Julia Banks’ effort to unseat senior government minister Greg Hunt in Flinders has received a boost, with the activist group GetUp! revealing it will target Mr Hunt at the election.
“Greg Hunt’s repeated attempts to block urgent action on climate change puts him at complete odds with voters in Flinders and it’s time he was turfed out,” campaigner Jake Wishart said at the group’s launch event in Mornington today.
“As environment minister, he ignored advice from his own department and gave federal environmental approval for Adani, at the time Australia’s largest proposed coal mine.
“More recently as health minister, he voted against giving sick children and refugees urgent medical care through the medevac bill.”
On top of all that, GetUp! is attacking Mr Hunt for his role in the August leadership spill, referring to him as “Dutton’s deputy”.
“Mr Hunt was also Peter Dutton’s right hand man in their coup to knife Malcolm Turnbull for daring to act on the climate chaos impacting our lives,” Mr Wishart said.
“Unseating Mr Hunt and his hard-right mates will unlock the deadlock stopping parliament from acting on climate change, treating refugees humanely and cleaning up our political system and economy so that people are put before profits.”
Ms Banks was elected as the Liberal MP for Chisolm in 2016, but she quit the party in November and joined the crossbench.
In a dramatic speech to parliament, she eviscerated the “reactionary right-wing” plotters who had engineered Malcolm Turnbull’s downfall.
“Their actions were undeniably for themselves. For their position in the party. Their power. Their personal ambition. Not for the Australian people we represent,” she said.
Ms Banks is not recontesting Chisolm at the election. Instead, she is running in Mr Hunt’s seat, Flinders. The health minister holds it with a margin of 7 per cent.
GetUp! has already been extremely active in Tony Abbott’s electorate Warringah — so much so that a conservative counterpart for the group, Advance Australia, has sprung up to defend the former prime minister.
“We Advance Australia when mainstream values are at the core of our way of life,” the group’s website says.
“Our government’s aren’t listening and powerful elites and left-wing activists currently dictate our future. In today’s politically correct world, if you and I stay silent we will continue to be ignored.”
As part of its campaign, Advance Australia has posted ads on Facebook claiming Ms Steggall supports Labor’s controversial franking credit policy.
“You worked hard and saved for your retirement but now, Bill Shorten and Zali Steggall want to pass a new seniors tax, taking your money and making your life harder,” it claims.
Ms Steggall says she actually opposes the policy. During Friday’s pre-election debate between the Warringah candidates, she called it “an absolutely appalling proposal”.
Advance Australia’s national director Gerard Benedet told news.com.au he wasn’t buying it.
“We don’t believe her,” Mr Benedet said.
He said Ms Steggall was claiming to be a Liberal-leaning independent when she hadn’t actually voted Liberal in decades.
“Why would we believe her about anything else?”
On Channel 9’s Today program this morning, Ms Steggall said she would push for changes to Australian Electoral Commission laws to introduce a “minimum standard of truth” in political advertising.
“It’s absolutely amazing that there is no requirement for political advertising to actually be fact-based or truthful. It can be anything, and that’s what they’re doing,” she said.
Ms Steggall denied being aligned with GetUp! in “any shape or form”.
“No donations. No favours. They are an organisation that raise issues, they then look at candidates and how those candidates match up to the issues. The reality is GetUp! came to Warringah in 2018 because Mr Abbott is a climate change denier.”