Conservatives to push on without Bernardi

Doubt has been cast on whether Cory Bernardi will rejoin the Liberals after deregistering his party.
Doubt has been cast on whether Cory Bernardi will rejoin the Liberals after deregistering his party.

Dedicated members of the Australian Conservatives have vowed to keep the party alive in some form, after its founder and leader Cory Bernardi announced he was deregistering it.

Senator Bernardi revealed his plans to deregister the party on Thursday after being disappointed in its election result.

The South Australian launched the Australian Conservatives in early 2017 after defecting from the Liberal Party, amid concerns it was veering too far to the left.

But he says his supporters flocked back to the Liberals when Scott Morrison succeeded Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.

With three years left in his Senate term, Senator Bernardi is weighing up his own next steps and hasn't ruled out returning to the Liberals.

But some Australian Conservatives members in NSW have no interest in letting the party die.

Unsuccessful NSW Senate candidate Riccardo Bosi says thousands of members in his state will continue their fight to be represented in state and federal parliaments.

Mr Bosi said Senator Bernardi has offered all current Australian Conservative members the option to transfer to a new party, the name of which is yet to be confirmed.

"We have many very competent members, who until now have been sidelined and unable to voice their concerns due to our current structure," he said in a statement.

Mr Bosi says the party needs to "professionalise" with a new democratic, transparent and consultative constitution, and elect a NSW executive.

Their aim would be to land at least two senators and five lower house members.

Senator Bernardi said on Thursday his supporters had breathed a sigh of relief when Mr Morrison - a "man of faith and values" became prime minister.

Should he return to the Liberals, the Morrison government would be guaranteed 36 votes in the upper house, and only need the support of three crossbenchers to pass legislation.

But South Australian Liberal MP Tony Pasin doubts Senator Bernardi would return to his former camp.

"I don't think Cory will be looking to re-join the Liberal Party," he told Sky News on Friday.

"It wouldn't be a problem in my view, but I don't think Cory is about to do that."

In either case, the Liberal Party will reap an extra seat in the upper house if the senator bows out of politics before his term expires in mid-2022.

The Liberals would have the right to fill the casual vacancy that would create as he was elected under the party's banner.

Former Australian Christian Lobby chief Lyle Shelton, who ran on the Australian Conservatives' Senate ticket in Queensland, says he has no regrets about joining the movement.

"I'm sure that the existence of Australian Conservatives played into the minds of those in the Liberal Party who were worried that they were heading to electoral oblivion," he told Sky News.

Australian Associated Press