It’s Sunday afternoon and newly Independent MP Julia Banks is fishing in Port Phillip Bay with her family. It’s tradition. Julia even took her husband, Mike, out fishing for flatheads on one of their first rendezvous. Now that’s a way to catch a guy hook, line and sinker! On that early ‘scaly date’ Julia caught 10 flatties and Mike came home with zero — and yes, you’re right, she’s never let him forget it. She explains: “My late Dad taught me the tricks of the trade. My son, Sam, and I have caught big snapper. Fishing has always been a big hobby of mine. Unusual but true.”
Two days before writing this, I’m in Mornington’s Main St outside a cafe with a smart and gregarious Julia Banks. Julia and her small team of supporters have been pounding the pavement all day because that’s what you do leading up to a federal election that will be held sometime in May. The waiter asks us what we would like but before we respond Julia is stretching out her hand to introduce herself. She asks him what’s important to him and he says he’s never even registered to vote. Doesn’t see the point. We converse after he takes our orders. “There is a point because change can happen at a grassroots level. As an Independent with socially progressive and financially responsible values, I can now put people before the party, which is exciting. My campaign is centred on climate change action, opposing Adani, upgrading Rosebud hospital, genuine support for local businesses and community groups, social justice and gender equality. Women are not a minority group. We make up 52 percent of the population and are grossly under-represented in Parliament, which has no quotas for women or a proper independent workplace conduct system. Climate change is an acute issue too. We’ve seen the extreme weather patterns and droughts. There are the climate deniers in Parliament and both parties look at the environment and climate change policy as a way to secure votes rather than saving the planet — and as I said in my speech in Parliament about the refugees being held in Nauru, ‘long-term, indefinite detention is no place for any child’.”
Since announcing she wouldn’t contest the seat of Chisholm (which she won from Labor in 2016) after the leadership coup that ousted Malcolm Turnbull late last year, this former Liberal MP and successful corporate lawyer is set to run against Greg Hunt for the seat of Flinders. She continues: “Both my parents came from small business and my family has had ties with the Mornington Peninsula for a long time. The first ever photo of me was with Mum holding me as a baby in Red Hill. Mum was part of the U3A senior citizens group, various walking groups and plays mah-jong. Mike and I have had our house in Red Hill for 20 years. Our kids, Sam and Emma, played for the Red Hill Tennis Club and three generations of my family have participated in the Red Hill Show. I’ve entered my jams and a couple of my watercolours, which is another hobby of mine. I’ve put that one on hold with kids and work. Maybe one day.”
Julia’s campaign will be run on a shoestring budget. She’s already made hundreds of phone calls and has a team of enthusiastic volunteers who are keen to witness a woman being elected to the seat of Flinders for the first time. She concludes: “It will be tough but the response has been good so far. Over the summer, countless people across the seat of Flinders thanked me for my courage and the stand I took with regard to women and speaking up about climate change and the refugees. It will be a lot of hard work but we’re in this race to win it.”
Cast your line, Julia, and see what you can reel in.