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Cory Bernardi 'to abandon Liberal Party this week'

Politics

Conservative South Australian Liberal senator Cory Bernardi is set to quit the Coalition within days to form his own political party, according to widespread reports this morning.

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Both the ABC and News Corp commentator Andrew Bolt say the South Australian is ready to make his long-anticipated move this week as parliament returns from its long summer break.

The new party would be based on his Australian Conservatives movement, which already has more than 50,000 members, Bolt said.

“Bernardi has turned down all interviews lately, which is significant, but the logic all points to him breaking away soon,” Bolt wrote.

The ABC understands the senator will walk out of the Liberal Party within the next 48 hours.

In July last year, Crikey reported that Bernardi had set up a website and produced a logo for a group called “Australian Majority“.

Fellow SA Liberal Simon Birmingham played down a possible defection, citing his colleague’s recent comments.

“Every comment I’ve ever seen Cory make, including over recent months, has been about the importance of Liberals, Nationals, conservatives — all those in the right of centre — working together and working as a strong Coalition,” he said.

“I’m confident that Cory will stand by his words.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison suggested the senator was being egged on by others.

“Lets’ see what he announces, if he announces anything at all,” Morrison told Ray Hadley on Radio 2GB.

Cabinet colleague Matt Canavan said “of course” he wanted Bernardi to stay in the Coalition.

“I love all members of our team and sometimes you don’t agree with every member of your team but it’s a great team and I hope we keep it together,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke wasn’t surprised about the reports.

“We’ve been watching a split in the Coalition for more than a year now and it’s going to continue to unravel,” he said.

Ultra-conservative Nationals MP George Christensen said Bernardi was a waste of talent on the backbench.

“Cory should be put on the frontbench of the Coalition, he’s got that much to offer,” he told reporters in Canberra.

As to his own future, Christensen insisted he is loyal to Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and the party.

He hasn’t spoken to Bernardi in about a week.

“So I’m here in the government so long as the government holds true to the values of the people that put us there,” he said.

The backbencher says the government has to reconnect with disgruntled voters and party members.

“I really do hope that we succeed in doing that because if we drift away any further it’s going to become untenable.”

Colleagues agitating fresh moves for a free vote on same-sex marriage were been unhelpful and the “show’s over” if there was any move to ditch the government’s plebiscite policy.

Veteran Liberal senator Eric Abetz says he remains committed to the Liberal Party and its founding principles.

– with AAP

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