Cory Bernardi is on the hunt for more politicians and party members to join his Australian Conservatives, after the group’s merger with Family First.
The South Australian senator says the door is open to anyone who identifies as a conservative and is prepared to uphold the party’s four founding principles.
“That is about stronger families, fostering free enterprise, limiting the size and scope and reach of government, and rebuilding a civil society,” he said.
“You don’t have to be of any particular religious persuasion to uphold those values. You don’t have to have any particular faith.”
Senator Bernardi says the union between the Australian Conservatives and Family First will strengthen the conservative movement in Australia and believes the two groups are a “natural fit”.
The move means Family First’s two SA MPs, Dennis Hood and Robert Brokenshire, will represent the merged entity in the SA upper house.
Senator Bernardi says Australian Conservatives has thousands of paid members and tens of thousands of supporters, but needs to broaden its base and will be registering state-based parties.
Whether the Australian Conservatives will be ready to contest the upcoming Queensland state election will be a matter of timing and resources, as with several other state polls and the next federal election.
“There is a very big plate that we have to consider how we’re going to allocate the portions that we have and our limited resources to,” he told the ABC.
Senator Bernardi, who quit the Liberals earlier this year, hit back at his ex-colleagues including former factional rival Christopher Pyne for their unflattering critiques of his fledgling movement.
“People like Christopher Pyne don’t stand for anything,” Senator Bernardi said.
“Australian Conservatives are determined to put some steel in the spine of politicians and show principle in their approach to policy.”
The party’s first real election test will likely come in South Australia, at the next state election in March 2018.