Writing in The Australian, Former prime minister Tony Abbott has hit out at one of his most loyal supporters, Liberal senator Cory Bernardi amid talk the South Australian is preparing to form a breakaway conservative party movement, predicting it would be wildly successful but harm the Coalition.
But Mr Abbott predicts that if Senator Bernardi does split he could win 10 per cent of the vote and have senators elected under the conservative banner in every state but almost all of it would be at the expense of the Liberal-National Coalition,” Mr Abbott writes.
If you cover your good eye, you’ll see how good my chances are
Now all of this is ostensibly intended to warn Bernardi against splitting from the Liberal party. What more would you expect of a Turnbull loyalist and ardent supporter of the government such as Tony Abbott?
But it’s typical Abbott weasel words. In appearing to warn Bernardi against splitting, he was also warning Malcolm Turnbull and as supporters of the dangers of ignoring the voice of the rabid right (his own included).
He is absolutely right that Bernardi would take votes from the Coalition if he attracts 10% of the vote but it would all be in the Senate. It’s very difficult to get a lower house seat on 10%.
It is also likely that if a Bernardi-led party were to gain seats in the Senate it would support the Coalition. It’s difficult to imagine such a grouping supporting the Greens and Labor in the upper house.
He is probably wrong when he says, “it would inevitably leach preferences away from the Coalition and deliver government to Labor.”
The preference of a Bernardi-led Conservative party would go either to One Nation or to the Coalition, most likely to the Coalition. So it is highly unlikely that anything that Bernardi does is going to bring about change in government.
It is more likely that Tony Abbott’s continual sniping at the Prime Minister and the disloyalty of his dinosaur right-wing mates will have greater sway with the electorate.
While the split in the Coalition would not look good for Malcolm Turnbull, in practical terms it will not affect the balance of power either in the Senate or the lower house.