Australian Senator Cory Bernardi.
Australian Senator Cory Bernardi. Contributed

Bernardi to quit Liberals today, despite party pleas

UPDATE, Tuesday, 8am:

CORY Bernardi has reportedly confirmed he will quit the Liberal party - likely to strike out with his own political party, Australian Conservatives.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull received a phone call from Mr Bernardi early this morning, confirming he is leaving the Liberal party, Guardian Australia reports.

Some Liberal Party members have apparently pleaded with Mr Bernardi to stay, while others, such as Peter Dutton and Barnaby Joyce have been critical of the move.

Member for Dawson George Christensen, a conservative ally of Mr Bernardi, has said he won't leave the Coalition, but Mr Bernardi quitting sends a strong message to party leaders.

South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi.
South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi. PAUL MILLER-AAP

UPDATE: 11.39am:

GEORGE Christensen has confirmed he won't leave the Coalition but says any split by conservative Liberal MP Cory Bernardi sends a powerful message to the party's leadership.

Speculation that Senator Bernardi could split from the Liberals to form his own party - the Australian Conservatives - has mounted over the past few months.

Columnist Andrew Bolt reported Senator Bernardi could defect from the Liberals this week, while other sources said the move could happen within the next two days.

Senator Bernardi reportedly told his staff of his decision to leave the Liberal Party in the past few days.

It's understood he will join the crossbench as an independent senator for South Australia.

Nationals MP George Christensen also indicated last December he was unhappy with the Coalition's direction, writing on social media there could come a time when it was no longer tenable to remain inside the tent.

But Mr Christensen told media today he would not be walking away.

The Queensland MP said any split by Senator Bernardi would send a strong message to the Coalition to give more weight to conservative principles.

"If there's a move away, I suppose it sends a signal to the leadership that we cannot ... abandon conservative causes, conservative principles and conservative policies,” he told reporters in Canberra.

"We've got to re-embrace them, reconnect with that part of our core constituency, and just do the job that we were elected to do and I think that, if we did that, there wouldn't be breakaways.”

Mr Christensen said it would be a shame if Senator Bernardi left the party as he was untapped talent on the backbench.

Senator Bernardi and Mr Christensen will both speak at a public talk in Melbourne this Friday on defending freedom of speech, run by conservative group Halal Choices.

INITIAL:

George Christensen's conservative ally Cory Bernardi looks set to quit the Liberal Party.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull faces a split in the Liberal Party, perhaps as early as this week, reports columnist Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun.

It's thought the conservative Senator may be making moves to launch his own conservative party.

It would likely be based on Mr Bernardi's Australian Conservatives movement - an initiative of The Conservative Leadership Foundation - which has apparently racked up tens of thousands of members since starting last year.

Mr Christensen's been a vocal supporter of the movement, offering his "Kudos to Cory Bernardi” for an "awesome initiative” and labelling it a "new movement for common sense” in July, 2016 on social media.

Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen.
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen. Peter Holt

Although, Mr Christensen also labelled the group "a GetUp!-style conservative activist group” at the time and not a political party.

On December 22, Mr Christensen took to social media indicating he was dissatisfied with the direction of the Liberal-National Coalition, warning his government needs to "start being more loyal to the voters and the party members or "there will come a time when remaining inside the tent is no longer tenable to my conscience or my voters”.

"With satisfaction with democracy at an all-time low in this country, I really do hope that 2017 heralds a new way of doing things for the Turnbull government and for politics in general,” he said.

"A lot of people have told me to pull the pin on the government and go with another entity. However, I am loyal to Barnaby Joyce, loyal to the Nationals, and - most of all - loyal to local LNP members who selected me to be their candidate.”

Adding fuel to the fire, Mr Bernardi has reportedly been turning down requests for interviews.

Mr Bernardi has been contacted for more information.

George Christensen was also contacted, but he offered "no comment”.


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