Julia Banks (Lib-Chisholm) Turns Independent

The member for the Victorian electorate of Chisholm, Julia Banks, has announced that she is resigning from the Liberal Party to sit as an independent in the House of Representatives, plunging the Morrison government further into minority status.

Banks had previously announced that she would not contest Chisholm again as a Liberal. She has suggested she might run in Chisholm, or elsewhere, as an independent.

Banks won Chisholm at the 2016 federal election. It was the only seat the Liberal Party captured from the Labor Party. The ALP’s Anna Burke had held the seat since 1998.

A redistribution means the redrawn Chisholm will be based around the suburbs of Box Hill, Blackburn, Mount Waverley and Glen Waverley. It has a notional Liberal majority of 3.4%. Last Saturday’s Victorian state election saw the seats of Box Hill and Mount Waverley lost by the Liberal Party to the ALP with swings of 7.5% and 6.0% respectively. The Blackburn-based electorate of Forest Hill, whilst retained by the Liberal Party, registered a 3.0% swing to the ALP.

Bank’s announcement in the House came at the beginning of the day’s proceedings. It coincided with a press conference by Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The coalition government now holds just 74 of the 150 seats in the House, having already lost former PM Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth to Dr Kerryn Phelps, also an independent. There are now seven crossbenchers in the House. The ALP has 69 seats.

  • Listen to Banks’ statement (5m)
  • Watch Bank’s statement (5m)

Hansard transcript of statement by Julia Banks, former Liberal member for Chisholm.

Ms BANKS (Chisholm) (12:01): Mr Speaker, on indulgence, may I make a personal statement?

The SPEAKER: Yes, the member for Chisholm may proceed.

Ms BANKS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Following the leadership coup in August, I announced my decision that I will not recontest the seat of Chisholm at the next election as a member of the Liberal Party. I’ve always put the people before the party. After being a Labor held seat for 18 years, the people of Chisholm elected me as I promised them that I would be their representative under the leadership of the former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop—both visionary, inspiring leaders of sensible, centrist, liberal values with integrity and intellect, and with significant support from my local community, and across Australia, as leaders of our nation.

The gift of time and reflection has provided some clarity regarding the brutal blow against the leadership. Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence. Their actions were undeniably for themselves—for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition—not for the Australian people who we represent; not for what people voted for in the 2016 election; not for stability, and disregarding that teamwork and unity deliver success. The aftermath of those dark days in August then acutely laid bare the major parties’ obstructionist and combative actions and internal games, all for political pointscoring, rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.

Equal representation of men and women in this parliament is an urgent imperative which will create a culture change. There’s the blinkered rejection of quotas and support of the merit myth, but this is more than a numbers game. Across both major parties, the level of regard and respect for women in politics is years behind the business world. There is also a clear need for an independent whistleblower system, as found in many workplaces, to enable reporting of misconduct of those in power without fear of reprisal or retribution. Often when good women call out or are subjected to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portray them as the bad ones: the liar, the troublemaker, the emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced.

To those who say politics is not for the faint-hearted and that women have to toughen up, I say this: the hallmark characteristics of the Australian woman—and I’ve met thousands of them, be they in my local community, politics, business, the media or sport—are resilience and a strong, authentic, independent spirit. The voice of the Australian people has been loud and clear. Hundreds from my local community, as well as hundreds more from across Australia, contacted me with their support and—knowing that my life, from humble and hard-working migrant heritage, has been in the business real world and not as a career politician—many pleaded that I stay in politics and become an independent representative.

My sensible, centrist values, belief in economic responsibility and focus on always putting the people first and acting in the nation’s interest have not changed. The Liberal Party has changed, largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing, who talk about and to themselves rather than listening to the people. To continue to put the people before the party and act in the nation’s interest authentically and constructively, effective immediately I will serve as a member of this House of Representatives as an Independent representative. I intend to give the government my assurance as to confidence and supply. In the new year I will make a decision about my future career path.

Like the three female independent representatives, the new member for Wentworth, the member for Mayo and the member for Indi, sensible, centre, liberal values are at the core of what I stand for. As a result of this political journey, I am grateful to have met so many wonderful people from across the political divide who I know will respect my decision and with whom I hope I will have enduring friendships. I am so proud to serve as a member of this House of Representatives with honour and respect because of the good people it represents, the people that the major parties have stopped listening to: the Australian people. I thank you, Mr Speaker.

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