The right-wing Christian party Family First collapsed into the Australian Conservatives in April. The Australian Conservatives was set up by the former Liberal Party Senator Cory Bernardi. The long-time free-market conservative, known for his racist, homophobic and climate change-denying views claimed his move away from the Liberals was due to their failure to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the Australian people.
Bernardi comes from South Australia, a state with one of the worst-suffering economies in the country. Thousands of jobs have been lost due to the collapse of manufacturing. This has led to the emergence of several minor parties who are all vying to take advantage of the disillusionment that exists with the major parties.
The merger comes after Bob Day, the former millionaire leader of Family First, was embroiled in a series of scandals. First his building company was liquidated, then a court decided that he had not been validly elected as he owned the building the Commonwealth leased for his electorate office. Day was forced to step down and was replaced by Lucy Gichuhi, another Family First member. Gichuhi however has refused to be part of the merger.
While Bernardi has said that he looks towards Trump in the US for inspiration, he has clearly not understood that many people initially supported Trump because they thought he would offer something different to the type of pro-capitalist free-market policies that Bernardi advocates.
While some commentators have presented this merger as significant, the truth is that the brand-damaged Family First were already on their last legs. The Australian Conservatives are unlikely to have a broad appeal beyond the already existing right-wing Christian base. While there is no doubt that disenfranchised voters need a new political force, no realignment of the fringe right wing parties will be able to satisfy their needs.
By Mark Poore