Marie Claire Australia
FORMER LIBERAL MP AND CORPORATE LAWYER
When Julia Banks resigned as a Liberal MP in 2018, she delivered a clear message about the party’s treatment of women. But it wasn’t until she published her book, Power Play, last year that the full scale of what she endured was revealed. “The three months under Scott Morrison’s leadership was the most gut-wrenching period of my career,” recalls Banks, who entered politics in 2015. “In those three months there was a concerted effort to discredit my mental health and my professional reputation. It was an abuse of power, and I knew in my heart that I had to speak out about it,” adds Banks, who was inundated with messages from women identifying with her position.
Banks defines her experience in parliament as workplace coercive control – an issue she believes is endemic across hierarchical organisations or where there is significant power disparity. “Workplace coercive control is pervasive, commonplace and often really hard to identify,” she explains. “Quite often it can happen to someone and they don’t realise it until later on, and that’s what is so insidious about it. It’s very easily covered up and while it generally doesn’t involve physical abuse, it is just as harmful – it goes to women’s livelihoods, their wellbeing and their future.” She cites a high-profile example: “What Morrison did on the floor of the house to [thenAustralia Post CEO] Christine Holgate, saying, ‘She can go,’ he basically used his power to pummel her entire career as a high-profile woman.” (Morrison denies this, and “absolutely rejects” Banks’ characterisation of their conversations.)
Banks is not surprised by the damning findings of the Respect@Work report, but remains hopeful that “forwardthinking organisations will take it on and make the change themselves ... This is our moment.”