29 Aug 2018

Liberal MP pulls from election race amid 'bullying' claims

7:44 pm on 29 August 2018

Australian Liberal MP Julia Banks has announced she will not contest the next election after "bullying and intimidation".

Treasurer Scott Morrison was picked as Australia's new prime minister, replacing Malcolm Turnbull, after a Liberal party coup in a stunning upset against key challenger Peter Dutton.

Treasurer Scott Morrison was picked as Australia's new prime minister, replacing Malcolm Turnbull, after a Liberal party coup in a stunning upset against key challenger Peter Dutton. Photo: AFP

She said last week's Liberal leadership spill was the "last straw", and argued she would always put Australia's national interests before internal political games and certain media personalities bearing vindictive, mean-spirited grudges.

Ms Banks supported Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister throughout last week's leadership spill, which saw him and deputy leader Julie Bishop replaced by Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg on Friday.

In a statement, Ms Banks said she had received calls from her constituents saying they wanted Mr Turnbull to remain prime minister and Ms Bishop to remain as deputy and foreign minister.

"So did I," she wrote.

"I have always listened to the people who elected me and put Australia's national interest before internal political games.

"Last week's events were the last straw."

But her backbench colleague, Craig Kelly, said Ms Banks had done the wrong thing.

"I think that you've got to roll with the punches in this game," Mr Kelly told Sky.

"We're political parties, it's a rough-and-tumble game.

"The Labor Party will throw plenty of barbs at you, your own side will throw plenty of barbs.

"There's certainly robust discussions across the board, but that's just not unique to politics, that's in many industries."

Mr Morrison said he "had no truck with bullying or intimidation in whatever form it is".

He said he had spoken to Ms Banks, both today and yesterday.

"The events of the last week, they have been quite dramatic events," the Prime Minister said.

"All Australians looking in … I know would have been pretty disappointed, more than disappointed.

"They should also know that those events take a pretty high human toll inside the Parliament.

"It is a very robust discussion and I know Julia has been very concerned about that and she has raised those concerns with me."

He thanked the backbencher for deciding to stay in the Parliament, until the election rather than quitting immediately and causing a by-election.

After Mr Turnbull was rolled on Friday, Ms Banks described him as "one of the greatest leaders this country has ever seen" and described the importance of loyalty within federal politics.

The announcement comes amid talk of factional infighting

Mr Turnbull, speaking on his last day as prime minister, called out the "determined insurgency from a number of people both in the party room and backed by powerful voices in the media" who had sought to destabilise him.

"The people who chose Peter Dutton and Tony Abbott, who chose to deliberately attack the government from within, they did so because they wanted to bring the government down. They wanted to bring my prime ministership down," he said.

Other members of the Liberal Party have spoken out this week about being targeted by conservatives looking to push the party further to the right.

Senior Liberal women - including Ms Banks - have also spoken before about the party's gender problem, and how a lack of representation affects its image with voters.

In a 15-year low, just 18 of the 84 Liberal MPs and senators in Parliament are women.

Explaining her decision to move away from politics, Ms Banks said she had experienced bullying and intimidation from within her own party and from the Opposition.

"The people of Chisholm know that I say what I think. They know that I will always call out bad behaviour and will not tolerate any form of bullying or intimidation," she said.

"I have experienced this both from within my own party and from the Labor Party."


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