Cory Bernardi alone had no real chance

Cory Bernardi alone had no real chance, by Nick Cater.

The timing of Cory Bernardi’s 12-week sabbatical to the UN in New York in 2016 was unfortunate. Donald Trump was rousing conservative hearts on the presidential campaign trail by exposing the weakness of the political establishment, not least within his own party.

Cory Bernadi

The news from home was disheartening. His colleagues’ belief that they could change leaders without changing the party had turned out to be misplaced. ­Malcolm Turnbull was not the dazzling product advertised on the packet, although his colleagues should have known that, having opened the packet once before. Bernardi and other Turnbull sceptics had good cause to say “I told you so”.

Those circumstances provide an explanation, but not an ­excuse, for an act of political self-immolation that burnt millions of dollars and many good people along the way. Bernardi’s career-ending decision to leave the Liberals was an act of exasperation at what he ­regarded as the party’s leftward drift that ignored its ability to self-correct. …

His departure leaves a gap in parliament that will be hard to fill. Bernardi had the courage to say what other conservatives merely thought. He possessed the intellectual confidence to challenge groupthink even when it disturbed the comfort of members of his own party. …

Like Menzies?

Bernardi’s claim on the night of his defection that he was acting in the spirit of Robert Menzies was a stretch, to put it mildly. Menzies built the Liberal Party by uniting disparate forces, not tearing them apart.

The story of the centre-right in Australia before the Liberal Party’s foundation in 1944 is one of transient coalitions, clashing personalities and not a little ­confusion. The story since then is of a party that has been in government for far more years than it has been out of it, governing in a Coalition of unrivalled longevity and stability. …

How do we find an Australian Trump?

Australian conservatives who yearn for their own Trump might take this opportunity to ponder why this amiable, well-­intentioned outsider turned out not to be their man.

One obvious but not insignificant precondition for Trump’s victory comes to mind. He was elected as a member of the ­Republican Party.