Right-wing senator’s defection intensifies rifts in Australian government

 

Right-wing senator’s defection intensifies rifts in Australian government

By
Mike Head

9 February 2017

Tuesday’s split by right-wing Senator Cory Bernardi from the Liberal-National government to form a new party, the Australian Conservatives, has exacerbated the tensions wracking the ruling coalition. While Bernardi’s defection in the Senate is not, by itself, an immediate threat to the government’s one-seat majority in the lower house of parliament, it points to broader processes tearing apart the government.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government is caught up in the escalating geo-political tensions in Asia and internationally. The installation of the new Trump administration and its threats against China have only exacerbated differences over how to balance between China, Australia’s largest trading partner, and the US, its longstanding strategic ally.

At the same time, the government is under huge pressure from big business to impose further deep inroads into living standards. Parliament resumed this week for 2017, with the government seeking to push through draconian welfare cuts that have been blocked in parliament since 2014 in the face of intense public hostility to them.

There is nervous speculation in the corporate media about the break-up of the ruling Coalition under conditions of an accelerating collapse of popular support for the government and the entire political establishment. The Australian’s editor-at large Paul Kelly warned yesterday of a “convulsive sea change rocking our politics” in the wake of Trump’s election, in which “the conservative side of Australian politics is now devouring itself.”

In his resignation statement, Bernardi referred to “the level of public disenchantment with the major parties.” He is…

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