Family First is merging with Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives to form a conservative voting bloc in the federal parliament.
The decision comes just days after Lucy Gichuhi was confirmed as the Family First Senator from South Australia, replacing Bob Day, who resigned his position in the Senate back in October 2016.
Cory Bernardi will continue to be the sole Senate representative of Australian Conservatives, with Gichuhi indicated that she will sit as an Independent, telling the media she has no intention of joining the newly amalgamated party.
“All conservative minor parties should unite to protect our values. Please join this movement.” – Andrew Evans
Neither party is explicitly Christian, but Family First was founded by Andrew Evans, a pastor at Influencers Church, which is one of Australia’s biggest Pentecostal churches. Bernardi calls himself a Christian, and left the Liberal Party earlier this year to start Australian Conservatives. Both parties appeal to large segments of the Christian population, as well as more broadly conservative Australians.
Posting the news on Facebook Andrew Evans said, “Yes it’s true and I’m excited, all conservative minor parties should unite to protect our values. Please join this movement.”
“It’s just crazy to divide all the time, so we felt let’s [get] the conservatives [to] unite and make an impact and let them know our values and see if we can have some impact across the nation,” Evans told the ABC.
“CDP are proud to have a track record of being democratically elected to ‘Glorify God in parliament’.” – Christian Democratic Party
The amalgamation of the two parties leaves open the question of whether or not other conservative minor parties will jump on board.
The Christian Democratic Party has not responded to requests for comment, but in a post on Facebook indicated it would not be joining the merged party anytime soon. “Is there a difference between a conservative party and a Christian party? CDP are proud to have a track record of being democratically elected to ‘Glorify God in parliament’ for more than 35 years,” the post read.
Apart from Gichuhi in the Senate, Family First has two other elected members, both in South Australia’s Upper House. Dennis Hood and Robert Brokenshire will continue as members of the new party, with Hood serving as the South Australian state leader of the party, as Bernardi takes on the federal leadership of the party.
With Family First winding up its operations, Australian Conservatives will benefit from Family First’s existing electoral infrastructure, along with its conservative supporter base.
The merger will also have a significant impact on the next year’s South Australian election, slated for March 2018, where the newly minted Australian Conservatives will vie with Independent Nick Xenophon’s team to challenge the major parties. Labor has been in power in the state for 15 years.