Revenge must be a factor in Liberal defector Julia Banks’ decision to challenge leadership plotter Greg Hunt, according to political hardheads, who insist she has little change of picking up his seat.
The independent MP quit the Liberal Party to sit on the crossbench after the turmoil of the leadership coup in August, claiming bullying and intimidation.
She has held the Melbourne seat of Chisholm since 2016.
On Thursday, Ms Banks announced she would not contest Chisholm as an independent at this year’s election. Instead, she will stand in Flinders, held by Health Minister Greg Hunt with a margin of 7 per cent. Flinders is an hour’s drive from Chisholm.
One Labor campaigner said she had little chance.
“It’s stupid … no voter down there would know who she is,” they said. “That said, it’s clear she is standing against him as personal payback, and that alone may be interesting.”
Asked on Thursday if Ms Banks was a traitor, Mr Hunt said that was a question for her.
“I will let the individual in question explain her own actions,” he said
“It’s where I grew up. I would never walk away from the area that I grew up in to try to represent another area.”
Mr Hunt was then repeatedly asked if he regretted supporting the removal of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.
“I always look forward. I think that’s a very important position in life for everybody,” he said.
“I think Scott Morrison is doing an incredible job. I think he has the potential to be the most extraordinary leader not just of the federal Liberal Party, not just of the Liberal Party across Australia, but of any party since John Howard.”
— Julia Banks MP (@juliabanksmp) January 30, 2019
In a statement on Thursday, Ms Banks confirmed that Mr Hunt’s involvement in the coup against Mr Turnbull was a big factor in her decision to target the veteran MP.
“I realised that everything I’ve stood and fought for my entire adult life intersects with this moment in time in Australia,” she said.
“There’s still work to be done and unfinished business. I’ve decided I’m staying in this race. I intend to run as an Independent candidate for Flinders at the next election.”
She argued the Liberal Party had lost its way on climate change.
“Climate change is not only real – it is happening,” she said.
Clean renewable energy is the future. It will be cheaper, healthier and better for our environment and effective climate change action policy is an urgent imperative.”
She also said she would always advocate for a humanitarian approach to refugees, “which is the essence of our compassionate character as Australians”.
“I’ll continue to be focused advocacy on gender equality, fair and equitable workplace cultures and equal representation of women in leadership positions,” she said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten confirmed Labor would also run a candidate Flinders. He described Ms Banks as a “formidable” candidate.
“I wouldn’t want to be Greg Hunt today. She seems to be a woman who speaks her own mind,” he said.
“She made it clear she was bullied by the coup masters. She went to her own PM and said enough was enough. Now the chickens have come home to roost in the form of the very formidable Julia Banks.”