About 18 months ago, chief Liberal polling guru, Mark Textor, told The Australian newspaper that a segment of society was irrelevant: conservatives.
“The qualitative evidence is [conservatives] don’t matter. The sum of a more centrist approach outweighs any alleged marginal loss of so-called base voters.’’
At the following election, Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘centrist’ approach saw him almost lose government. The embarrassment and days of waiting were more than alleged. And they were marginal. As marginal as it gets.
Today, Senator Cory Bernardi hit back hard. When asked specifically about these comments at a press conference his response was simple:
“You cannot dismiss the base.”
With that he went off to launch his new party, the Australian Conservatives. It is aimed entirely at meeting the needs of the base.
All of a sudden, those conservatives will be the most polled segment of society in Australia.
All of a sudden, they matter. A lot.
It is all due to Bernardi’s courage and decisive action.
And it all started an hour earlier when the Senator addressed the Senate, ending weeks of speculation about his intentions:
“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.”
With those words, the Australian Conservative Party was born.
Its webpage was launched shortly afterwards, making it clear that this party is not an ‘I don’t like it’ fan club, but one that will campaign on a credible philosophical platform. It is here for the long term.
Its principles are focused on four key areas: limited government, personal responsibility, free enterprise and protecting a civil society based on western culture and Judeo-Christian values.
That will be music to the ears of the base.
And they are not the only ones relieved tonight. Cory Bernardi is too. In fact, when Bernardi was asked at his press conference today about Turnbull, Abbott and the leadership of the Liberal Party it was almost therapeutic. His response:
“The leadership of the liberal party is now a matter for them…I’m no longer a member of the Liberal Party.”
And how true that is. The conservative and liberal wings of Bernardi’s old party are stuck with Malcolm or readying for another round of musical leadership chairs. Cory Bernardi, meanwhile, is free to focus on taking up the real fight to Labor and the Greens.
If he does it well, the Australian Conservatives will be very successful indeed. And the Liberal base will be gone.