Flat White

Cory is not the enemy

9 February 2017

7:25 AM

9 February 2017

7:25 AM

As a member of the Liberal Party, and as a conservative classical liberal, I think it would have been better for Cory Bernardi to remain a party member. Now it’s not just party loyalty that drives me to say this, but rather the strategic objectives toward conservatism that I share with the senator. Like Bernardi, I don’t really care too much about the Liberal Party as an organisation; it is valuable to me only insofar as it’s a vehicle for sound government and the betterment of society through conservative and libertarian ideas.

But what’s done is done and Cory Bernardi is not coming back to the Liberals. The grandstanding and the whining about betrayal from his former party colleagues is to be expected, but is utterly pointless, apart from it being a rare opportunity for an MP to point to another man and say, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men – bigots, homophobes, racists – or even like this turncoat senator.” But good luck with that as a strategy at the 2022 South Australian senate election.


The whole betrayal line is unwise anyway, as who betrayed who remains an open question. It’s easy to say that most of Bernardi’s votes came to him via an above-the-line Liberal Party box, and so they did. But some voters voted for him personally, and it is impossible to say how many ticked the Liberal box because of Bernadi was on the list. Certainly he has a specific personal following. In any case, complaining about his right to leave the party as a duly elected senator is like moaning about winning the popular vote but not winning the presidency. Even Democrats in the US seem to have moved on from that.

Malcolm Turnbull, however, should stay well away from discussions about Bernardi, and certainly from any notions of crushing him. Rather, Turnbull should be having discussions with Bernardi. His priority should be leading the government, governing the country, and thinking about how best to execute the government’s legislative agenda given the new senate dynamic. If he wants to crush anyone, Bill Shorten would be a good target, and Question Time doesn’t count. Someone should also show the PM the latest Newspoll data. If an election were held today, the ALP picks up 16 seats and wins government. This is partly because of incompetent leadership, and partly because of Turnbull’s own betrayal of the conservative values and instincts of his party’s members and voters.

Bernardi’s defection is the beginning of the end for Turnbull. Nothing can save him. But it may indeed help the government if it pushes them to replace the PM, abandon the left wing vanity projects, and listen to the 50,000 or so people who already receive the “Australian Conservatives” emails, many of whom are longstanding members of the Liberal Party.

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