Why Julia Banks Quitting The Libs Is A Very Big Deal

For Scott Morrison – losing a backbencher doesn’t sound like a big deal. But it is. A very big deal.

And that’s because Julia Banks, did what few others within the Liberal Party could do at the last election.

Her seat of Chisholm was held by Labor for 18 years, before Banks picked it up in 2016. She holds it with a margin of 3.4 percent after a redistribution. That’s not much, but at an election where the Liberal party lost seats, and only remained in power by the skin of their teeth, this was a strong win for the Party.

Now they’ve lost her, the seat, and continued the internal self-flagellation that is baffling, and angering the voters.

When Malcolm Turnbull was knifed in August, Banks announced she wouldn’t recontest the seat as a Liberal, blasting what she called the “cultural and gender bias, bullying and intimidation” of women within the Party.

If that wasn’t bad enough – she says she will now quit immediately and sit for the rest of the term as an Independent.

Banks with Julie Bishop. Photo: AAP

In a statement released today, she again had a go at those within the Liberal Party, behind the spill.

“The gift of time and reflection has provided some clarity regarding the brutal blow against the leadership,” she wrote.

“Led by members of the reactionary right win, the coup was aided by the many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsement 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.”

For Scott Morrison, this reignites an issue they wanted to put behind them. He needed to clear the air from the spill to cement himself in the eyes of the public as a leader in his own right.

Dragging the political debate back to the knifing of Malcolm Turnbull makes them appear dysfunctional and chaotic. We all remember the Rudd, Gillard, Rudd years.

The other issue is the Liberals support in Victoria. They’ve just been beaten in the Victorian state election. And while directly linking state and federal elections can be fraught with danger, this was undoubtedly a bad sign for the Federal Party.

They lost seats to Labor in Melbourne’s east, and if the swings against the Liberal party translated to the federal election in May next year, it could mean that some seats, and the big names that currently hold them are in trouble. This includes Health Minister Greg Hunt, Education Minister Alan Tudge and even the Speaker Tony Smith.

Julia Banks’ seat of Chisholm is one of those. At the moment, she hasn’t made it clear whether she will again stand at the next election.

If she stands as an independent – her popularity with the voters, and the fact she’s walking away from the party could play well. She could avoid being tarnished with the anger voters feel over the spill, and that anger may then be worn by the new candidate the Liberal party puts up.

For now, Banks is promising confidence and supply – ie she will vote for budget bills with the government, and vote against any “no confidence” motion in the Prime Minister. But on everything else, her vote is now up in the air.

And where that gets interesting – is referring Peter Dutton to the High Court.

Labor hasn’t ruled out moving this again, over what they argue are questions to answer surrounding his eligibility under section 44.

And her vote, could end up being the deciding factor.