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Cory Bernardi to split with Coalition to form own party.

By Stephanie Anderson

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi is set to split from the Coalition over coming days to form his own political party.

The ABC understands the South Australian senator will walk out of the Liberal Party within the next 48 hours.

Senator Bernardi has previously indicated he may start a new party for disenchanted conservative voters, with reports surfacing as early as mid-2016.

In July he called for voters to back his Australian Conservatives movement, citing the need for a “broad conservative movement to help change politics”.

The South Australian senator will walk away from the Liberals in the next 48 hours. ABC News: Nick Haggarty

Federal Parliament returns on Tuesday and it's expected that a statement to the Senate will be the first the public hear from Senator Bernardi on his departure from the Coalition.

In his latest newsletter, Senator Bernardi foreshadowed a "testing year" for the Government.

"Unfortunately there are too few in our body politic willing to take the path less travelled — a trustworthy track that has fallen out of use," he said.

"For the sake of our nation, we must get back on track."

Bernardi frustrated by politically correct party leaders

The South Australian senator is a social conservative and economic liberal — he believes in small government, lower taxes and free trade, and thinks the Coalition has drifted from these values.

After the July election, Senator Bernardi lamented the fact that the Coalition had "bled" more than a million votes to conservative parties such as One Nation, and said at the time his party was neglecting its base.

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The ABC understands he was frustrated that his party's leaders were too politically correct and refused to address cultural issues like the rise of Islam.

This is one of the key reasons he established Australian Conservatives to reconnect with and increase his base of supporters.

Since then, he's declared "there's never been a more exciting time to be a backbencher" and has led the charge to change the nation's racial discrimination laws, prompting the Prime Minister to establish a parliamentary inquiry, and forced the Government to rule out any form of carbon pricing ahead of a wider review.

Senator Bernardi has also become increasingly outspoken since the election of US President Donald Trump, who he vocally supported while staying in New York last year.

Writing last year on the election, Senator Bernardi said "politics in Australia needs to change".

"My time in the USA has made me realise I have to be a part of that change, perhaps even in some way a catalyst for it," he said.

"Exactly what direction that will take is still a work in progress but there is one thing of which I am certain — I hope you will embark on the journey with me."

Senator Bernardi has close links to Liberal donor Gina Rinehart and her potential support for a break-away party has been raised in the past.

Coalition would need to chase nine crossbench votes

 Senator Bernardi has been a critic of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, both before and after he toppled his predecessor Tony Abbott in 2015. His departure from the Coalition would make Mr Turnbull's job more difficult, leaving the Coalition to chase nine crossbench votes in the Upper House instead of the current eight.

Treasurer Scott Morrison refused to be drawn on the reports this morning, instead focusing on Senator Bernardi's history with the party, which has historically placed him at the top of the ballot.

"He's a long history of his service within the Liberal Party and Liberal Party members have supported him strongly in his roles as a Liberal senator," he said.

"At the last election he was elected as a Liberal senator by Liberal voters to support the Liberal Party in this Parliament and be part of our team. What he chooses to do is for him to decide."

His departure would also coincide with increasingly poor polls for the Coalition, which today dropped to its lowest level of support since Mr Turnbull took the top office.

Support for the Coalition is behind Labor, 54-46 two-party preferred, according to the Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper.

LNP politician George Christensen said he would not follow Senator Bernardi if he did split from the Coalition.

The Queensland MP said while he wasn't sure of his colleague's intentions, the Coalition did need to reconnect with its conservative base.

"If we drift away any further, it's going to become untenable," he said.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz also dismissed speculation he may leave the Coalition, posting on social media he remained "committed to the Liberal Party and its founding principles".

This post originally appeared on ABC News.


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