In yet another blow to the Morrison government’s bid to retain office, disgruntled former Liberal MP Julia Banks will declare her intention to stand as an independent against a senior cabinet minister in the May federal election.
In a statement Thursday, Ms Banks confirmed the rumours she would contest the election as an independent, saying she has “unfinished business” and will challenge Health Minister Greg Hunt in the Victorian seat of Flinders.
“It’s important that the people of Flinders are not taken for granted and have a strong Independent representative who listens, gives it their all and takes pride in being their voice,” Ms Banks said in a statement
Ms Banks’ decision comes after former Clean Energy Foundation chief and Liberal Party member, Oliver Yates, announced his intention to run against Treasurer Josh Frydenberg as an independent in the blue ribbon seat of Kooyong, while former world champion skier Zali Steggall launched her campaign against Tony Abbott in Warringah.
Their hopes of joining Parliament were buoyed by the success of Kerryn Phelps, who won a by-election for the seat of Wentworth, vacated by the ousting of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Ms Banks, a loyal supporter of Mr Turnbull, announced her intention to quit the Liberal party and stand as an independent in November after revealing in August she would not be re-contesting her seat of Chisholm.
At the time, the former corporate lawyer accused her Liberal colleagues of “bullying and intimidation” during August’s chaotic Liberal leadership spill – which installed Scott Morrison as prime minister – as the catalyst for her resignation.
Mr Hunt holds Flinders, a seat on the outer southern suburbs of Melbourne, with a 7 per cent margin, but is expected to lose support due to his role in pushing for the leadership ballot.
Asked on Wednesday about the prospect of Ms Banks contesting his seat, Mr Hunt played up his links with the local community, where he grew up and has gone on to raise his children.
“I’ll always treat it as completely marginal from the very first day that I put myself forward for preselection to this day; that has never changed,” he said.
Ms Banks raised the issue of climate change and “socially responsible” policies as her election platform.
“My values are in the sensible centre and at the core of what I stand for,” Ms Banks said.
“I’ll always support policies which reflect economic responsibility whilst being socially progressive,” she added.
Victorian Liberal MP Tim Wilson questioned Ms Banks’ strategy, saying recent polling showed an independent “basically has no chance” of winning the seat.
“This is a free country but I guess I question whether this is a wise decision,” Mr Wilson told ABC Radio National on Thursday.