Tony Abbott during Question Time on Monday. Photo: Andrew Meares Senator Cory Bernardi appeared on Andrew Bolt’s Sky News program on Monday night. Photo: SKY NEWS
Senator Cory Bernardi says Tony Abbott should defect and join his new conservative party after the former prime minister was castigated by members of his own party for publicly urging the government to adopt a more right-wing agenda.
Mr Bernardi has also taken aim at prominent moderate cabinet minister Christopher Pyne for saying the Coalition is not interested in cutting government spending, asking what hope supporters can have in the Liberal party.
Senator Bernardi and Mr Abbott have only communicated briefly since Fairfax Media revealed the former prime minister’s perceived betrayal was a factor in Mr Bernardi’s decision to quit the party and form his own party, called the n Conservatives.
But on Monday night, Mr Bernardi told the right-wing commentator Andrew Bolt that he would welcome Mr Abbott with open arms into his party.
“What Tony Abbott said the other day was the truth, we need to cut power bills for people, we need to cut government spending, we need to trim our immigration all of the things he spoke about,” Mr Bernardi told Sky News.
“If you’re a conservative that thinks governments need to live within their means, and that immigration needs to act within our interest and your electricity bills are too high, I’m saying come to the warm welcoming embrace of the n Conservatives, ’cause that’s what we believe in…Tony Abbott included.”
Mr Abbott urged Mr Bernardi not to quit the Liberal party in December and as a former leader of the Liberal party would be highly unlikely to jump ship.
But he has grown increasingly frustrated with the direction of the government under Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, culminating in a dramatic intervention last week, when he urged the Coalition to adopt policies likely to appeal to Pauline Hanson voters, to stop the government’s “drift to defeat.”
Mr Abbott was slapped down by the prime minister and significantly, the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann – a staunch Abbott loyalist who counted his numbers during the September 2015 leadership change.
Mr Pyne also rejected Mr Abbott’s plea, saying “we won’t be cutting government spending” because when Mr Abbott had tried to cut spending in 2014 the budget measures had failed to pass the senate.
Mr Bernardi said Mr Pyne had exposed the Liberal government’s true intentions while Bolt was seen laughing at his criticisms of the government minister.
Andrew Bolt laughs as Conservative Senator Cory Bernardi attacks cabinet minister Christopher Pyne. Photo: SKY NEWS
“But for a government minister like Christopher Pyne to come out and say what a catastrophe that the government wants to cut spending, it just says what hope if there the Liberal Party anymore,” Mr Bernardi said.
Monday’s Newspoll shows the Coalition a whopping ten points behind Labor on a two-party preferred basis. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation now has as much primary support as the Greens polling at ten per cent.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has blamed Tony Abbott’s “outburst” last week for the poor poll. Mr Abbott’s speech killed any lingering support within the partyroom for his return to the leadership.
On Monday News Corp reported a group of right-wing MPs calling themselves “The Deplorables,” attempted to engineer Mr Abbott’s return to cabinet after the last election.
But the group gradually disintegrated as members like Senator Zed Seselja and Michael Sukkar were promoted, while others like Craig Kelly didn’t want to be a part of anything that could be perceived to be damaging the government.
Conservative MPs told Fairfax Media the group texts were only ever a policy exchange and the report had been exaggerated to make it look like it was more sinister.
Addressing the report on Mondaty night, Mr Bernardi said he was proud to be a labelled a deplorable – a reference to Hillary Clinton’s infamous description of Donald Trump supporters. But privately, his former conservative Liberal colleagues blame him for leaking the story, claiming he is trying to damage the Liberal party to bolster support for his conservative alternative.
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