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February 08th 2017 print

Christopher Carr

The Bernardi Challenge

Conservative voters must now ask if their primary loyalties are to principles or party? For a growing number, the notion that the Coalition can get by, can still garner their votes, by presenting itself as no better than the lesser evil -- Labor Lite with dash of Green, if you will -- no longer cuts it

cory rat Cory Bernardi’s departure from the Liberal Party has provoked inevitable condemnation from his erstwhile colleagues. Typically and predictably, he has been described as a rat — a theme the front page in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph encapsulated with its PhotoShopped image of the rogue senator, complete with ears, teeth and whiskers.

Yet, however one assesses Bernardi’s political judgement, the rat image is entirely wrong. In the metaphorical sense, a “rat” is a contemptible person, characterised by lack of principle, opportunism and cowardice. Who has not heard the expression, “rats deserting a sinking ship”. Well, the Liberal Party is certainly foundering, but Bernardi is hardly jumping ship for a safe haven.

Let us be objective. Cory Bernardi is taking a huge political risk. True, he has a six-year term in front of him, but after that he risks political extinction. By contrast, he had a relatively secure political base within the South Australian division of the Liberal Party which would ensure either the number one or number two position on his party’s Senate ticket into the indefinite future. Were he a careerist and opportunist, defecting to the lonely isolation of the crossbench would be the last thing he would do.

I question his political judgement not his courage or devotion to conservative principles. My first reaction to the news of his defection was to describe him as a “crazy brave”. Perhaps, far more opportunistically, he could have stayed in the Liberal tent, but functioned as a quasi-independent, feeling free to support conservative independent challengers to sitting Liberal Party “moderate” — ie., left wing, — MPs. The onus would have been on the Liberal Party to throw him out.

There is historic precedent for this more opportunist stance. Back in 1938, Harold Macmillan, then a Conservative backbencher in the British House of Commons, openly campaigned for A. D. Lindsay, an anti-appeasement independent, standing in the Oxford by-election in the aftermath of the Munich agreement, against the official Conservative candidate, Quintin Hogg, later the second Lord Hailsham.

Bernardi chose the clean and more honest break and attracted such vicious opprobrium, one suspects, largely and simply because he is a conservative. Would a Coalition defection to the Greens, the Labor Party, let alone as a left wing defector on the crossbenches, attract condemnation from the ABC or Fairfax Media? What if a Liberal senator chose to defect because, say, he opposed the withdrawal of taxpayer subsidies to the renewable energy sector? Would the usual suspects describe him as a rat or as a hero? There is no prize for the right answer. As Andrew Bolt so often reiterates, for the Left, it is side, never principle, which counts. This also explains why, when brothel-creeping union corruptocrat Craig Thomson left the Labor Party, he was able to remain in the House without adverse comment from the Left’s media cheer squad.

Bernardi is vulnerable to the argument that, having been elected on the Liberal Party ticket only last July for a six-year term, he had duty to either remain a member of the parliamentary party or to resign so that the next on the Liberal ticket could take his place. In answer to a good conservative-minded friend who raised these points, I replied that it was not as if Cory Bernardi was defecting to the “other side”. Those Liberal voters who were seeking to elect conservatives to the Senate would be wrong to discern any betrayal of principle.

Remaining Coalition voters will need to face whether their primary loyalties are to principles or party. For a growing number of voters, the notion that the Coalition can get by, can still garner their votes, by presenting itself as no better than the lesser evil no longer cuts it. As the perceived gap between traditional party allegiance and principles widens, the opportunities for Bernardi and the  likeminded can only grow.

Comments [44]

  1. en passant says:

    I just sent in my application to join the Conservatives today.

    Like tens of thousands of long-serving Liberal Party Members I resigned from the Party in 2013 after 31 years. It was no longer the party of principle I had joined. The Infil-Traitors had eaten out its soul, and like bad meat it now had a greenish tinge. They continued to count me as a Member for the next two-years. Clearly they needed the ‘ghost’ numbers. They have not updated their membership numbers since 2014. Hint: if they were growing they would be posting

    • en passant says:

      Finger problem! Add the following:
      Hint: if they were growing they would be posting the daily increases, if they were declining, they would not …

      I am willing to go out on a limb and predict that the ‘Conservatives’ will be the party with a greater membership than the Liberals within six-months as ex-Liberals (like me, join up) and whole branches defect en masse.

      Well done, Malcolm & Lady Macbeth, you have achieved your aim, so off you go to a UN sinecure as soon as possible.

      Will the new party survive? That requires organisational strength, policies and an adherence to principles. If they do not, then like so many before them they will fade. I hope not as Oz desperately needs an honest political party.

      Curiously, there is no mention of Menzies defection from the United Australia Party to start the Liberal Party. Was he a ‘rat’ too?

    • Salome says:

      I sent mine last night. I’d say that a socially conservative fiscally responsible party is what we need.

  2. Don A. Veitch says:

    Go Cory! Just get the economic agenda correct. The Liberal Party despises people of principle, and real, ordinary branch people. The Liberal Party is corrupted beyond repair.

    • Philby says:

      It would be a great triumph for conservative Australians if Bernardi and members of Australian Conservatives and other like minded consertive parties actually held balance of power in both houses. They could be a check on the Liberal party leaning to the left and a barrier to the Marxist union controlled party of Labor. The greens are finished they are a bunch of commie tossers

  3. Rob Brighton says:

    When the most valuable asset you present is not being the other bloke you are in trouble.

  4. en passant says:

    Rob,
    That indeed is Malcolm’s problem.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    Chris I agree with much of what you say, Bernardi’s fate will be decided at the next election.

    But the Liberals fate will be decided much sooner.

    His resignation from the Liberals must bring on a leadership change, back to Abbott. If it does that it will retain and regain disaffected Liberals. Bernardi could then also possibly return. If it doesn’t it will fracture or wither and be replaced eventually by another conservative force. That will not necessarily be Bernardi’s Conservatives. Could you see any of those abusing him today joining him in two years after the Liberals lose the next election? They’ll blame him for that lose.

    The other possibility … the intergrity of Abbott is the shining beacon. If Trumbril goes to the next election as PM and loses as we all expect, Abbott will be returned as leader to lead the Liberals back to their conservative constituency.
    Abbott will be unencumbered of the Liberal politicians who supported Turnbull buying the Prime Ministership. That’s Turnbull and the Liberals ultimate disgrace and key among those was Arthur Sidonious.

    • ianl says:

      > “His resignation from the Liberals must bring on a leadership change …”

      Why, exactly ? Bernardi is a Senator. A one-seat loss in the HoR would precipitate leadership ructions, but a Senate seat in the mess that now exists ?

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      KK:

      ..… the intergrity of Abbott is the shining beacon.

      As in: “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS under a Coalition government.”
      But you are right on the money re Arthur Sinodinos.

      • Jimbob says:

        Ian

        I know what you’re saying but I think TA has had a chance to learn some vey valuable lessons. We all know MT is a complete disaster both for the Liberal party and the Conservative cause in general. He will literally hand over the PM’ship to Bill at the next election. Now I for one don’t mind the “broad church” of Conservatism being a collection of tents rather than have them all in one “big tent” (i.e. the Liberal/National coalition). What unites us all must surely be our mutual distrust of the social engineers and “superior” intellects of the left and their half baked and always socially destructive planned, utopian visions.

        Look at the numbers. LNP 35% of the primary vote (and falling while MT is in the chair); PHON 10% and rising (thankfully); add to that around 3% – 4% for the Christian Democrats and other conservatives like Family First and the DLP, the primary conservative vote is around 48% – 49%. This is way ahead of the combined Labor/Green primary vote. A tried and tested conservative leader could harness the preference votes of these various groups ensuring that a seasoned conservative government remains in power longer even if it has to govern with PHON as a partner for example. This is generally best for the country and as our history shows, in the one hundred and sixteen years since Federation, we overwhelmingly vote conservative (roughly 70/30 if anyone wished to check the numbers). All our experiments with the left have ended in tears.

        While MT is in the chair, the defectors from the coalition will be in two minds as to where their preferences should go. Enough may bleed to extremes of the right or some may even go to Labor. Remember there is a sizable conservative constituency in the Labor movement which may end up giving preferences to PHON anyway. This is the worst case scenario as the nation will be relying on the right faction in the Labor movement to curb the inane excesses of the Left. Now back to my initial point.

        If TA has learnt some valuable political lessons, even if the Liberal party is diminished, he seems the most able to work with PHON and Cory Bernadi and other conservatives. What I like about Abbott for all his “faults” is that he does have a capacity for magnanimity (as does Pauline Hanson) and is not averse to recognising the skills and talents of those who have been his erstwhile enemies. In this one regard (but not only in this one) he and MT are diametric opposites. I think (and this is only an opinion) he will be able to hold the many conservative tents in the same camping ground rather than trying to force them all into the one big tent (even if some in the big tent hate his guts). The only other option mooted on the grapevine is to look for another “saviour” in the form of say one, Peter Dutton, but in my view, this is just setting up another talented man for a great fall. No matter how popular saviours are at the beginning, because of the unrealistic expectations placed on them they all seem to end up on a cross with the rabble baying for their blood. As if Gillard & Rudd didn’t prove the point as does the current PM! I’d rather have low expectations of TA and almost certainly be pleasantly surprised by a wise man who has learnt from his mistakes.

        Mr Abbott, if you or one of your advisors are reading this, please consider – the fight is not yet over.

  6. Jody says:

    Cory Bernardi is inhabiting an already overcrowded space of minor parties. I should think many in the Coalition will be glad to see the back of him and he will vote with the Coalition in the senate anyway. In short, no difference in the polity. I like him but he’s a one-man party and I’d like to know his policy on the TPP, China, Syria and debt and deficit.

  7. Keith Kennelly says:

    inal

    Bernardi is a catalyst and will cause soul searching among those less enamoured of Trumbril. Look at those who are screeching. And then look at those who aren’t. The silent ones are those who understand how divisive Trumbril had been.

    No body with any brains will be glad to see the back of Bernadi.

    Jody you are thinking in terms of yesterday’s politicians.

    Bernardi isn’t concerned about formulating policy. He’s interested in making sure policy followed by the liberal party follows liberal party values and liberal voters interests. We all know what that means.

    Basically it’s a rejection of elitist ways.

    • Jody says:

      …which won’t make the slightest difference to anybody because there’s already rabble in the Senate who are voting with the government.

    • ianl says:

      > “Bernardi is a catalyst …”

      None of Waffle’s 54 have gone anywhere, Keith.

      Status quo remains intact. Bernardi will wither on the electoral vine, I’m afraid. The MSM will again come to rule with its’ constant barrage of FakeNews as the public gaze shifts back to sport leavened with celebrity gossip, the lights will go on and off with wind-blown intermittency and Textor’s maxim “They don’t matter” will continue to guide our “betters”.

      Would that it were different.

  8. Keith Kennelly says:

    Deplorables interests:

    TTP where free trade is fair trade.
    China, who cares, so long as they don’t try to occupy us or our neighbours.
    Syria, leave the Mid East to the Mid East idiots and don’t bring their chaos here.
    Debt and deficit.
    Reduce both, start by reducing politicians and public servants excesses invluding the ‘retired’.
    Reduce welfare across the board.

    Pretty simple Jody.

  9. Egil says:

    PM Turnbull today surfaced from prolonged slumber, giving Bill Shorten a well deserved and very much overdue talking to.
    Senator Bernardi would no doubt have played a part in bringing that about.
    But something [ history? ]tells me this was Showman PM Turnbull making a personal spiel/attack motivated by employment situation,
    rather than a conviction statement.
    Will we see more of agile/energetic/Liberal[?] Turnbull tomorrow?
    Or is it back to sedate Lib/Lab PM as per normal?

    • Jimbob says:

      Egil

      An “ad hominem” attack countered with the same. Now we have two fiddlers (and diddlers) playing the same tune while “Rome” burns and no one willing to put out the fire…….

  10. Keith Kennelly says:

    Well Jody the days of deceipt using nuance and sophistication are over. We’re all now very aware how the educated elites in the media, politic and society have twisted things with ‘nuance and sophistication’ and have rubbished anyone who dares speaks plain and simple truth in plain and simple language. Your nuance and sophistication has lead us to a corrupted media, a corrupted politic and a fake economy of debt and deficits.

    You’ve tried to rubbish me here with your snide comment. Thats a passive aggressive tactic that won’t work anymore.
    We know your ways have lead to a broken economy, dysfunction in society and a poisoned politic. We’re all over it.

    Why can’t you get a grasp on that? It’s pretty straightforward and simple Jody. You need to stop trying to hang onto the past.

    • Jody says:

      Nuance and sophistication are required, particularly in the area of foreign affairs. My son has commented to me on how superb the staff (public servants) are in DFAT – always on the ball and across all the issues. This was evident to him on his international trips with a senior minister in the current government. High praise indeed.

      But just to get it straight; Cory is there only as a chaperone and not as a discreet political party with its own policies. Got it.

      • ianl says:

        > “… how superb the staff (public servants) are in DFAT – always on the ball and across all the issues …”

        Perhaps, but DFAT’s complete and deliberate lack of transparency renders that opinion moot. And no, spy stuff as an excuse doesn’t cut it here. “Always on the ball” did *not* advise Bishop and Waffle of the very real possibility of the Don winning the US Presidency.

        The real problem with using Foreign Affairs as a proxy for ability is that we then cannot see how the politician involved handles difficult domestic portfolios. Rudderless is a perfect example of a domestic flake hiding in the DFAT corridors. So too with Julie Bishop – what domestic difficulties should one entrust to her to resolve ?

  11. The Libs started this game of BAIT & SWITCH. We campaigned for Abbott. They gave us the exact opposite – a mean greedy treacherous narcissistic spendthrift clueless abortionist republican warmest islamophilic homophilic bastard builder of medieval windmills and cardboard submarines.

  12. Bran Dee says:

    Peter Dutton is an obviously good choice for Liberal leader with Christian Porter as Treasurer. Please KK and others do not propose the return of Tony Abbott. He is no more appealing than Malcolm Turnbull, both are very similar and failing in similar ways. Did either offer to cut expenditure on the government media, TV and radio with expanding presence? Bureaucratic and socialist, taxpayer funded media will always be anti-conservative.

  13. Doc S says:

    One thing about Bernardi – love him or loath him – he’s a conviction politician and there’s precious few (any?) of them in parliament nowadays. While he says his vote should not be taken for granted he will of course most likely continue to vote with the government save for some of the ‘conscience’ issues like same-sex marriage and (Muslim) migration, where he aligns more with Hanson and One Nation. So will he ‘wither on the vine’ politically now he’s a party-of-one all on his lonesome in the senate? Time will tell but of one thing we can be certain – more and more Liberals will continue to leave the Party under Turnbull – most of whom are now faced with the choice of joining either Bernardi or Hanson. We’ll have to wait and see how many Bernardi can attract. As for Turnbull, as much as I was entertained by his Keating-esque excoriation of Bill, unless he repeats the dose regularly and with equal vigour (which I can’t see happening) its all too little, too late. If he’d had the guts to produce such a performance during the last election it may have had a more lasting effect but otherwise his Prime Ministership is likely doomed and with it the prospects of preventing the leftie lickspittle Shorten from winning the next election, Australian Conservative Party and One Nation preferences notwithstanding.

    • ianl says:

      > “Time will tell but of one thing we can be certain – more and more Liberals will continue to leave the Party under Turnbull …”

      Why, exactly ?

      I asked a similar question upthread and was rewarded with complete silence. Perhaps this time will be productive.

  14. Keith Kennelly says:

    You are probably right. But I expect to see Trumbull, Bishop, Morrison, Pyne and Sidodinos all leave politics shortly.

  15. Keith Kennelly says:

    And That dreadful Hunt person.

  16. Keith Kennelly says:

    Because Turnbull is a weak person, pretending to be liberal/conservative, who bought the prime ministership and who is trying to make the Liberal Party in his own image. He’s surrounded himself with people with few principles and little integrity(shown by their disloyalty to Abbott). He is trying to suppress conservatives, is promoting Abbotts policies and now embarking belatedly on destroying Shorten using the results of an enquiry set up by Abbott.
    He absolutely refuses to acknowledge these successful strategies and policies are those of his predecessor. He’s done absolutely nothing of his own and has suppressed, in himself, all those things he once believed simply to be Prime Minister.
    He’s made s complete hash if our most important international relationship, and is lying about it.

    We are all still waiting for that economic narrative he promoted as the reason for stabbing Abbott.

    This mans a sneering fake who is causing damage to our economy and international standing as well as the disintegration of the Liberal Party.

    There is only one reason anyone would stay and that is the hope he and his creepy cohort leave after being replaced. If that doesn’t happen soon many more will leave in desperation.

    • Jody says:

      You act as if Turnbull is the only politician who has ever had naked ambition!! It’s all been said before; all been done before.

      Irrespective of what anybody says here, the polity is run in this country from the centre. Right now the Coalition needs to move to the centre and run down that roadblock Shorten – who stands for everything from the 1950s and what the green fundamentalist clique tells him. This won’t last.

      The people are disenchanted because both parties are committed to mitigating climate change and it is and will continue to cost jobs and lots of other peoples’ money. They are also fed up with the multicultural project.

      Yesterday my husband was in Liverpool in western Sydney. He got the train down from the Hunter to see a dealer about our new vehicle. He came home appalled and shocked about that area of Sydney saying he recognized so very few Europeans he wondered what country he was in. The people in the burbs don’t complain because they’re all immigrants now. I will henceforth avoid Sydney as anything but a place you pass through to get anywhere else. Thank god for the regional areas where we have Aussies who are as fed up and bewildered as we are. The few ‘migrants’ we have here mostly stick together.

  17. Ben says:

    I don’t know about anyone else but I have noticed a shift in The Australian in the last 12 months. It’s become like Malcolm. It’s not as thorough as it used to be. Not as intelligent. A lot more gossip. When you already have the smh, the ABC, it will be hard going for Barnardi. I hope he doesn’t end up being a martyr for conservatives.

  18. Ben says:

    I do, and have for over ten years. It’s no longer the quality it was vs twelve months ago.

    • Jody says:

      I haven’t noticed this at all – after 25 plus years of reading – and I love Leak’s penetrating observations via satire.

      • Len says:

        I too noticed a shift in The Australian, but starting more than twelve months ago. The shift appeared to become more noticeable with an apparent conscious effort to attract more subscribers from the Fairfax press. The change was noticed by a number of subscribers and resulted in many of them indicating that they would not be renewing their subscriptions. I also seriously considered terminating my own subscription but desisted, firstly because I have always liked The Australian’s willingness to publish a wide range of contributors with different viewpoints, and secondly because I discovered that the numerous online commenters were prepared to take issue with the authors, especially the columnists.

        I think it also worth observing that the shift was particularly pronounced among the employed columnists and much less so among the numerous contributors to the opinion pages.