Maybe Australia is getting a religious right

Hand to hand combat inside the Liberal Party

That bump you just heard was the sound of the Liberal Party in Victoria shifting right.

“A takeover by social conservatives of the Victorian Liberal Party on the weekend will eventually lead to many state MPs being replaced, party leaders said, The Financial Review‘s Aaron Patrick reports

“A political faction led by a 28-year-old businessman, Marcus Bastiaan, and its allies secured a majority of positions Saturday on the party’s administrative committee, which oversees the party’s week-by-week operations and can force existing parliamentary candidates to face internal challengers.”

Baastian has recruited a familiar face, long term powerbroker Michael Kroger, the state president to lead the social conservative charge. Kroger enjoyed a 721-to-448 win over a socially liberal rival on the weekend.

Eternity understands that a recruitment campaign targeting Christians has been going on for at least two years, with the aim of reviving social conservative values in the Liberal Party.

Two years ago, many members of the Australian Christians (similar to NSW’s Christian Democrats) and Family First came to the conclusion that reforms to the rules for Senate elections meant there was not much future for minor parties. Adopting an optional preferential system has meant that parties can no longer do the elaborate preference deals that elected candidates with small primary votes.

Activists in those small parties were targeted by the Baastian group.

But the path for many politically conservative Christians was not smooth. Eternity has heard stories of pastors being refused membership of the Liberal Party or having their membership revoked, because, being Christians they were “too far right”. It depended on which branch of the Liberals you were trying to join.

The advent of Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives (AC) party has also recruited activists from the smaller parties, with both Family First and Australian Christian members being invited to join the new party as part of a formal merger.

This has meant that politically active, conservative Christians have ended up in two groups – in the Australian Conservatives and the Libs. (In Victoria there were two other small groups, the DLP and Rise Up Australia. Rise Up led by fiery Pentecostal pastor Danny Nalliah is still recruiting.)

Inevitably some members of each group see the other as wasting their time. Some Liberal party members will rate the chances of the AC party of getting a Senate quota as unlikely. Many of those in the AC will say those in the Libs run the risk of getting swallowed up. Conservative Christians only form part of the Baastion alliance in the Libs. On the other hand, conservative MPs in these parties maintain friendly relations, despite some changing brands.