Vengeance and spite are potent motivators in politics, and that is what appears to be driving former Liberal MP turned independent Julia Banks.
She sensationally announced she would not be recontesting her seat of Chisholm that she was elected to represent in 2016 following the removal of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister. She cited bullying during the leadership spill (she has still not named who the bullies were) and
Then after the Liberal Party lost the Wentworth by-election, hence their majority in the House of Representatives she announced she was joining the crossbench and added progressive issues of climate change and asylum seekers to her list of policy grievances with the Liberal Party.
Now, while keeping faithful to her word to not recontest the seat of Chilsolm located in Melbourne’s inner south-east, she has decided to contest the seat on Flinders further south on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. She does have a connection to the area with her holiday house located at Red Hill, one of the five properties she owns.
But her primary motivation for switching seats is that Health Minister Greg Hunt currently holds Flinders. Hunt was one of the principal backers of Peter Dutton during the leadership spill and positioned himself to be his Deputy. Although Hunt has had a reputation as a moderate throughout his career, mainly due to his climate change beliefs, recently he was aligned with the party’s conservative faction.
The fact that you would move to a seat so far away to seek political revenge shows just how deep the bitterness in Banks runs. But she is giving the campaign in Flinders a red hot go posting on her official Facebook page herself out and about at events in the Flinders electorate (while at the same time neglecting events in her current seat of Chisholm).
But Banks, as she is no longer a Liberal Party member is entitled to run in a democracy for any seat she likes, for whatever motivation. The voters in Flinders will judge her political machinations at the election.
But if you are a current Liberal Party member, and especially if you are a former Liberal Prime Minister then endorsing a campaign against a Liberal candidate is a severe act of disloyalty.
In fact, it is grounds for expulsion according to the Constitution of the New South Wales Liberal Party “(The) State Executive may expel a Member where the Member has actively assisted a candidate other than a candidate endorsed or approved by the Organisation for election to office in Federal, State or local government for which there is a candidate endorsed by the Organisation”.
And this is what many people concluded Malcolm Turnbull did on Tuesday morning at a doorstop interview at Melbourne Airport when commenting on Julia Banks’ intention to run in Flinders.
While falling short of a formal endorsement, Turnbull praised her as a politician “Julia Banks is an outstanding parliamentarian. She came to parliament with life experience as a lawyer and in the business world. She is really an outstanding representative”.
Last week Malcolm Turnbull’s son Alex confirmed he was working on Julia Banks campaign. Alex has been quite active dishing out anti-Liberal commentary and at times personal abuse on social media. During the Wentworth by-election where Malcolm Turnbull refused to endorse the Liberal candidate Dave Sharma, Alex urged voters to vote against the Liberal Party and donate to the Labor campaign.
While Alex Turnbull is his own man many believe he is acting on his father’s behalf. They also question if the Turnbull family is behind other small L Liberal independents running against sitting Liberal MPs in blue ribbon seats around Australia at the next federal election.
If Malcolm Turnbull is so full of bitterness and spite, that he wants to roll as many Liberal MPs possible, using his vast fortune to do so that his right in a free country. But if he is doing this in secret while still a Liberal Party member then he should no longer enjoy the automatic stature granted to him by the Party as a former leader and Prime Minister.
Last year the Roseville Branch of the New South Wales Liberal Party, an outspoken conservative branch of the party backed a motion to expel Malcolm Turnbull from the Liberal Party following the revelation he, his wife Lucy and Alex, were following an Instagram account dedicated to defeating Tony Abbott in the seat of Warringah. Following Turnbull’s comments this week this motion may gain a bit more traction within the party.
Turnbull if he continues his policy of non-support and commitment to the reelection of the Liberal Government he will find his friends within the party and the media, and most of his legacy will evaporate.