27 May 2022

Canberra Liberals all but accept defeat as insiders suggest party's future in doubt

| Lottie Twyford
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Zed Seselja

ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja has yet to officially concede defeat to independent David Pocock. Photo: File.

Liberal Senator Zed Seselja may not have officially conceded defeat, but a leaked email sent to members of the Canberra Liberals this week suggests the party knows it’s over.

In the email seen by Region Media, party president John Cziesla described the impending loss of its long-held ACT Senate seat as a “bitter blow” that would compound the losses across the country at last Saturday night’s Federal Election.

Mr Cziesla blamed a well-funded ‘vicious’ campaign from the left for the Seselja upset and accused the media of having supported it.

“Over the last decade, we have faced an unprecedented campaign in relation to its longevity, scale, funding, and viciousness to unseat a single parliamentary seat. By our preliminary estimates, the left has spent in excess of $12 million over the last decade in their efforts to unseat the ACT Liberal Senator,” he wrote.

“In this they have been supported by a media that has never really bothered itself with undertaking any meaningful scrutiny of our opponents, their policies, let alone any of their tactics.”

The party president said there must be “reflection” on the future and a series of complex realities would need to be faced.

“As a party, if we are to offer anything to the future of the nation, we must remain committed to the values that underpin our party, values such as freedom of speech, thought, association and religion, to remain the party of the forgotten people and the party of those who aspire to create a better life for themselves and their families,” he said.

“But we must also face the reality that those values are no longer shared, at least not at anything more than a superficial level, in areas that were once Liberal heartland and that forgotten people of the 2020s may no longer be the same as the forgotten people of the 1950s.”

Elizabeth Lee

Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee said steering the party to the centre could be more complicated than it seems. Photo: Region Media.

These “complex realities” have been described to Region Media by party insiders, many of whom claim the conservative shadow of Mr Seselja could continue to loom large within the party’s branch structure.

Some sources suggest that Elizabeth Lee will struggle to steer the party to the centre without the support of the organisational wing of the party, including the management committee.

The party is now bleeding members and it’s been alleged that for the last decade at least, members have been denied entry if they were not deemed to be close to Mr Seselja.

The outgoing Senator retains powerful allies within the party, including the Young Liberals.

However, at least one source, who is understood to be politically aligned with Mr Seselja, declared themselves enthusiastic about his departure.

Region Media understands that personality clashes contributed to in-fighting as much as factional differences in opinion.

READ ALSO Liberals poised to lose all ACT representation as historic Pocock upset in Senate looms

The last Liberal Chief Minister, Gary Humphries, said Ms Lee had done well to publicly portray the party as more moderate since her appointment to the leadership in 2020.

But he agreed with others who said Ms Lee must now win support within the organisational wing of the party.

“If she cannot back up her moderate position with policy then she will be undercut,” he said.

Mr Humphries agreed the only way forward for the party was to bring itself to the centre and appeal to the Territory’s progressive electorate.

gary humphries

Gary Humphries was the former Liberal Chief Minister of the ACT. Photo: File.

He was particularly concerned by Mr Seselja’s hard-line stance on Territory rights.

“By arguing that the ACT Legislative Assembly and the ACT didn’t have sufficient maturity and sophistication to make this decision, [Mr Seselja] put the party in an intellectually unsustainable position and in one which was insulting to the Territory’s voters,” Mr Humphries told Region Media.

“The party has now steered itself dangerously to the right and was so off-putting at both the ACT and the federal election that people simply weren’t prepared to vote for [the Liberals].”

READ ALSO Flu cases increase ‘sharply’ in the ACT but government not yet considering free flu vax for general population

Without Mr Seselja, Ms Lee will now hold the highest elected position in the Canberra Liberals. But she was unwilling to decisively rid herself of the former Senator’s ghosts just yet; instead, describing the weekend’s results as “very disappointing”.

“I don’t think it’s as simple as ‘it’s time to go to the left’ or whatever it might be … the thing about the Liberal Party is that it’s a broad church,” Ms Lee said.

“There will be a complexity of reasons as to why there was such a swing against us in the ACT … but I think most people just need to look at me and my record to know what I have advocated and lobbied for.”

She said a review of what had gone wrong would be undertaken in the near future, but she wouldn’t jump to conclusions yet.

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It is clear Zed is not hearing what Canberra wants. So the party can learn from it or ignore what people want.

Oh Dear, poor Zed is cast loose from the Senate.
Does this mean he will try for Assembly Liberal preselection, and then knock off the good lady Elizabeth Lee ?
I sincerely hope that Zed can find a job in the APH Opposition Leader’s office as Zed’s skill set seems to match the new D9 who’ll be replacing ScoMo.

I think the basic issue with those who steer the Liberal party – both nationally and locally, is that they believe anyone who is left of Seselja, ScoMo, Dutton, etc. is a tree hugging greenie … they just don’t get, or perhaps worse – don’t accept, the concept of moderate conservatives or centrists. While David Pocock clearly advocates for greater climate change action and probably is a ‘tree hugger’, many, who are much more to the centre and right then he, have voted for him because his broad platform resonates well and have accepted that he will do his best to represent the interests of Canberra. Essentially, if he prevails, they have decided to give him a chance because the purported ‘broad church’ (pardon the pun, Zed) of the Liberal party simply doesn’t exist.

If Zed had represented the people’s opinion (on multiple issues) instead of deciding that his personal opinion trumps that of the people – he might not be looking for a new job.

Capital Retro6:12 pm 30 May 22

You mean “some people’s opinion”. Don’t make the assumption that everyone must agree with you.

Actually, Capital Retro, I think she means “the majority opinion” – everyone doesn’t have to agree, just a majority … Seselja did represent only “some people’s opinion”, such as you, and that’s why he is staring down the barrel of defeat.

In the words of the great Bruce Willis – aka, “Butch Coolidge” – ” Zed’s Dead Baby”

Capital Retro11:31 am 31 May 22

I love the way you can’t help yourself in answering my questions to other people, or should that be all people.

Last time I looked, Seselja had more primary votes than Pocock so what was that you were saying about “majorities”? Sure, he will be defeated on preferences but that isn’t the point.

It appears CR has reached a certain age without learning anything about Australia’s voting system, in which majority preferences are entirely the point.

Actually CR – I didn’t see you complaining every time Seselja won on preferences in the past … but, hey whatever suits your narrative

HiddenDragon7:50 pm 28 May 22

Zed chose the wrong issue (VAD) to die in a ditch over – it cut across party lines in a way that was an absolute gift for his opponents.

By comparison, the white flag was run up over the tram, with a commitment of federal funding that would have dismayed many who don’t want it to go any further than its current Civic terminus. That decision was an interesting contrast with the approach taken by the federal Liberals in other jurisdictions, where they have dug their toes in against the infrastructure plans of state Labor governments. It was also a classic example of trying to bribe/appease voters who will never vote for you.

The other big wasted opportunity for Zed’s campaign was ACT-government related cost of living pressures in Canberra. As local opposition leader, Zed campaigned quite correctly and presciently (“triple your rates” now looking much more like foresight than a slogan) against the fake reform of increasing annual rates and reducing the reliance on stamp duty, but there was nothing about cost of living issues (beyond land prices) in his campaign literature.

A simple message which pointed to the impact of 20 years of Labor/Green policies, particularly on lower income Canberra households, and asked “do you want this nationally” might have had much more impact than aggravating adverts about “a hole in the bucket” and “it won’t be easy”.

I think people miss-understand Zed Seselja’s position on territory rights. He doesn’t think the ACT is immature or incapable – perhaps the opposite. He only cares about stopping VAD. So, he was happy to trade one for the other. In other words, for him and many Liberals across Oz, the ends justifies the means. I think that’s a morally vacuous position. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was talking specifically but, what she said applied to many in the Coalition government. They lacked a moral compass and that’s one reason why they lost votes from some Liberal voters.

I think for Zed both can be true.

I and I’m sure many others definitely think the ACT Government is immature and incapable. I don’t think Zed would be too enamoured of them.

But I’d agree that Zed also was vehemently against VAD, which made his decision here easier.

The Liberals might like to consider the negative effect of the vicious Advance Australia capaign against David Pocock – it backfired and just made the rignt wingers look mean and nasty. At the Territory level the ACT needs a viable opposition to bring back some balance.

The Advance Australia campaign was naïve in the extreme, giving the impression it was put together by people living in a bubble, with limited world experience. People were laughing at the naivety. Their bubble might have though the message was hard hitting and scary, but outside that bubble it was laughable.

Current findings connected to recent research demonstrating that individual narcissism, or a grandiose idea of the self, is positively related to belief in conspiracy theories. Blaming ‘the left’ cashed up from some $12 million secret slush fund for Zeds loss, really that’s some conspiracy theory, eh? How could anybody who walks upright believe that? The clear rational for Zeds loss seems a bit too complex for some to grasp? If you ignore the wishes of the Canberra community then you become irrelevant, simple?

Yep…. the Liberals blame the ignorant/stupid voter. Thank God (or any other higher being) that Australia has now returned decency to the country/Parliament.

Probably more of an anti-Zed than an anti-Lib vote, although the Lib candidates were all uninspiring. The people of Canberra will be the losers if the local Libs implode and we are left with no choice but Labor and/or Greens in a one party assembly. Gary Humphries and Jon Stanhope should team up and form a new party to offer an alternative to Barr and Zed. A pro-VAD party that offers a popular leader who mixes easily with residents, sensible land management strategies with responsible budget management.

I think it’s a waste of money for the ACT to hold any sort of elections.

Rob Chalmers9:32 pm 27 May 22

Even dictatorships have elections….even if fixed.

Someonesmother6:42 pm 27 May 22

When will the Libs actually take responsibility for their own defeat? It had nothing to do with the left, or vicious teals or anything but their own behaviour in pork barrelling, rorting, ignoring women, voters who are on wages that can no longer afford the cost of living all while watching the rich get richer whether through rorting jobkeeper or by handouts. It has been a long time coming and people woke up and decided that they had had enough

Scott Anthony6:54 pm 27 May 22

Vale Kimberley Kitching… Dead from abuse within the Labor party, quickly swept under the carpet and not investigated by Albo because… its alright..!! nothing to see here folks… but lets just vomit up a bunch of vapid motherhood statements without any factual basis because it sounds convincing when you can recite a long list…!! aren’t you clever..!

The Liberals are ok with bullying also, after all lots of Liberals did nothing about the bullying of Kimberley Kitching but were quick to use her death to try and paint Labor as the bad guys. Plus let not forget rapes and sexual harassment are things that can be covered up and avoid scrutiny with. Really if you think throwing stones from your glass houseis making Labor look bad its really justifying why the Liberals got voted out.

Zed was far more successful than any “campaign” to unseat him could have been. His intransigence on the things that people in the ACT saw as important was what lost him my vote. Voluntary assisted dying is one example. VAD has broad support across Australia, around 75% of people across Australia, including by gender and by political persuasion, according the the Institute of Public Affairs. Zed’s opposition while admirable in terms of standing up for his own beliefs, flew in the face of overwhelming support for well drafted VAD laws. You can try and muddy the waters all you like, Zed’s individual beliefs and his record as a representative of the ACT were tested at an election.

Exactly right…. not to mention the lack of action on their corrupt and disgraceful mps. @scottanthony LNP are the masters of inaction and “don’t look here folks” . Their and your ilk are out of touch with modern society

Talk about “vomiting up” statements without any factual statements, Scott Anthony, you take the cake there. “Vale Kimberley Kitching… Dead from abuse within the Labor party …”. Apart from the fact that it’s a disgraceful use of a tragedy to push your agenda, it’s totally baseless tripe.

Let’s see if the virtue signalling left make any meaningful change over the next 3 years. Spoiler: they wont!

Scott Anthony6:57 pm 27 May 22

They won’t… Their ‘Green’ ideal is so far from being achievable the job is simply to large, the challenges to great and the cost too high… Short of Nuclear power there will never be enough reliable so-called ‘renewable’ power in the grid to go even close to ‘net zero’ and the power grid lacks the ability to distribute enough power into each street and suburb to charge up more than about 30% Electric Cars in the fleet… All these promises are easy when you haven’t done a thing… and it gets votes, young kids love it and vote in droves, then scream that their taxes are rising…

Which still means they have 6 more years to even match the 9 years of nothing achieved by the Liberal government. Unless you can name something they actually have done for the good of the country. I’m struggling to think of something. Even the SSM bill they were dragged kicking and screaming into that.

Rob Chalmers9:34 pm 27 May 22

Might take 9 years and they will probably have that.

Zed had how many years to make “meaningful change” and failed? Now suddenly the timeline is mere 3 years or else? I’d give Pocock the same 11 years. Fair don’t you think?

Ahhh yes change is scary. Change is bad. Change is expensive and it’s coming to get you. There’s reds under your bed and those nasty filthy tree-hugging greens want to put their handses in your pocketses. Right-wingers have been sprouting that BS since at least the 17th century.

The thing is this: every now and then though we have to elect a progressive government, otherwise nothing is ever done and nothing ever changes.

If you lot hadn’t been turfed out on occasion, we’d still have a white Australia policy; convicts and the British Empire. Indeed for some of you, the sun has never set on Empire. Your team fantasizes about Sir Alexander Downer being PM for life and the common people learning their place around their betters, if necessary with a bit of harsh treatment.

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