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In a blow to Australian PM, one of senators launches his own party

In a blow to Australian PM, one of senators launches his own partyAustralian right-wing Senator Cory Bernardi has defected from the nation's government to launch his own Australian Conservatives party, according to BBC on Tuesday.

Bernardi confirmed his move in Australia's upper house on Tuesday, ending months of speculation. The outspoken senator has repeatedly criticised PM Malcolm Turnbull's government for being too moderate.

His departure comes as a fresh blow to Turnbull, who holds a precarious majority of one in the lower house. If Bernardi were to persuade a single MP to join him, Turnbull - whose Liberal party has been hit by infighting and has fallen far behind Labor in opinion polls - would be left with a minority government.

Bernardi's views on topics including same-sex marriage, climate change and abortion have polarised public opinion.

"This has been a very difficult decision for me. Perhaps the most difficult one of my political life" Bernardi said.

"The level of public disenchantment with the major parties, the lack of confidence in our political process and the concern about the direction of our nation is very, very strong," he added.

Bernardi said he had not spoken "to any sitting MPs" about joining his party, but he would run candidates at the next election.

The 47-year-old South Australian was first elected to the Senate in 2006 after becoming the youngest ever Liberal Party state president aged 29. Backed by powerbrokers on the Liberal Party's right, Bernardi was appointed a shadow parliamentary secretary, but resigned in 2012 after making controversial comments linking same-sex marriage to bestiality.

He has maintained a high profile on the backbench, making regular forays into public debate.

In an email to supporters in March 2016, Senator Bernardi said his mission was to build a movement "to fight against the tyranny of political correctness".

"Unless the mainstream parties connect with the 'forgotten people' they will choose a different path," Bernardi wrote.

Bernardi has pointed to Brexit and the rise of far-right politics in Europe as evidence of the public losing faith in major parties.

Among his views that have attracted controversy, Bernardi has been critical of abortion and questioned whether climate change was caused by human activity.

"We will be united by the desire to create stronger families, to foster free enterprise, to limit the size and scope and reach of government while seeking to rebuild civil society," he said on Tuesday.
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