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Julia Banks: an assassination of the Liberal Party by words

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“The gift of time in reflection has provided some clarity …”

It reads as the opening words of a philosopher, sitting in a bower, contemplating life and offering to the trees and sky an essence of what he or she now would utter on something important, something of a distilled universal nature.

But no, not really, it was, as everyone with an interest in the circus in Canberra would know, part of a speech by politician Julia Banks, who was telling said circus (those handful who were in the chamber at the time on Tuesday), that such clarity had been visited upon her. She could no longer be a member of the Liberal Party. She was, with immediate effect, an independent.

It would be an understatement to say she blindsided her leader Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He was happily giving a press conference at the time, oblivious to the blood on the floor from another wound to his government. He ended the conference, leader of a diminishing minority government.

As he had been spruiking a federal budget (with surplus, he claimed) brought forward next year (to set the stage he had hoped for a launch into an election), Banks had been firing a salvo of missiles into the floundering ship of state, torpedoed only at the weekend by the massive rejection of Liberal policies in Victoria. She was angry at several things, and the leadership coup against Malcolm Turnbull was foremost.

Banks opined: “The gift of time in reflection has provided some clarity regarding the brutal blow against the leadership. Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, pre-selection endorsements or silence. Their actions were undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition, not for the Australian people who we represent, not for what people voted for in the 2016 election, not for stability and disregarding that teamwork and unity delivers success.

“The Liberal Party has changed. Largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and talk to themselves, rather than listening to the people.”

This is a wasteland. The only constant is the mounting pile of corpses and bones bleaching in the sun.

As an assassination by words, as a Dear John letter of extreme prejudice, it is extraordinary. It is the point of no return. For it accuses members of her once party of craven self-interest to maintain their place. They were easily bribed. Their vote was worth only what it meant to them, personally, and they gave it not to further the betterment of the people they represent, but to further the betterment of themselves.

Shakespeare could not have written this scenario better. Pity us poor voters, of whatever political leanings, for it is at the point now where an uttering of “Jesus wept’’ seems the only response. Anger does not rise because that would require hope to be dashed. We are far past that. This is a wasteland. The only constant is the mounting pile of corpses and bones bleaching in the sun.

But still it is a genteel age compared to others. One wonders if the gift of time allowed Decimus Junius Brutus Albinus some clarity over his part and that of the other knife-wielding murderers in the assassination of Julius Caesar. It’s true Caesar had set himself up as ruler for life, so that was obviously not how a republic should be run, and it’s true death was a more lively weapon in politics back in the 40s BC than now, but the one constant especially so in political life, is that every action has a consequence.

Octavius, Caesar’s grand-nephew, a mere teenager, succeeded Caesar and was at first friends with his enemies and then was enemy with his enemies. It didn’t end well for the assassins and Octavius’s power grew until he became the first emperor of the Roman empire. Changed his name to Augustus, too.

Some say the only thing that will save the Liberal Party is that it split off into new entities. This reeks of the rather hard line of the realist that in order to save the city/party/institution I/we must first destroy it. Still the Coalition seems to be doing rather a good job of this without outside interference. The only knives are, of course, figurative.

One response to “Julia Banks: an assassination of the Liberal Party by words

  1. Stephen Harper, the former conservative prime minister of Canada, is interesting on the issue that – apart from bothering god – seems central to the issue. The right cannot continue telling the voters they’re wrong about the economic benefits of triple-down and fossil fuels, and wrong about how they’ve been marginalised too. Harper’s recipe, stripped of its blandishments, is that the centre right needs to steal much of the centre left’s philosophy – curbs on big business, management of key aspects of the public economy, reshaping immigration, toying with (though he doesn’t say so) concepts such as the social wage as a mechanism for sustaining growing numbers of people who won’t get jobs because they’re aren’t any. Australia’s political brain snap isn’t unique within the Anglosphere. Look at the shambles the British have made of Brexit. It’s very clear that there is a reshaping of politics under way. Julia Banks is at least honest enough to say that the federal Liberal Party, as it is now politically directed, is not for her.

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