Julia Banks cringes over blunt question
AMID the banking royal commission, asylum seeker deaths and the flooding in Far North Queensland, there was one tough question on Q&A; aimed squarely at Julia Banks.
In the ABC's first Q&A of the year, questioner Kieran Simpson asked the former Victorian Liberal MP if and when she would name and shame the "bullies" in Parliament House.
"When you left the Liberal Party, one of the reasons you gave was because of bullying," he said. "We in the electorate need to know who the bullies are. When are you going to call out and identify the bullies in the government?"
The question prompted gasps from some audience members, with Ms Banks laughing nervously before responding.
But she ultimately refused to name names.
"When I made my first announcement, I made it very, very clear, I made it very clear that it was an entrenched culture of anti-women within the Liberal Party which I had experienced from almost since my preselection in 2015, across the board. Yes, the leadership coup week was intense, but it is an entrenched culture there," she said.
"And my position is that I'm not going to name the bullies because that will just give the Liberal Party the opportunity to start talking about themselves, with he-said, she-said and name-calling and all the rest of it.
"My biggest objective is to focus on policies and to focus on the people, because Australians are fed up with both the major parties talking about themselves, and this sort of political point scoring.
"What I want to see, what I will always fights for is equal representation of men and women in our parliament because that is a true representation of our society."
When Ms Banks resigned from the Liberal Party last November, she took aim at the Liberals' "women problem" and accused both major political parties of "bullying and intimidation".
Q&A host Tony Jones stressed that people "want to know what happened". Asked about rumours that she was pressured or bullied to vote against Malcolm Turnbull in the first spill by "numbers men" for Scott Morrison, she again refused to provide specific names, saying "Australians can make up their own minds" based on a list of Liberal women who spoke out against bullying at the time.
When the host asked if she was "prepared to deny the specific rumour" that Mr Morrison was involved in the early stages of the coup - getting people to vote against Mr Turnbull in the first spill - she said: "You may very well make that comment, but I couldn't possibly comment on that."
"You could deny it if it wasn't true," he pressed. "It's fundamental to what really happened."
But Ms Banks didn't budge. "All I'm going to say is, the leadership coup was intense. It was an intense period. But the reasons that I left wasn't just because of that week, that week was the last straw. And I made that very clear.
"It was basically a position where I thought, and it wasn't just narrowed to bullying. There were deals going on. There were promises of promotion. Preselection promise endorsements for preselections. It was just atrocious behaviour, all driven by self-promotion. And factional power plays.
"That behaviour - particularly the anti-women position - is an entrenched part of the Liberal Party but certainly the appalling behaviour goes across both the major parties. So that's why I made the decision to go. I'm in the sensible centre because everyone I spoke to is just fed up with the major parties' behaviour in terms of their own self-promotion and politicking. They want independence and they want independent representation where people can actually listen to the people and take that voice into our parliament."
The questioner later joined Jones in urging her to name the bullies. "I'd just like to say that character does matter," he said. "And therefore if there's an entrenched culture of bullying, this misogynistic behaviour needs to be smacked on the head and the simplest way is to let us in the electorate know who is engaging in this appalling behaviour so we can know when we go to the ballot box and therefore you and some of the other ladies who have unfortunately received such horrible treatment need to name names. Character does matter."
"My position is that if you get an equal number of men and women in a party or in any organisation, you change the culture," Ms Banks responded. "It's not going to fix everything. It's not going to be the panacea to an entrenched culture. But you do change the culture.
"That's got to be the first step for the Liberal Party."
BANKING COMMISSION A 'HIDEOUS REVELATION'
With the release of the final report into the banking royal commission today, the panel was asked how it would ensure all recommendations are implemented.
Julia Banks described the findings of the commission as a "hideous revelation to us all". She denied she was against the royal commission during her time as a Liberal member, saying she "absolutely believes it should have been called a lot earlier than it was".
Rebekha Sharkie, of the Centre Alliance Party, said the commission was "very much overdue", and urged Mr Morrison to apologise to the public for voting against it for so long.
"We have a banking royal commission because of the crossbench, not just those that are here today, but Bob Katter and George Christensen showed a lot of courage and sat with us on the crossbench and was prepared to vote against his government to join us for the right thing.
"What I'd like to see, not only all of the recommendations implemented, but I actually think that the Prime Minister owes our country an apology.
"We had a lot of hurt during that time between August 2016 and still going on today for many customers and I think the PM, who was then the Treasurer, owes our nation an apology because he was dragged kicking and screaming to this and it should not have been that difficult."
Andrew Wilkie similarly urged the community to "keep the pressure up on the government".
"Regrettably in this country we have a pretty poor track record when it comes to the outcomes of royal commissions," he said. "When you look back through history, for example, the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody - I don't think a single substantive recommendation was implemented from that. When you look at the royal commission into the Northern Territory youth justice system, again - much fanfare, but I don't think anyone's been charged for misconduct as a result of that inquiry."