REVIEW: Power Play by Julia Banks

In brief: A memoir of politics and guide for women in leadership positions that doesn’t pull any punches.

The good: Honest and unflinching.

The not-so-good: The treatment of Julia by others.

Why I chose it: Saw an interview with Julia on TV.

Year: 2021

Pages: 231

Publisher: Hardie Grant

Setting: Australia

I recently saw an interview with Julia Banks, former Member of Parliament. It grabbed me as she was eloquent and spoke of her experiences, no matter how bad, without bitterness. She also coined the term ‘menacing, controlling wallpaper’. I was interested in reading more about her story.

Power Play is just like the interview in that Julia writes honestly and without a grudge. It’s not just a memoir of her time in parliament but describes her career from lawyer to corporate sector and leader. She describes juggling family life with two corporate parents and the criticisms she received for not being perfect. Under fire from fellow mothers, colleagues and her husband’s workmates, she describes a life that isn’t perfect – but always did the best for her kids. (There are also some pretty nice takedowns of women who suggest that she would be better off making costumes for her children). It’s relatable to women without children, juggling the needs of a demanding work life with family and friends without burning out. Banks also takes stock of each situation and reflects how women can use certain situations to improve their leadership skills and be the kind of boss you want to be. Sure, she mucks up and is honest about what could have been done better.

The sections on politics are incredibly eye opening, as Banks won an ‘unwinnable’ seat for the Liberal party before leaving the party midway through her term and later running as an independent. Banks describes the atmosphere of Parliament House in no uncertain terms and how it changed after a leadership spill, resulting in a change of prime minister. That’s when things started to get nasty for her. These parts were shocking and I wonder how people can treat others like that. It’s like high school, but much, much worse. There were whispers of her suitability, promises broken and all-round nastiness. I had to stop reading several times, as I was so angry that adults could – and would – treat others like that for the sake of the party and power.

I applaud Julia Banks for standing up and speaking out in this book, asking for change to how we treat women in positions of power. Remember that they are human too.

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