July 29th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The rise and rise of Old King Coal

EDITORIAL Behind Donald Trump's endorsement of Poland

CANBERRA OBSERVED Cory Bernardi claims strong flow to his ranks

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Liu Xiaobo's extraordinary courage remembered

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Why we must fight for freedom: Trump in Poland

HEALTH Gardasil(R) and the man upon the stair, Part II

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Death of caliph will hasten end of Islamic State

MUSIC What's in a tune: minor change makes a major difference

CINEMA Spider-Man: Homecoming: Reboot on a domestic scale

BOOK REVIEW Moves that may push our constitution over

BOOK REVIEW Exposing the transgender agenda


GENDER POLITICS Edmund Rice Education Australia proposes transgender sex-ed

GENDER POLITICS Melbourne mum goes viral on 'Safe Schools'

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Cory Bernardi claims strong flow to his ranks

by NW C

News Weekly, July 29, 2017

When South Australian Senator Corey Bernardi announced he was leaving the Liberal Party in February to set up his own party, naysayers described it as a fit of pique and/or a vanity project.

Bernardi had become slowly fed up with the Federal Coalition over a number of issues, clashing not only with Malcolm Turnbull but with Tony Abbott before him.

But less than half a year later, Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives has emerged as a genuine force on the right of Australian politics and a serious threat to the voter base of the Coalition as it begins the process of registering as a political party up and down the eastern seaboard.

Even without an election the Australian Conservatives already has four members of Parliament in Australia, and if apparent nominal support translates into actual votes, those ranks could swell over coming state and federal elections.

The four MPs include two former Family First members in the South Australian Parliament, plus Rachel Carling-Jenkins, who recently left the Democratic Labour Party to join the Australian Conservatives, in the Victorian Parliament, and of course Senator Bernardi himself.

Bernardi is currently not anticipating any further defections, but won’t be knocking them back either.

“The reason I say that is because I will not pressure anyone into joining the Australian Conservatives,” he told Fairfax Media, though at the same time he sensed a wave of support: “Politics as usual is failing the people, that’s why there are so many turning off the major parties.”

More than 100,000 Australians have given their email address to the Australian Conservatives. That is a significant mailing list of motivated people. Each one of these potential supporters receives material from the party and many have made donations.

However, Bernardi is not counting his chickens: only those who have signed up for formal membership of the party and paid their first year’s annual dues are counted as genuine members.

Bernardi says his party already has about 2,500 members in Victoria, while its total national membership had gone from zero to something approaching 13,000.

Each member pays a $25 fee and there are no discounted or free memberships, which mainstream parties use to stack branches and bolster their numbers.

The Australian newspaper’s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan, recently penned an opinion column with the opening warning: “Watch out Malcolm Turnbull and all eastern state Liberal Party leaders – Cory Bernardi is coming hunting for your members and your voters.”

Indeed, the Liberals and to a lesser extent the Nationals, are vulnerable to a bleeding of supporters on their conservative flank. “It is by no means unlikely that the party will recruit more members of parliament to its ranks before the Victorian and South Australian elections next year and the NSW election the year after, while timing for the Queensland election is uncertain,” Sheridan wrote.

A key strategic mistake Malcolm Turnbull has made in seeking to govern for the “sensible centre”, has been his failure, deliberate or otherwise, to understand the nature of the Coalition base.

The foot soldiers of the Liberal Party, the party faithful, the bulk of donors and the election-day volunteers, are as a rule quite conservative, socially, culturally and economically. And the party members in the seat of Wentworth (Turnbull’s Sydney eastern suburbs seat) are atypical of the rest of the party.

So, these members and supporters are potential fodder for Australian Conservatives or One Nation, which is clearly a rival party.

Pauline Hanson has a large and rusted-on support base, and a grudging respect from many “non-political” voters who are angry about being left behind by government and globalism and who despise multiculturalism and what they perceive to be an out-of-control immigration policy.

But the history of One Nation is one of defections and infighting and occasional outlandish policy ideas. It has largely survived through Hanson’s personal resilience, which many voters respect.

Many Australian voters will be torn between these two parties.

According to its manifesto, Australian Conservatives is a movement, not a political party.

“We support and advocate for the essential pillars of conservatism as a means of building a sustainable and prosperous economy and maintaining civil society. Thousands of years of human experience have demonstrated what works. Unfortunately, this lived experience is ignored by too many involved in politics today,” the manifesto says.

The rapid rise of the Australian Conservatives has been the result of its being a conduit for disaffected Coalition supporters, for conservatives who no longer feel they have a voice, and for Australian patriots who want to believe their country has a future in a globalised world.

Bernardi himself is keen to cast himself and his movement as “anti-politician”, and this has helped garner support. Unfortunately his support for libertarian economics, which has expressed itself in rapacious globalism and the misnamed “economic rationalism”, leaves voters on the conservative side who yearn for some economic justice – or just a job – with no one to turn to. In this Bernardi differs in no way from the Coalition or the ALP.

But in the end only the ballot box counts, and getting more members elected will be the real test.

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