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Bernardi winds up the Conservatives, as Family First party legacy ends

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Cory Bernardi is weighing up his political future after deciding to deregister his Australian Conservatives, ending the religious-based party legacy of Family First.

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The South Australian senator is open to returning to the Liberal Party, but is yet to speak with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

In either case, the Liberal Party will reap an extra seat in the upper house if Bernardi bows out of politics before his term expires in mid-2022.

The Liberals would have the right to fill the casual vacancy that would create as he was elected under the party’s banner.

Bernardi announced on Thursday he would be deregistering the Australian Conservatives after being disappointed in its election result.

Bernardi left the Liberals in February 2017 to begin his own party, and says his supporters flocked back to the Liberals when Morrison took the top job.

The Conservatives merged with Family First in April 2017.

Family First was formed by Adelaide pentecostal pastor Andrew Evans, who was first elected to the Legislative Council in 2002.

Last year, Evans told InDaily he was relaxed about the party’s demise, saying Family First had tempered the left wing agenda of state Labor.

Bernardi struck a similar note this week, but from a Liberal perspective, saying his supporters had breathed a “sigh of relief” when Morrison – a “man of faith and values” became prime minister.

During the recent federal election, Evans encouraged supporters to vote for a Liberal victory in the House of Representatives and Bernardi’s Conservatives in the Senate.

Former Australian Christian Lobby chief Lyle Shelton, who ran on the Australian Conservatives’ Senate ticket in Queensland, says he has no regrets about joining the movement.

“I’m sure that the existence of Australian Conservatives played into the minds of those in the Liberal Party who were worried that they were heading to electoral oblivion,” he told Sky News today.

“It contributed to the change in direction of the Liberal Party, and that’s good for the nation and we’ve played a part in helping steer the nation back.”

Labor is meanwhile wondering what Bernardi’s decision says about the government.

“Cory Bernardi confirms the Liberals are now an extreme right wing outfit,” Labor MP Brian Mitchell tweeted.

Morrison will have a guaranteed 36 votes in the upper house if Bernardi rejoins the Liberals, meaning he will only need the support of three crossbenchers to pass legislation.

– with AAP

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