World

New blow for Aussie PM as lawmaker quits

SYDNEY: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was left teetering on the brink of a minority government yesterday, when a prominent lawmaker quit to form a new conservative party, as Mr Turnbull's popularity ratings hit new lows.

The defection of Senator Cory Bernardi to form the Australian Conservatives, seven months after Mr Turnbull's Liberal-National coalition claimed an unconvincing election victory, further weakens the centre-right government's hopes of pressing ahead with its legislative agenda.

Mr Bernardi said he hopes his new party would offer a refuge for disillusioned right-wing members of the coalition at a time when traditional conservative parties are under threat from a shift to the right that has favoured parties like Ms Pauline Hanson's nationalist One Nation.

Mr Turnbull faces having to cobble together a minority government if Mr Bernardi is able to entice just a single lawmaker from the lower house of parliament to join his new party.

Mr Bernardi said he had not yet approached any coalition members and offered only limited support for Mr Turnbull's legislative agenda in the upper house Senate, where the government is already in the minority.

Signs suggest that the split might not be amicable. "If Bernardi really wants to restore faith in politics, he must resign and recontest as an independent, otherwise it's all hot air," senior minister Christopher Pyne tweeted. - REUTERS

AustraliapoliticsSydney