Bernardi announces intent to 'build a conservative movement'
- Right-wing Senator Cory Bernardi has told the Senate he is quitting the Liberal Party
- He is forming the Australian Conservatives Party
- He describes it as "a community of individual Australians who will share their unique gifts and talents to chart a better way for our nation"
- Labor Senator Penny Wong has called the move 'extraordinary
- More to come
UPDATE: LIBERAL defector Cory Bernardi has told reporters he has not tried to poach any MPs or Senators from within his former party.
"My intention is to build a conservative movement and to strengthen it," Senator Bernardi told reporters in Canberra.
Senator Bernardi said he would run candidates at the next election, which he hoped to fund by growing his support now.
He said the South Australian people knew what they were getting when
they voted for him.
"I have been consistent for the past 10 years."
Earlier he cited the Coalition's investigation into energy policy, which opened the door to an emissions trading scheme, as one of the policies which prompted his decision.
"I've sought at every turn to be consistent," Senator Bernardi said.
EARLIER: SENATOR Cory Bernardi has confirmed he resigned from the Liberal Party this morning.
Mr Bernardi said that after holding membership of the party spanning his adult life, it had been a "very difficult decision" for him.
"Perhaps the most difficult one of my political life," he said.
In a speech to the Senate on the first sitting day of the year, Mr Bernardi said he was both reluctant and relieved.
"Reluctant because this decision has weighed heavy on my heart, but relieved because while it is difficult, I believe it is the right thing to do."
"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."
Mr Bernardi said they were failing the people of Australia.
"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."
Liberal Senator George Brandis said that Mr Bernardi's resignation was not a very conservative thing to do and the Liberal Party was disappointed.
"Only seven months ago Senator Bernardi was elected by the people of South Australia to serve in the Senate as a Liberal senator," Mr Brandis said.
No one loves Cory like Cory.— Sarah Hanson-Young (@sarahinthesen8) February 7, 2017
"There was no need for him to take this course because, as the former prime minister, Mr Howard, famously said, the Liberal Party is a broad church.
"It can accommodate people like Senator Bernardi and it can accommodate people of more moderate views."
Read Cory Bernardi's full statement below:
After a membership spanning my entire adult life, having been a State President and a Federal Vice President, this has been a very difficult decision for me - perhaps the most difficult of my life.
I stand here today both reluctant and relieved; reluctant because this decision has weighed heavy on my heart but relieved because, whilst difficult, it is the right thing to do.
When, as a younger man I first joined the 'ship of state' I was in awe of its traditions and the great captains that had guided us on our way.
But now, as the seas through which we sail have become more challenging, the respect for the values and principles that have served us well have been set aside for expedient, self-serving, short term ends. This approach has not served our nation well.
There are few, if any, who can claim that respect for politics and politicians is stronger now than it was a decade ago.
In short, the body politic is failing the people of Australia and it's clear we need to find a better way.
The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, lack of confidence in our political process and concern about the direction of our nation is very strong.
This is a direct product of the political class being out of touch with the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.
Politics at its best has always been the shared contribution of men and women of conscience who bring their skills to bear for the nation.
It is not in the interests of our nation to yield to the temptation of personality politics which shrink the debate to the opinion of the few whilst compromising the good sense and values of the many.
For many years I have warned of the consequences of ignoring the clear signs. I have spoken of the need to restore faith in our political system and to put principle back into politics.
I regret that too often these warnings have been lost on those who needed to hear them most.
It really is time for a better way; a conservative way.
The enduring beauty of the conservative tradition is that it looks to the past, to all that is great and good, to inform the future. It is a rich paradox where the established equips us for the new.
And so today I begin something new, built on enduring values and principles that have served our nation so well for many decades.
It is a political movement of Australian Conservatives…a community of individual Australians who will share their unique gifts and talents to chart a better way.
We will be united by a desire to create stronger families, foster free enterprise, limit the size and scope and reach of government whilst seeking to rebuild civil society.
We will give hope to those who despair at the current state of Australian politics and who demand a better way for themselves, their children and their country.
The journey ahead will not be for the faint of heart but worthwhile ventures rarely are.
And every journey begins with a first step.
Today I take that step, knowing the direction in which I will head and hoping that those truly concerned for the future of our nation will choose to join me.
Mr President, in light of this statement you may like to consider the Senate seating arrangements.
I thank the Senate.
STAGE SET FOR CORY BERNARDI'S DEFECTION
CORY Bernardi did not attended the Liberal-National's joint party room meeting before Parliament begins today.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly addressed the party room on Senator Bernardi's defection before media were allowed into the room.
The Prime Minister reportedly told the room he had asked Bernardi on their phone call this morning how he justified remaining in the senate after he was elected as a Liberal just six months ago.
Mr Turnbull then addressed the room on the fight facing the party in the year to come, outlining child care, jobs, energy policy and border control as key battlegrounds.
"The values of our parties, the Liberal and the National Parties, is grounding, focused on defending the interests of hardworking Australian families and the businesses which employ them, which provide them with the opportunities to get ahead.
"We are delivering more investment, more jobs, more opportunities.
"And we do so building those opportunities on a foundation of security."
Mr Turnbull rallied the troops saying it was great to be back but they had "a lot of work to do".
Neither Senator Bernardi or former Prime Minister Tony Abbott attended a church service which marked the beginning of Parliament in Canberra this morning.
Bernardi's decision to quit has angered Turnbull Government MPs who have issued a warning to him saying there will be retribution if he chooses to split from the Liberal party today.
Senator Bernardi will announce his departure in a statement to the senate at 12.30pm when Parliament resumes. It is believed, however, that the senator has already spoken with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning to confirm his decision to quit.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said it would be a betrayal of his voters, while Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said the public had no tolerance for parliamentarians "who are engaged in ego trips".
Both frontbenchers moved to downplay the affect Senator Bernardi's departure would have on the Government, saying his split was still just speculation.
The South Australian senator has still yet to confirm or deny the reports.
"I think that people would feel that their trust has been violated if somebody stood for a particular political party and then left that political party, particularly so soon after an election campaign," Ms O'Dwyer told ABC this morning.
"I feel that most people would understand [that if] you had strong views and didn't want to represent a political party, maybe you should represent that prior to the election campaign," she said.
"I think anybody who is elected as a Liberal owes a responsibility, not only to the people who preselected them, but also to the people who voted for them, who placed their trust in them to be a member of that particular political party."
The Liberal Party's values are not limited to conservatism. We are Liberals because we are open to new ideas; tolerant of difference; 1/2— Christopher Pyne (@cpyne) February 6, 2017
Those most hurt by Cory Bernardi are the hundreds of thousands of SA voters who voted Liberal in the Senate only to be let down by him.— Christopher Pyne (@cpyne) February 6, 2017
"I think that the Australian people have got no tolerance for parliamentarians who are engaged in ego trips."
Ms O'Dwyer said she had yet to speak to Senator Bernardi and would not comment on speculation he was leaving.
The Immigration Minister said people who voted for Cory Bernardi under the Liberal Banner would be angry and disappointed if he left.
"Let's wait to see what Senator Bernardi has to say but it is a betrayal when somebody leaves a political party," Mr Dutton told ABC.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said he was "disappointed" by Senator Bernardi's decision to split from the party.
"Cory and I have been friends and colleagues for more than 10 years, my preference obviously would be for Cory to remain," Senator Cormann told ABC.
"Hopefully he will change his mind in the near future."
As Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Cormann will be required to negotiate with Senator Bernardi as a crossbencher if he breaks away.
But Senator Cormann said recent events were more a concern for the Opposition than the Government.
"If I was Bill Shorten today I would be very worried," he said.
"The Labor Party vote hasn't shifted.
"Despite everything that's going on, there's not been an increase in the Labor Party vote at all."
Liberal Nationals MP George Christensen warned his Coalition colleagues not to be too harsh in their criticism of Bernardi.
"If indeed he's leaving this is someone we're going to have to negotiate with," the Queensland MP told ABC.
Mr Christensen has confirmed he will be staying with the Nationals.
While he admitted Senator Bernardi had confided his dissatisfaction with the Liberal Party, Mr Christensen said he had not been asked to go with him.
Opposition deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said Senator Bernardi's defection showed the Turnbull Government was "hopelessly weak" and divided.
"You know there's something going wrong when even Cory Bernardi is leaving the sinking ship," Ms Plibersek told reporters in Canberra.
"I mean this Prime Minister has capitulated on every single one of Senator Bernardi's demands, on climate change, on same-sex marriage, on a whole range of issues.
"Cory Bernardi has already got exactly what he wants from this Prime Minister and yet even Cory Bernardi realises that this is a Government so hopelessly weak, divided and incompetent, that it cannot govern."
Independent Derryn Hinch said he didn't expect Senator Bernardi's move to the crossbench to affect many votes.
Someone "to the right of Genghis Khan" was unlikely to vote with Labor and the Greens, he said.