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Former Liberal throws down challenge to Minister

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Liberal-turned-independent MP Julia Banks has declared she will run against one of her former colleagues in this year’s federal election.

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Banks, who went to the crossbench after last year’s messy toppling of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister, will run against Health Minister Greg Hunt in the Victorian seat of Flinders.

“It’s important that the people of Flinders are not taken for granted and have a strong Independent representative who listens, gives it their all and takes pride in being their voice,” she said in a statement today.

Banks is currently the member for Chisholm in Melbourne’s southeast, which she won for the Liberals in 2016 under then federal leader Turnbull.

But she won’t be contesting that seat as an independent and has moved to the Flinders electorate, which encompasses much of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, ahead of launching her bid to re-enter federal parliament.

The 56-year-old lawyer and Turnbull backer says she has “unfinished business”.

“I realised that everything I’ve stood and fought for my entire adult life intersects with this moment in time in Australia,” she said.

“There’s still work to be done and unfinished business. I’ve decided I’m staying in this race.”

Banks said if re-elected, she would continue to pursue policies that are economically responsible and socially progressive, including action on climate change.

“Effective climate change action policy is an urgent imperative.”

In November, Banks announced she wouldn’t recontest her seat of Chisholm and was quitting Liberals and criticised the behaviour of her colleagues during the August leadership spill.

“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,” she told parliament at the time.

Asked on Wednesday about the prospect of Banks contesting his seat, Hunt played up his links with the local community, where he grew up and has gone on to raise his children.

“This has been our community throughout our lives and it’s something I’m passionate about,” he told reporters in Sydney.

Hunt has held the seat since 2001 and says he will never take it for granted.

“I’ll always treat it as completely marginal from the very first day that I put myself forward for preselection to this day; that has never changed.”

Fellow Victorian MP Tim Wilson questioned Banks’ strategy, with recent polling showing an independent “basically has no chance” of winning the seat.

“This is a free country but I guess I question whether this is a wise decision,” he told ABC Radio National today.

– AAP

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