South Australian senator Cory Bernardi is set to split from the Liberal party today as parliament resumes for 2017.
Bernardi is expected to announce he is forming his own political party, the Australian Conservatives.
His exit is problematic for the Coalition, as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is forced to deal with a defection to start the parliamentary year.
On Monday Liberal MPs attempted to remind him of the support he pledged to the party.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly told the ABC: “I’d encourage Cory to have maybe one last think.”
“You can do a lot more inside the Liberal party, working for, arguing those things that you believe in, than actually outside the tent.”
The Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg also said, during ABC’s Q&A: “The point that Cory needs to reflect on is he is in the Parliament by virtue of the endorsement of the South Australian Liberal Party.”
Bernardi has built a friendship with Australia’s richest woman, Gina Rinehart, and there has been speculation she may provide him with financial support for the project.
There was initial speculation that Nationals MP George Christensen, who had previously indicated that he was unhappy with the Coalition, might follow Bernardi.
However on Monday Christensen confirmed he would remain with the government “as long as the government holds true to the values of the people that put us there”.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has extended a hand of support, saying she has “no problems” working with him if he splits from the Liberal Party.
This week it has been revealed that support for the Coalition is at its lowest level since Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott as prime minister.
According to Newspoll, the party’s primary vote support is down to 35%.
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