In just 12 months, Senator Cory Bernardi has founded a political movement that pundits in Canberra thought was impossible.
It's a movement that has engaged grassroots conservatives in a way no other party has for decades.
I'm delighted to return to my home-state of Queensland to help build a political movement that I believe is indispensable to the future of this State and our nation.
It was here in Toowoomba, as a local councillor that I learned the power of grassroots campaigning.
And it was here in Toowoomba that I became restless to see a more just and compassionate society.
And now after more than a decade living in Canberra fighting for Christian truth and freedom, I can tell you that Canberra is broken.
But we conservatives believe in things that are worth fighting for.
The turning point
Sadly, the major parties have abandoned so many of the virtues that made Australia great.
The major parties work very well for the power brokers in the winner's circle – but they aren't working for everyday Australians.
Few things opened my eyes to this more than the marriage campaign.
Last year's plebiscite convinced me to make the switch to partisan politics.
The consequences that flow from changing the Marriage Act illustrate the lack of common sense and principle in Canberra.
Watching a Coalition Government tear itself apart over something as basic as whether marriage is between one man and one woman helped me realise Australia's traditional conservative parties are desperately lost.
The Coalition Government's inability or unwillingness to protect basic human rights including those of freedom of speech and freedom of religion – tipped me over the edge.
That a Liberal-National government could not or would not protect the freedom of speech and religion of almost five million Australians stunned me.
This is not the Australia I grew up in. It is not common sense.
Australian Conservatives is the only political party committed to the values we took for granted as a nation up until this point in our history.
Social policy for both sides of politics has largely been handed over to the Green Rainbow Left. Politicians who should know better, apart from a few notable exceptions, have simply capitulated.
As a result of their silence, elites are telling us we are "bigots" if we don't support teaching children that their gender is fluid.
Elites label us "deniers" – likening us to despicable holocaust deniers – if we merely question anthropogenic global warming.
We just have to cop the high cost of electricity while governments shut down power stations, leaving an uncertain future.
And we are not allowed to ask why because that is to be a "denier".
This is not common sense.
Elites want us to be ashamed of Australia Day and who we are as a nation. As if somehow celebrating and giving thanks for our country is an act of racism.
A nation unsure of its past cannot be confident it has a future.
The totalitarian instincts and impulses of the elites who stifle free thinking and free debate, need to be taken on. Urgently.
Out on the ocean it is not the water outside the boat that is the worry. It is the water inside the boat.
The foaming water of cultural Marxism and Green Rainbow Left identity politics is well and truly sloshing about in the boat of both major political parties.
Politicians have three responses to this challenge. One group is clueless to the danger. Others are simply too afraid to confront it. And a third group comprised of party power-brokers are complicit with it.
Even senior LNP MPs from this great state campaigned for and voted to redefine marriage.
And if that wasn't enough, they then voted in Parliament against common sense protections for free speech and freedom of religion.
If cabinet ministers in a conservative government won't stand up for free speech, who will?
The water of the PC elites is in the boat of the LNP and they don't know how to get it out.
Building a movement
I want to help build a political movement that is committed to the pillars of conservativism.
Starting with faith, we need to recognise that the influence of Christianity in society is the foundation stone of true freedom.
Our founders knew it when they embedded "humbly relying on the blessings of Almighty God" in our Constitution.
If ever there was a time when our politicians needed to know that there is a God and it is not them, it is now.
The American founders knew this. They knew that without Christian faith there can be no virtue. Without virtue in the citizenry there is no freedom.
Thomas Jefferson said: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are the gift of God?"
John Adams, the second President of the United States, said: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
And our greatest Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies also knew this truth when he said:
"The most important thing in the world, may I say for myself, is man's relation to his maker: his relation to the divine and spiritual law."
Menzies knew the importance of the centrality of faith for civil society to flourish.
A multi-million dollar human rights commission can't make us virtuous and it can't make us free.
The second pillar is the natural family. I want to be out loud and proud for the basic group unit of society. Few causes attract more ridicule from the elites these days.
Mum, dad and the kids should be encouraged to thrive. Encouraging this in no way diminishes single parents. All of us deep down aspire to give every kid the chance grow up with the love of his or her mum and dad, wherever possible. Public policy should unashamedly promote this aspiration.
Menzies knew that Marxist ideology, the same ideology which animates today's Green Rainbow social policy, was hell-bent on destroying the natural family.
He recognised this in 1946 when he said: "If you secure a copy of the Communist Manifesto and look at chapter 2 you will see how it embraces the abolition of the family; the abolition of what is called bourgeois marriage; the abolition of country and nationality."
Menzies was a man ahead of his time. We are seeing this ideology play out in our schools today.
When Liberals like party president Nick Greiner and Senator Dean Smith drape Sir Robert Menzies in the rainbow flag and co-opt him into their Green Rainbow social policy, they are trashing the foundations of Menzies' political movement.
This is one of the key reasons why we need the Australian Conservatives.
We must also speak for the voiceless. That is why I will always stand up for human rights for the unborn.
The third pillar is free enterprise. I want to be part of a political movement that is clear about free enterprise and the need for small government.
We are a party determined to deal with the inter-generational theft that is our unsustainable public debt.
Senator Bernardi's Private Senator's Bill to re-instate a debt ceiling and cap it at $600 billion will be a test of whether or not the major parties are serious about paying off the nation's credit card.
Government must also free our energy sector from the shackles of gesture politics. One of the best things government can do for free enterprise and economic prosperity is ensure our energy resources are not constrained by ideology.
Asia is building High Efficiency, Low Emissions coal-fired power stations.
Here in Australia with some of the world's largest coal reserves we are shutting down coal-fired power stations and paying some of the world's highest power prices.
How did it come to this?
The fourth pillar of conservativism is freedom.
When you can be dragged before a government commission and fined for simply insulting or offending someone, that is not freedom.
When parents are told they are bigots for questioning "safe schools" gender fluid ideology in their children's classroom, that is not freedom – that is oppression.
When you are called a hater by the Green Rainbow Left for simply for believing that marriage is between one man and one woman, that is not rational debate. That is bullying designed to intimidate people into silence.
When an Archbishop is dragged before a government commission for teaching Catholics Catholic teaching on marriage, that is not freedom, that is totalitarianism.
And when a Liberal National government fails to prevent this ever happening again, it is clear even they are a government paralysed by political correctness. The water is in the boat and it is time for a better way.
If we continue to allow elite thought control to dominate what can and can't be said in debates about public policy, then we are committing intellectual suicide as a nation.
Australia is better than that.
A constructive alternative
Unlike other new parties, Australian Conservatives is neither popularist nor a party of protest.
We are here because the centre in both parties has shifted too far to the Green Rainbow Left.
A vote for Australian Conservatives is not a vote to wreck conservative governments. It is a vote to draw their compass back to truth north. Our preferences will always flow to candidates who support conservative virtues.
The choice Queenslanders currently have is a Senate cross-bench populated by Greens on the extreme Left or a party of protest on the extreme right.
The Australian Conservatives offers a constructive, principled conservative voice in the sensible, common sense centre.
A vote for Australian Conservatives is a vote to bring common sense back.
This is a movement that offers real hope – perhaps our only hope. I'm glad to be joining.
This is an edited copy of the speech Lyle Shelton gave in Toowoomba when it was announced he was joining Australian Conservatives.