I would like to see Corey Bernardi make good on his threats and break away from the Coalition in seeking to form his more conservative party to represent Australians who feel the current government isn’t far enough to the right- can there really be that many people like that?
Voters are fickle and hard to predict so I can’t say for sure that it would fail though- and the possibility of it somehow mobilising a far greater number of voters than I anticipate is a little frightening- but I still would like to see it happen.
I also can’t say it would be bad for the current government, much as I despise them. If Bernardi, Christenson and one or two other arch-conservatives were to split from the Coalition, it would perhaps empower and embolden the so-called moderates to take some belated action. How the Nationals would react would be another question, but even without a majority government it is possible to get legislation passed, as Julia Gillard proved over and over again. Turnbull might just have to live up to one of his promises (I know his track record for doing so is terrible) and be agile and innovative.
The reason I would like to see Bernardi and his ilk split from the Liberal party is it would dissolve the fiction that moderates and extremists are both represented by same the party. They are clearly not at the moment. They could have been if Turnbull had not been found so wanting as a leader, but he was, so they haven’t. Separating the centre-right from the ultra-right of the party would give those who can’t bring themselves to vote for Labour or Green candidates a realistic alternative aside from the current far right party that masquerades as centrist. The Liberal-National Coalition may not survive this, but it could be argued that it is becoming anachronistic anyway and that moderate Liberals have more in common with the right faction of the Labour party.
The enduring paradigm of two dominant parties competing against each other is perhaps overdue for evolution, as less and less people feel that either party represents their interests (and quite rightly too in many cases), turning to minor parties and independents in droves.
This need not be a bad thing. Last year I wrote a hypothetical piece about what it might look like if Liberal and Labour could unshackle themselves from decade-long policy positions and take a more forward-thinking negotiated path into the future in which both major parties share some responsibility for tackling the major challenges facing our country.
I’m not confident that the latter can happen, but I am sure that the current Coalition government is trying to bridge an ideological gulf that is too wide with personnel who lack the skill and vision. It might be more effective and cost them less votes if their voters were represented by separate parties who could then work together when their priorities aligned but not be tied to all of each other’s policy positions.