The Morrison government has been dealt another critical blow this morning, after influential MP Julia Banks quit the Liberal Party in favour of the crossbench.
Banks, who was a vocal opponent of the government’s most recent leadership coup as well as a fierce party spokesperson for equal gender representation, told Parliament she needed to leave “those dark days” behind her and would decide her political future in the new year.
“The gift of time and reflection has provided some clarity regarding the brutal blow against the leadership,” Banks said.
“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 stability delivers success.
“The aftermath of those dark days in August acutely laid bare the major parties’ obstructionist and combative actions and internal games – all for political point scoring rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.”
She also added that the government’s failure to act decisively on its glaring gender gap was something she could no longer stand for.
“Equal representation of men and women in this Parliament is an urgent imperative which will create a culture of 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 and 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 portrays them as the bad ones; the liar, the troublemaker, 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, in politics, business, the media and sport– are resilience and a strong authentic independent spirit.”
Banks made the speech to an empty House of Representatives chamber, leading some to speculate that her decision may have caught the Prime Minister off guard. He declared a short time after that the Federal Budget would be moved forward to April 2 next year, with the election date likely to fall on either May 11 or 18.