- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
Just last Thursday Australia woke up to reports that U.S. President Donald Trump had insulted and hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, ending their first phone call.
But, for one Australian member of parliament, five days was evidently enough time to heal the diplomatic wound. Cory Bernardi announced Tuesday he’s leaving Turnbull’s Liberal party to form his own faction — and to bring Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric to the land down under.
In Australia, the Liberal Party is, in a twist, the conservative party — but not enough for Bernardi, who deems it too moderate. Bernardi said he was leaving the Liberals to form the Australian Conservative Party in order to give voters a “principled, stable alternative.” (Bernardi has likened homosexuality to bestiality, criticized abortion, and expressed skepticism over humans’ role in climate change.)
He also declared, in a March 2016 email to supporters, that he had watched Trump’s campaign in New York and learned “what needs to be done,” and that he would “fight against the tyranny of political correctness.”
For now, Bernardi is fighting that tyranny in a party of one. But if just one more Liberal MP joins him, Turnbull will have to rule with a minority government. This will make prime minister still more reliant on crossbenchers — now including Bernardi.
Bill Shorten of the opposition Labor Party claimed indifference, telling his caucus, “Labor and the people of Australia don’t care what goes on down the hallway, whether or not Cory Bernardi stays or goes.” But he also reportedly said, “A government which can’t govern itself, can’t govern the nation.” That led some to believe that he cares at least a little bit that his opponents are in turmoil as a rogue MP vows to make Australia great again.
Still, it isn’t all bad news for Turnbull’s government. On Monday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a resolution “reaffirming a strong commitment to the United States-Australia alliance relationship” after the Trump-Turnbull phone call. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said from the Senate floor, “the people of the United States do not have better friends than the people of Australia. We’re more than friends.”
In his own way, Trump’s admirer in Oz likely agrees.
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