Cory Bernardi wants Trump-style political change. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen “The conservative instinct is to fix things, not to junk them”: Former prime minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Louise Kennerley
Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has taken aim at ally Tony Abbott over his censure of “rebellious” colleagues looking to “do a Trump” in Australia, accusing his former leader of “talking up division” and backing “the horse named self-interest”.
Mr Abbott took to The Australian newspaper to pen a warning to Liberal colleagues looking to form a breakaway conservative party, predicting it would be a success, but one which would ultimately deliver government to Labor.
The former prime minister did not name Senator Bernardi in his missive, but the backbencher has increasingly been agitating for change, more recently refusing to hose down talk he is looking to form his own movement separate to the Liberal Party next year.
But Senator Bernardi dispensed with any opaqueness, naming Mr Abbott openly in a tweet responding to his opinion piece.
“While most on break, [the] only person talking up division in [the] Lib Party this past week is Tony Abbott,” he tweeted on Friday morning.
“Always back the horse named self-interest.” While most on break only person talking up division in Lib Party this past week is @TonyAbbottMHR. Always back the horse named self-interest— Cory Bernardi (@corybernardi) December 30, 2016
Senator Bernardi has also said he will have more to say in the New Year, having promised a “massive” 2017.
He has said Donald Trump’s victory in the United States served as a form of political epiphany for him, inspiring him to be a “catalyst for change” in Australia.
The rise of One Nation and continued falling support for the Turnbull government has also emboldened the Coalition’s more conservative members to speak out more and more, with George Christensen also warning his loyalty has limits.
Senator Eric Abetz said the answer was to reform the party, rather than divide it, while issuing his own warning to leader Malcolm Turnbull and the NSW branch of the party.
“A split within the Liberal Party would potentially dilute the conservative voice which would slow the momentum for reform in the NSW division,” he said on Friday.
“Many conservatives have been manipulatively disenfranchised by certain operatives in NSW which has led to understandable and widespread dissatisfaction.
“The answer is to remain and reform the party rather than dilute the forces for democracy and reform. Australians are entitled to a strong centre right political force and any split would weaken it. This is neither in the national interest nor the interests of the Liberal Party. The leadership of the party needs to be more proactive in reaching out to the majority of our membership to forestall such a potential split.”
Special Minister of State Scott Ryan was more gentle.
“The breadth of the Coalition, the fact we represent communities from right around Australia with very different life experiences, with different views – that is our strength,” Senator Ryan said.
“Unlike the Labor Party, we’re not factional Daleks. We have different views and we air every case.”
Parliament will resume in February.
with Tom McIlroy
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