Rumblings among the right likely to unsettle PM's Christmas

Rumblings among the right likely to unsettle PM's Christmas

SBS World News Radio: Government MPs are urging Senator Cory Bernardi not to split from the Liberal party as another conservative MP sends the PM a blunt warning that if the government doesn't start being more loyal to voters, he'll consider leaving too.

South Australian maverick Senator Cory Bernardi isn't known for holding back.

Earlier this month, he let fly on national television over a Turnbull government review into its climate policies: "This, I think is one of the dumbest things I've heard in politics for some time."

The conservative Liberal has hinted for months that in a Donald Trump-inspired movement, he could defect from the Liberal party.

Industry Minister Greg Hunt says he believes Senator Bernardi will stay and should stay, for the voters who helped elect him.

"We were all, all, elected on a commitment to our party, to the Australian people, that we would be there for the life of this Parliament as members of those parties and I'm very confident that all of the members will retain that commitment. I believe in them. I stand by them."

Senator Bernardi's already launched his own Australian Conservatives group, and claims it has around 60,000 members.

After spending time in the United States during the Presidential election campaign, he says politics in Australia needs to change.

Last month, he wrote on his website - "I have to be a part of that change" ... "Exactly what direction that will take is still a work in progress."

Senator Bernardi already has the support of Australia's richest woman, Gina Rineheart, who's also called for political change.

There are even suggestions she could bankroll his new party.

Labor Senator Penny Wong says it underlines Malcolm Turnbull's weakness as Prime Minister.

She believes if he was a leader with more authority, this wouldn't happen.

"I think this is extraordinarily damaging for the government because if you can't govern yourselves, you can't govern the country. That's one of the truisms of Australian politics. Ultimately this isn't about Cory... it isn't about George - it's about Malcolm. It's about Malcolm's weakness."

But Justice Minister Keenan maintains that the home of conservative ideas in Australia is still the Liberal party.

"I don't think it's a commentary on the unity of the party at all. We are a very united force and we're focused on doing everything we can to bring good government to Australia."

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also weighed in.

He has written on social media that the Liberal party cannot take its voter base for granted and must convincingly argue for its values.

One Liberal MP has told SBS News he is frustrated that Senator Bernardi did not just leave the party before the July federal election, given he was re-elected under the Liberal party banner for a six-year senator's term.

The greater risk for the Coalition now is if others join him, which could dramatically change the make-up of the parliament.

Liberal MP Luke Howarth says it would only create further problems when it comes to passing legislation.

"It's already hard enough to deal with some nine or 11 crossbenchers in the senate as it is. I think he should remain in the Coalition and I'm sure that he probably will - that would be my initial gut thought on the reaction."

Nationals MP George Christensen is also threatening to leave.

He's said on social media:

"The Turnbull government needs to start being more loyal to voters… or there will come a time when remaining inside the tent is no longer tenable to my conscience."

With One Nation's popularity continuing to rise, it's a threat that can't be taken lightly.



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