Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced during the joint Liberal-National party room that Senator Cory Bernardi was splitting with the Liberal Party. Turnbull reportedly said that he had a phone call with Bernardi about the senator's defection.
Turnbull did not comment on the senator's decision but his other colleagues didn't hold back. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton thought that the people would be angry about the defection and the betrayal of the Liberal Party values. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann expressed his thoughts on Bernardi's decision, saying that he preferred Bernardi to stay and he would change his mind in the near future. The finance minister said that they have been friends and colleagues for more than 10 years.
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that he regretted Bernardi's decision to leave the Liberal Party. He said that the party needed more people like Bernardi who are prepared to speak out and make a difference. He even lamented on Liberal Party's lack of effort to keep their members united.
Although Bernardi's colleagues pleaded to reconsider his move, former Senator Sean Edwards expressed his disappointment on his fellow South Australian. "It would be a gross departure as to -- certainly six months into a six-year term -- what people would have expected. I would prefer to see Senator Bernardi stay within the Liberal Party and do the work that all the members that pre-selected him in preference to members like myself (expect)," Edwards said.
One unnamed MP said that he was not surprised by Bernardi's move as the current Government appeared to be directionless. The MP attacked Coalition MPs and questioned their political judgement. Opposition deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said Bernardi’s defection showed division on Turnbull government.
It is still unsure who among Bernardi's colleagues will join him to the new party. However, Conservative LNP MP George Christensen and Liberal senator Eric Abetz declared they will not be defecting. Christensen said that he is very loyal to Barnaby Joyce and he will stay within the National Party, which he has been a member of for more than two decades.
Bernardi is a social conservative and economic liberal. He believes that the Coalition has drifted in the value of lower taxes, small government and free trade. It was reported that he was frustrated that the leaders of his party were politically correct. He was also frustrated to address the rise of radical Islam, which he considered a cultural issue.
The senator has a plan to form a new political party he called the Australian Conservatives. The breakaway party aims to build a political movement with enduring values and principles in a conservative way. It aims to create stronger families, limit the size and scope and reach of government and foster freedom of speech.