Word is coming out that Senator Cory Bernaldi, of South Australia, will resign from the Liberal Party to form his own Conservative party. Mr. Bernaldi has been threatening to leave the Government for some time for what he believes is the Liberal party forsaking their more conservative members and a lack of a plan to stop populist party uprising within the ranks.
This comes at a critical time in Australian Politics as the Turnbull Government find itself with low approval numbers, and pressure from both the liberal and conservative wings of his government to enact their preferred reforms. Tony Abbott, the man who was replaced by Turnbull in 2015 in a Party coup, has been warning about the break for months and pressuring Turnbull to swing right in certain forms of legislation. As Bernaldi heads to the cross-benches as an independent, he is looking to create his own party and begin siphoning votes from the Coalition.
With this news, and news that members of the Coalition are looking to force a free vote on Marriage Equality puts Turnbull in a precarious situation. He cannot have the support of the party without the conservative wing, and they do *not* want a free vote on Marriage Equality. Further, the Moderates are losing patience as their Leader who is a Marriage Equality advocate, continue to cater to the conservatives in slowly losing political situation. If the free vote moves forward, it could lead some members to contemplating jumping ship to the new Bernaldi Party. Also exacerbating this is the Nationals, the Coalition junior partners, threatening to walk away from the coalition in the event that a Plebiscite is not used in favor of a Free Vote. This would snap another election just 9 months after the rare Double Dissolution election last summer.
Turnbull is definitely not having a good fortnight. After being played the fool in the American media, sheepishly denying or starting firm on Trump’s statements, and now having an actual revolt from his party with a second revolt being contemplated, Turnbull seem to be no longer in control of his Coalition as they move into the first legislative session of the year. What this will mean for his ability to lead moving forward is unclear. Australian politics replacing their Prime Ministers mid-term has become the norm, and with Abbott looking for revenge, it may be a matter of “when” rather than “if.”