JULIA Banks, the Liberal member for the highly marginal Melbourne seat of Chisholm, has announced she will quit at the election, calling out bullying within the party and saying her constituents backed Malcolm Turnbull.
The blow comes as an early poll, reported in the Daily Telegraph, in former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth, from which he will resign on Friday, shows it could be vulnerable to a strong independent.
Chisholm is on a margin of under 3% after the redistribution.
Banks’ announcement is another indication that the disruption and bad feelings caused by the ousting of Turnbull continue to wrack the Liberal party.
The bailing out of a woman member will also add to the perception the Liberals have a serious “woman problem”, with a much lower proportion of female MPs than Labor has.
Banks, who entered parliament in 2016, says she has received hundreds of emails and calls from constituents.
“Their voice has been very clear. They wanted Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership as Prime Minister to continue. They wanted Julie Bishop to remain as our Deputy Leader and Foreign Minister. So did I”, she said in a statement on Wednesday.
“I have always listened to the people who elected me and put Australia’s national interest before internal political games, factional party figures, self-proclaimed power-brokers and certain media personalities who bear vindictive, mean-spirited grudges intent on settling their personal scores. Last week’s events were the last straw”.
She said her constituents knew she would always call out bad behaviour and wouldn’t tolerate bullying or intimidation. “I have experienced this both from within my own party and from the Labor Party”. The latter reference was to Labor pursuing her over whether she was entitled to Greek citizenship.
Several Liberal women complained last week of bullying during the leadership battle.
Western Australian Liberal senator Linda Reynolds denounced the internal tactics in a speech to the Senate. “I do not recognise the bullying and intimidation that has gone on,” she said on Thursday.
Banks said she would always stand up for equality regardless of people’s heritage, gender or sexuality.
“The scourge of cultural and gender bias, bullying and intimidation continues against women in politics, the media, and across businesses.
“In anticipating my critics saying I’m ‘playing the gender card’ – I say this. Women have suffered in silence for too long and in this last twelve months the world has seen many courageous women speak out. To young women and men reading this announcement – I say I’ve only ever aspired to inspire. If I’ve inspired any one of you to have leadership courage – that will sustain me”.