I will support them. If they err, I will tell them and try to amend it.”

On whether billionaire Gina Rinehart, an admirer and friend of Bernardi, would be a big funder of the Australian Conservatives, he said: “I have no idea. That conversation has not taken place.”

Bernardi rejected allegations that he had betrayed the South Australians who had supported him as a Liberal at the election.

“Every single Liberal Party voter and those party members knew exactly what they were supporting. My principles have not changed. My advocacy has not changed. I am seeking to do it in the most effective way.”

He said that going into the last election he had not intended to break away. He had said the election result was not good but “none of the people who said the base doesn’t matter, the conservatives have got nowhere to go, have been held to account for that result”.

He couldn’t say there was one straw that broke the camel’s back for him but “an amalgam of circumstances”.

He did highlight one policy matter for particular criticism. Late last year cabinet had authorised the investigation of what was in effect an emissions trading scheme, he said. “We fought that battle in 2009. It came at a huge personal cost. … I thought, why do I need to continually fight within my own party? I can’t struggle within the tent all by myself.”

The government’s leader in the Senate, George Brandis, said Bernardi had done the “wrong thing”.

“Seven months ago senator Bernardi was happy to stand before the people of South Australia to say he sought their endorsement to serve for a six-year term as a Liberal senator.

“In the seven months since the federal election, nothing has changed. There is no policy for which the Liberal Party and the government stands today, which is not the same as the platform on which senator Bernardi sought election.”

Brandis said the government would deal with Bernardi “as we deal with all members of the crossbench, in a professionally courteous and respectful way”.

“But we do not condone what he has done. Might I say, that if one seeks to restore confidence in the political class, it is a poor way to begin by breaking the promise one makes to one’s electors to serve for the political party on whose platform and whose ticket one stood.

“What senator Bernardi has done today is not a conservative thing to do, because breaking faith with the electorate, breaking faith with the people who voted for you, breaking faith with the people who have supported you through thick and thin for years and, indeed, decades is not a conservative thing to do.”

Former minister and a strong conservative Eric Abetz took a softer line than many of his colleagues: “There is no doubt that he is sincerely motivated. For the Senate, one it assumes it won’t make much difference in relation to the votes.”

Labor’s Senate leader Penny Wong said: “We know senator Bernardi’s view is far from an isolated one in this government. Because we know that amongst those opposite he is one of many, one of many, who believe that this government stands for nothing.”

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bernardi exits stage right: mayhem now, obscurity later


Nick Economou, Monash University

Whether it be due to hubris, courage or vanity, South Australian senator Cory Bernardi has decided to forsake the Liberal Party under whose auspices his political career had been nourished.

He will instead seek to create his own political party, Australian Conservatives. According to the conventions of Australian political science, Bernardi’s new party will be categorised as a “minor” party. This means it will be expected to win a minute share of the vote at the next election, that its only prospect for representational success will be in the Senate, and that it will be expected to last no longer than one turn of the Senate electoral cycle.

The current excitement surrounding Bernardi’s defection from the Liberal Party arises because of the deleterious impact it has on Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership. It also adds to the complex situation in the Senate that is already under the influence of a diverse and often erratic crossbench.

This is a situation that could last for some time. Bernardi, who was the second-placed candidate on the South Australian Liberal ticket in the 2016 double-dissolution election, is what the Constitution defines as a “first-class” senator, and thus entitled to a six-year term.

Even though he was elected as a Liberal candidate, Bernardi is under no constitutional obligation to relinquish his seat, so he will now doubtlessly start work on forming his new party. Somewhat ironically, he will be doing that under elections laws recently changed by the Turnbull government designed to make it harder for new parties to be formed, and restricting their ability to trade preferences with each other in future Senate contests.

If Bernardi does succeed in finding the requisite number of at least 500 bona-fide financial members in each state, and is able to put a national party organisation together, he will find himself in a crowded field.

Much has been made of the extent to which voters have been aligning their support away from the major political parties as a sign of drift to the right in Australian politics. This is true. But right-of-centre politics in Australia is a lot more complicated than the opinion polls indicate.

Most significantly, the rise in the total vote for right-of-centre candidates in the 2013 and 2016 Senate contests occurred alongside an exponential increase in the number of political parties being created.

In 2010, there were 13 parties advocating socially conservative and/or economic nationalist and/or anti-climate change sentiments, and who cross-preferenced each other in the half-Senate election held that year. This collection of parties won a national Senate vote of 3.8%.

In 2013, the number of right-of-centre minor parties had grown to 34, and the vote had increased to 15.7%. In 2016 the number of parties fell to 33, but the total national Senate vote rose to 16.9%.

This national figure includes some major state variations. It does not, though, include the impact of Nick Xenophon in South Australia which, by the 2016 election, had become very significant. In both the 2013 and 2016 elections, only a handful of the many right-of-centre parties won a primary vote above 4% – at which a political party becomes entitled to receive public election funding.

These parties included the Palmer United Party in 2013 (which imploded soon after the election), the Liberal Democratic Party in New South Wales again in 2013 but not 2016. In the 2016 election, there was Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Jacqui Lambie Network, and the Derryn Hinch Justice Party. Everyone else polled 3.9% or less.

In other words, the right-of-centre minor party vote is very thinly spread across a large number of competitors. Bernardi’s party would just be another one of these minor players.

Presumably, South Australia would be the organisational focal point for any party Bernardi would seek to create. The problem with that, however, is that Bernardi’s fellow South Australian, Nick Xenophon, has something of a monopoly over voters disillusioned with the major parties in that state.

South Australia is also the home base for the Family First Party. Its vote might not be great, but it seems to do well out of preference flows and usually manages to secure a Senate position. It might be six years before it happens, but Bernardi himself will struggle to hold on to his Senate seat.

The 2013 and 2016 election data do sustain the claim that there has been a swing to the right in the Australian electorate. But they also show that this has caused by a proliferation of right-wing parties, the vast bulk of whom secure a very small share of the primary vote (somewhere around 1%, on average).

The dominant players in the phalanx of right-wing minor parties have been those with high profile leaders or candidates (such as Clive Palmer, Jacquie Lambie, Derryn Hinch and Pauline Hanson). Bernardi may hope that his infamy could match the profile of these leading lights of populist anti-establishment politics.

But the reality is that a new conservative minor party headed by Bernardi would simply be adding to a political arena already saturated with conservative, populist, nationalist, anti-immigration and anti-environmental parties.

Bernardi’s actions do have some short- to medium-term implications, especially for the operation of the parliament, and the standing of the Liberal Party and its current leader. But the prospect of him being an influence beyond his current Senate term is very remote indeed.

The Conversation

Nick Economou, Senior Lecturer, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.