In a blog written after last year’s election, Mr Nalliah claimed the Holy Spirit had come to him and said: “Today, I have blessed you with my son (Scott Morrison) as your Prime Minister. He will lead Australia for multiple terms, as PM John Howard did.”
And at a sermon in December 2018, Mr Nalliah told worshippers that Mr Morrison would be re-elected if he continued to talk about Jesus, and resisted those trying to drag him to the “centre middle” of politics. “There’s no such thing as ‘centre middle’. It’s either Jesus or the devil,” he said.
Former senator Cory Bernardi – who quit the Liberal Party under Malcolm Turnbull’s reign and later established the Australian Conservatives – also attributed, in part, the demise of his own party last year to the rise of Mr Morrison.
Among the Australian Conservatives’ base were disaffected Liberals and former Family First members from Mr Bernardi’s home state in South Australia.
Like Rise Up, the Australian Conservatives were deregistered weeks after the election, with Mr Bernardi conceding at the time that many of its potential voters “breathed a sigh of relief that a man of faith and values was leading the Liberals back to their traditional policy platform”.
Mr Morrison is Australia’s first Pentecostal Prime Minister and a proud member of the Horizon mega-church. But while hardline conservative and Christian groups have been re-energised by his election, the issue is potentially sensitive for a party that does not wish to be seen as lurching too far to the right.
This is especially so in Victoria, where Mormons, conservative Catholics and evangelical Christians from churches such as Victory Faith Centre and City Builders had unprecedented sway in the state branch in recent years, only to be defeated by the Andrews government at the November 18 state election.
On Saturday, a spokesman for Mr Morrison said: “The Morrison government governs for all Australians and was democratically elected by Australians to get on with the job of securing Australia’s future in the face of the many challenges our nation faces, both domestic and international.”
Established as a party in 2011, Rise Up’s policy platform included plans to limit Muslim immigration, curb multiculturalism and repeal Victoria’s abortion laws.
The Sri-Lankan born Mr Nalliah, who runs the Reformation Fire Harvest Ministries church, said that he had not sought to join the Liberals but would “definitely” vote for the party. He said Rise Up would continue as an advocacy group and would press the Liberal Party to the right on issues of multiculturalism, freedom of speech, abortion law and, possibly, on gay marriage.
But he conceded Senate voting reforms, including the abolition of group voting tickets, had also contributed to his party’s demise, making it harder for micro-parties to get elected by swapping preferences.
University of Queensland political scientist Dr Glenn Kefford, who specialises in a study of the radical right, said that, in addition to the Senate reforms, the ongoing success of the more high- profile One Nation had denied fringe parties of votes.
He added that Mr Morrison’s replacement of Malcolm Turnbull had been a “real boost” for conservative Christian voters and had benefited the Liberal Party in key electorates including Queensland.
Royce Millar is an investigative journalist at The Age with a special interest in public policy and government decision-making.
Farrah Tomazin is a senior journalist and investigative reporter for The Age, with interests in politics, social justice, and legal affairs.