Spectator types have shown their good manners this week. We haven’t spoken ill of the dead – or the terminally wounded; in this case Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, left bleeding in a heap in the wake of a showing in last weekend’s New South Wales state election that would have left Screaming Lord Sutch and the Monster Raving Loony Party disheartened.
They don’t share such scruples in the rustbelt town of Adelaide, where the tumbleweeds blow across land pegged out thirty years ago for the Multi-Function Polis and tattered figures fight to the death over stale mini-quiches left dumped by the caterers after the most recent submarine photo-op.
Not at all – and look at what the Adelaide Advertiser has published this afternoon:
The dismal showing by Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives party at the New South Wales election has reignited internal speculation about him seeking to rejoin the Liberal Party, triggering predictions of a thermonuclear showdown with longstanding rivals.
The South Australian Senator’s Australian Conservatives party gathered just 0.6 per cent of the upper house vote at last weekend’s NSW poll, or a total of just 1965 votes statewide.
Yet support surged for fellow right-wing parties One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, which gathered 6.3 per cent and 4.5 per cent of the vote respectively.
This heartened Bernardi’s many enemies within SA Liberal ranks, given the Moderate faction now has overwhelming dominance over the Right, of which he was once a leader.
Some of these Moderates are now predicting a lacklustre Conservatives’ result at the federal election — always Bernardi’s main target.
A poor result, they say, would cause Bernardi to seek readmission to the Liberals before he faces re-election in 2022.
There is precedent — Conservatives’ state leader Dennis Hood joined the Libs after last year’s state election.
Such a move by Bernardi, Moderates suggest, would unleash a furious factional brawl within SA Liberal ranks, which have been unusually peaceful in recent years.
Asked about the prospect, Bernardi said only: “The Liberal Lefties’ continuing obsession with me is unhealthy, both for them and for politics.”
Liberal Moderates occupy almost all of the party’s senior parliamentary positions and include Premier Steven Marshall, Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne and Trade Minister Simon Birmingham.
But Bernardi still has some Liberal friends and allies. After all, he was state Liberal president from 1998-2000 and a federal vice-president from 2005-2006.
But he held these offices when mentor and Liberal Right leader Nick Minchin controlled the SA party and the present dominant figure, Pyne, was relatively obscure.
Pyne and Bernardi have been bitter rivals for years.
One of Bernardi’s Liberal friends dismissed speculation as “Moderate faction mischief-making”, saying he did not believe Bernardi would seek to return to the Liberals under any circumstances.
That last par suggests the journos knew the story was too good to be true, but just had to run with it anyway.
But given that the conservatives in the South Australian party could only mount an action against Pyne propelling his handsome young acolyte into his seat that looked like the Salvation Army taking on the SAS, there’s clearly a position vacant for Bernardi.
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