Last Tuesday, Australian politics was shaken up as Julia Banks announced that she was quitting the Liberal Party, a decision that will have repercussions on the power of the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives, with now a firm minority of only 74 seats. In the current period of uncertainty and petty back-and-forth between the Liberal and Labor parties in the lead-up to the May election of 2019, this latest blow will undoubtedly cause problems for the Liberals.
Until recently, Julia Banks was the elected Liberal MP for Chisholm (an electorate in Victoria). Before she was a politician, Banks worked as a corporate lawyer.
Banks first made headlines in August, during the leadership spill in which Malcolm Turnbull was replaced by Scott Morrison. Banks criticised the "bullying and intimidation...against women in politics, the media and across business" and the "cultural and gender bias" during the aftermath of the spill, during which she had initially been loyal to Malcolm Turnbull. Expressing surprise at the willingness of fellow Victorian MPs to betray their Prime Minister, Banks soon directed her support towards Julie Bishop, the only female candidate in the vote.
Julia Banks' controversial speech in August criticised the apparent backstabbing and bad treatment of women that she had experienced in politics. Since that speech, Banks has been the subject of continuous anonymous Liberal criticism. For that reason, Banks gave another speech last week justifying her decision to leave the Liberals, pointing to the negative treatment and “bullying” of women, and the current government’s inability to agree on energy and environmental policies.
Banks will continue to serve as the MP for Chisholm in the House of Representatives, but will no longer be a member of the Liberal Party, instead representing the Independents.
With only a minority number of Coalition seats, the Liberals will now certainly struggle to automatically pass any legislation through the House of Representatives. The news of Banks leaving comes close to the PM’s decision to announce the budget one month earlier than usual, ahead of our next federal election in May. Given this new recent development in Australian politics, the only certainty is that the future of the current government is unclear.