Turnbull ‘played role’ in Banks defection
MALCOLM Turnbull is again under fire from his former colleagues after reports emerged that the former PM had been in "regular contact" with Dr Kerryn Phelps and may have had a hand in Julia Banks' resignation from the Liberal Party.
The former PM was said to have counselled friend and longtime supporter Banks before she made the shock decision to leave the party.
Ms Banks, whose move has been described as "treacherous", will now sit as an independent, further throwing Scott Morrison's government in turmoil.
Liberal Party powerbrokers are also said to be furious over reports that Mr Turnbull has also been in touch with new Wentworth MP, Dr Kerryn Phelps.
According to The Australian, Mr Turnbull and Dr Phelps have been in "regular" contact via text message as part of a "handover".
Dr Phelps, an independent, claimed Mr Turnbull's former seat of Wentworth in a shock by-election victory in October.
A senior Liberal source reportedly told The Australian that Mr Turnbull was counselling Dr Phelps on strategy and that "his hands are all over the Julia Banks" resignation.
"He is consumed by bringing down the government," the Liberal source reportedly told the publication.
Former colleagues of the former PM are said to be disappointed over the support Mr Turnbull has given Dr Phelps, particularly after he refused to publicly back Liberal candidate Dave Sharma during the Wentworth campaign, reports The Australian.
There are also reports that Ms Banks consulted with Dr Phelps for weeks before ditching Scott Morrison's government.
The Australian also reported that Ms Banks spoke with three female independent MPs - Cathy McGowan, Rebekha Sharkie and Dr Phelps - in the weeks prior to her resignation.
One of Dr Phelps' staffers, former Labor adviser Darrin Barnett, told The Australian that Mr Turnbull and the new MP had spoken but denied it had been daily and that it had been "almost exclusively about constituency matters".
One of Mr Turnbull's former staffers reportedly stayed on when Dr Phelps took over to help smooth the transition.
Dr Phelps won Wentworth after Mr Turnbull's retirement from parliament by 1860 votes.
Many Coalition powerbrokers blamed the loss on Mr Turnbull for refusing to publicly back Mr Sharma, despite requests from Mr Morrison to do so.
Mr Sharma is being encouraged to run again for the seat at the next federal election.
Ms Banks announced she would not be contesting the next election, accusing both major political parties of "bullying and intimidation" in the wake of the leadership spill in August.