Julia Banks: Power Play, Toxic Culture and Wallpaper
An audible whisper of discomfort spreads through the audience at Australian National University’s Kambri Cultural Center as former Liberal MP Julia Banks describes being verbally assaulted and said she was a ‘pig’s head’ by a male liberal staff member inside his own home.
Her son Sam, who was studying upstairs at the time, was so worried about the tone of the abuse and his mother’s well-being that he ran downstairs to check that she was okay.
Speaking to her first public event to promote his new book Power play–a work that deepens toxic work culture in parliament and misogyny in politics – Julia tells host Virginia Haussegger suffered similar verbal abuse on several occasions after winning the liberal preselection in the Federal Headquarters of Chisolm. She went on to win the long-standing ALP seat in 2016.
According to Julia, a branch official told her that she would be a “fucking hopeless MP” because she refused to lie to voters. Along the same lines, Virginia takes another anecdote from Julia’s book and notes, “One of the young people told you to stop acting like a fucking CEO.
“Yes,” Julia nods, reflecting that as a person coming from both the business and legal worlds, she mistakenly assumed that “… the Liberal Party would be a shrewd corporate machine and would have a semblance of governance “.
According to Julia, nothing could be further from the truth. One of the most gruesome incidents in her book describes when Julia found herself in the Prime Minister’s suite with all the other MPs eating and drinking, awaiting a late-night vote. Before she knew it, a pastor put his hand on her knee and ran it down her thigh.
“It was incredibly cheeky,” she recalls, “I just froze.”
After taking a moment to pull herself together on that horrible evening, Julia was able to pull herself out of the situation. But she couldn’t sleep that night: “I just thought, ‘Imagine what happens to other staff or reporters in the press gallery who don’t have the status that I have.
Since the publication of his book, some journalists have put pressure on Julia to reveal the identity of this man. “I was never going to name the person,” she says and goes on to explain that if she went public, the author would likely deny it and she could well be subject to legal attack for defamation.
“I don’t have the stomach to put myself [and] my family through legal proceedings, ”she said.
Then, a moment later, she reflected, “I’m sure this kind of behavior happens… in Parliament every sitting day and night. I have no doubts about it.
Drawn to the “progressive, centrist views” of liberal politicians Kelly O’Dwyer, Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop, Julia quit her successful career in the legal and business world and first joined the Liberal Party in 2015. After all , the party was calling for more women.
But after her shortlisting in Chisolm, Julia tells the Canberra audience that very soon young male apparatchiks barged in and started ordering her, asking her to stop talking about economics to her constituents and instead focus on toilet blocks, shopping malls and being the “girl in the barrel” for local raffles.
Virginia sums it up to the audience as follows: “Shut up and smile more. [and] be a good girl. ”
In the face of this pressure, Julia says that she “has never stopped defending” her principles of multiculturalism and gender equality in the face of constant pressure from within the party to adopt harsher political views.
Despite his passion for quotas, members of the Liberal Party asked him not to publicly mention the “Q word” because they were “a Labort something ”. In response to her support for marriage equality, she says Liberal state members of Parliament wrote posts on Facebook suggesting that “these politicians in Canberra don’t know what they’re doing.”
In her book, Julia describes Prime Minister Scoot Morrison as a “threatening and controlling wallpaper” – a comment that has garnered a ton of attention from the public, the press and the comedy show “Mad as Hell” d ‘ABC hosted by Shaun Micallef.
To explain what she means, Julia adds that she found the Prime Minister “intense and almost suffocating”.
She tells the public that Scott Morrison’s office tried to control his resignation from the Liberal Party in 2018. He wanted to control when he left and see his exit speech, both requests she refused. He told her, “Julia, you can’t do this. We have to wait two months.
When she refused again, he reportedly told her over the phone: “Julia, i am the prime minister. ”
Julia agreed to give Scott Morrison 24 hours to pull himself together and write his public statement. She now realizes that this is a tactical error.
She explains how the Prime Minister’s Office used this time to melts against her to the media and to tell a public story that she couldn’t cope with and was emotionally unstable. He repeatedly told the press that he “supported” Julia and “giving her all the comfort and support she needed for what was a pretty scorching ordeal for her. ”
Referring to this background, Virginia jokes: “We all know, thanks to the Prime Minister and others, what a sensitive little petal you are. And how fragile you are ”
“And that I can be manipulated not only by [former Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull, [but by] the entire Labor Party apparently, ”adds Julia.
Julia Banks book Power play: break down prejudices, obstacles and boys’ clubs is out now.