by Matt Walsh
CANBERRA, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Conservative Australian Senator Cory Bernardi has on Tuesday defected from the coalition government in order to found his own far-right political party, the Australian Conservatives.
In a speech tabled to the Senate on Tuesday, the former Liberal Party member said he was fed up with the "political class being out of touch with the Australian people" and that his new, conservative party would "put the principle back into politics."
He described the decision as "perhaps the most difficult of my life", saying it was the "right thing to do" as the Liberal and National Party (LNP) coalition government continues to 'slide to the left'.
"The body politic is failing the people of Australia and it's clear we need to find a better way," he told the senate.
"For many years, I have warned of the consequences of ignoring the clear signs (of discontent). I regret that too often these warnings have been ignored by those who perhaps needed to hear them most."
Bernardi said that it was no secret that the Australian people were shunning the major parties in favor of minor parties and independents which more closely align with voters' values, adding his new party would uphold the "traditional values" he said were once held by the Liberal Party.
"Support for the minor parties is growing exponentially while support for the major parties is dwindling," Bernardi added.
"It really is time for a better way - a conservative way. So today I begin something new, built on enduring values and principles that have served our nation so well for so long. It is a political movement of Australian Conservatives."
The move means the government, which holds just a one-seat majority in the Lower House, will need to gain approval of yet another crossbench Senator in order to pass legislation through the Senate, and Bernardi has hinted that he will work to keep the government 'in check' while in his new position.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly called Bernardi on Tuesday morning to accept the Senator's resignation from the Liberal Party, however the PM told a party room meeting later in the morning that the Senator's decision was hard to swallow after being elected by the people as a Liberal Party Senator just months earlier.
"I asked him how he could justify remaining in the Senate having been elected as a Liberal only seven months ago. He could not answer that question," Turnbull said on Tuesday.
Attorney-General and Senate leader George Brandis said it was "perplexing" that Bernardi would feel the need to take his course of action, as there had been no distinct policy changes since he chose to run under the Liberal Party banner just seven months ago.
"The Australian government is disappointed. We believe he has done the wrong thing because only seven months ago, Berardi was elected by the people of South Australia as a Liberal Senator," Brandis told the Senate.
"There is a variety of views in the Liberal Party, but only seven months ago senator Bernardi was happy to stand before the people of South Australia to say he was happy to serve a six-year term for the Liberal Party."
Other senior Liberal Party members also weighed into the debate on the first day of Parliament's resumption; Immigration Minister Peter Dutton described Bernardi's course of action as "betrayal", while Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said it was South Australian (SA) voters who would be hurting most.
"Cory Bernardi was elected as a Liberal. The honorable course is for him to resign his seat and for him to recontest it as an independent," Pyne posted to social media on Tuesday.
It is unsure how Bernardi will fund his new venture. He said he received around 700 personal donations at the last election, but was unsure if those donors would carry over to the Australian Conservatives, while he also denied he had secured the support of Australia's richest woman, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, despite rumors.
Despite the defection, Bernardi also said he would continue to work with the government to support policies he agrees with.