7 March 2023

Canberra Liberals' election review set to be released to party members

| Ian Bushnell
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David Pocock and Zed Seselja

Historic Liberal loss: David Pocock and Zed Seselja at the Region Senate Candidate Debate. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The review into the Canberra Liberals’ disastrous performance at the last federal election will soon be made available to party members.

The loss of right-winger power broker Zed Seselja’s senate seat to independent David Pocock meant for the first time the ACT did not have any Liberal representation in the Parliament.

The review, headed by former leader of the Liberal Party of Western Australia Dr Mike Nahan and former Victorian Liberal Senator Helen Kroger, looked at the challenge posed by independents and minor parties running in the Territory and examined the performance of – and lessons for – the parliamentary team and candidates, Coalition Campaign Headquarters, and the ACT Division.

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It also examined the party’s electoral performance among different voter segments and was to propose strategies to regain federal representation.

But nine months after the election and less than 20 months until the next ACT Legislative Assembly election, questions had been raised about when the review would be released.

A Canberra Liberals spokesperson confirmed that the review was at its final stage and would be released to members next week.

Canberra Liberals’ President John Cziesla last year blamed a well-funded ‘vicious’ campaign from the Left for the Seselja loss and accused the media of supporting it.

There had been concerns from some that the review would sink without a trace given the likely uncomfortable content but the Liberals spokesperson said there was no intention to keep it from party members.

There is also the possibility it could reignite internal tensions, tamped down to give Opposition Leader Elizabeth Lee clear air to take the fight to the Barr Government.

candice burch

Candice Burch is vacating her position with the Canberra Liberals to work in Sydney. Photo: Region.

Those tensions may also resurface due to the vacancy for the Vice President position on the party executive created by the sudden departure in January of former Kurrajong MLA Candice Burch who has taken a corporate affairs job in Sydney with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

She was previously public affairs and public relations manager at the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

Ms Burch had a torrid time as an MLA with her election posters tampered with by a former Young Liberals member as part of an internal dispute, which the party investigated.

Mr Cziesla informed party members in a recent update about Ms Burch’s departure and thanked her for her service to the party, including as Young Liberal President, an MLA and Vice President.

“We will greatly miss Candice and her contributions to the party more broadly, including her work to establish the Small Business and Professionals Networks,” he said.

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There is no requirement for the vacancy to be filled immediately, but many contenders are jostling for the position, which should be resolved at a membership meeting before the end of June.

Ms Burch defeated the Seselja-backed Arthur Potter by a single vote for the Vice President’s casual vacancy in September with the help of the reform-minded Menzies Group, then stood unopposed for the position at the Annual General Meeting in October, part of a deal between the Hard or pro-Seselja Right and the Gerry Wheeler-led Pragmatic Right faction.

At the time, some hailed it as a sign of a new era for the party, but the AGM resulted in the Right maintaining its grip on the party, wrapping up the key positions.

Now it remains to be seen whether the vacancy will stay with the Right or be seen as another opportunity to bring change to the Canberra Liberals’ organisational wing.

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At a Federal level in the ACT, Liberal voters had a great opportunity, in 2019, to continue the status quo in the Senate (i.e. one Labor, one Lib) . A challlenger to Seselja was Anthony Pesec (who may even be the commenter below) – however he was not pre-selected due to the infitration of the membership by the hard right. So Pesec stood as an Independent. I for one, liked his mantra of wanting to represent the people of the ACT – and I appreciated his honesty in declaring he was a conservative in his political ideology. Despite the potential for change (ok my hopes), Seselja prevailed – quite convincingly with the above the libe vote.
Fast forward to the 2022 Senate race – when, after Seselja has in the previous term shown no inclination to actually represent the views of the ACT people, a high profile candidate emerges whose mantra is wanting to represent the people of the ACT. Yes, Pocock received a lot of money from the like minded Climate 200 group, but the critical thing is that the ACT electors were tired of not being represented and were happy to embrace a change.
Below, chewy14 has mentioned the re-election of Katie Gallagher … well perhaps at the next election, the Libs might turn to a palatable candidate like Pesec (if he could be bothered running again) and if Pocock continues in his current vain (which is certainly receiving favour amongst left minded voters), we might actually have 2 independent Senators in the ACT – who I believe (maybe I’m naive here) would work together for ACT best interests.

HiddenDragon6:48 pm 03 Mar 23

The review sounds as if it was more about process than policy which, if so, would be a big mistake because the people whose votes need to be changed in order for the ACT Liberals to have any hope of forming government in the ACT, or dislodging David Pocock from the Senate, are far more interested in the latter than former.

The ACT Liberals need to be casting a very wide net, not just within Australia, but in comparable democracies overseas, for substantive policy ideas (not slogans and marketing strategies) which have worked for right of centre parties in left-leaning polities.

Without trying to invoice them for the advice, as whichever closely-connected consultants will, it’s quick and easy: you didn’t lie to the electorate well enough, and you won’t ever be able to again. The deceit and corruption you’re selling will never be stomached again. There’s no way back. Give up altogether. You have no place in an electorate who can smell BS. Good riddance to stale bigots.

It wasn’t the result of a ‘vicious’ campaign against him, but a reflection of how much his personal religious and other convictions didn’t match the beliefs and needs of the electorate. I’m not a Pocock fan, but Zed’s loss was entirely because of Zed’s performance. He was not the right representative for Canberrans.

Welcome back Ian Bushnell! Yes, one can only imagine how difficult life has been being a Liberal supporter in Canberra over the last 20 years! Totally miserable!! Not to mention that thud of the heart just imagining how bad it is going to be when the party (again) loses the 2024 ACT election. A lack of leadership and a lucklustre line up (both federal and territory) will ensure that this latest review into the party’s loss of its only Senate seat will never see the light of day. But alas, who else do they have? The current buzz within Liberal circles is that a certain person with a high profile name is thinking of putting her hand up at the next ACT election. There is great excitement! Liberal supporters are going all gooey and tingly at the thought! My advice is, don’t do it..! Who would want to be associated with this rabble! Everyone knows that the current Liberal line up will never win government. Only when the party clears its deck of the conservative fossils who currently dominate the party will they have a chance! Only when the party puts forward decent forward thinking candidates to advance the party as Liberals and not deluded and outdated fogies will they win government!

The only way this will ever happen is with a substantive membership drive and a completely new line-up.

This won’t happen of course because that would erode facional control.

These silly people would rather captain a sinking ship than sail on a well run successful ship.

The current party president, who if rumours have merit, has been involved in this for their whole time in opposition and is a significant reason why, seems more interested in lashing out with weird conspiracies and blameshifting emails than genuinely trying to reconnect with the Canberra community and building his party up, by asking why so many Liberal voters abandoned them. Their issues run deep and policies won’t fix that.

Like a failing lawn-bowls club where a group of closed minded angry old men would rather see their club go bankrupt than let anyone else and new ideas in while their membership slowly dies off and a developer eyes off the land for a parking lot, which the Canberra Liberals have become. A parking lot of angry old men and their backward non-sensical world views.

Which means the Canberra Liberals have a way to fall yet, they still have five seats to lose.

I predict they will be reduced to three to five seats next election. At least two MLAs are completely hopeless and openly Zed aligned, proudly voted against marriage equality, ultra conservative and poor performers. One who supported selling the ABC (to Murdoch no doubt) performed so poorly that they needed a count-back to get back in, to promptly disappear again.

The Liberals should be able to skate home given the emerging mismanagement of the Barr government., Ask any teacher about the inability to obtain basic resources, ask nurses and police about staffing shortages while the tram line to Woden receives untold funding levels. This would be a no brainer in any other constituency. But alas the Liberals retain an unelectable hard right caucus condemning the ACT to more years of arrogant spending on white elephants while basic services go unaddressed.

All of Canberra shouldn’t rise up and either liquidate the Canberra Liberals with new members and flush out the deadwood, start a new party, or elect enough competent independents to start doing the job the opposition has so clearly failed at for 25 years now.

What are we paying them all for?

They go on about rates while happily taking our money to pay them all to do absolutely nothing for Canberra for 25 years.

So either flush the deadwood out with new members or replace this failed circus.

Enough is enough.

Seselja needs to take full responsibility for his loss. It is quite simply that he failed to represent the views of his constituents. This was never more clear than when the ACT actually voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality and still he did not support it in the parliament. Voters had been disenchanted with him for quite some years. While It took a strong, well-known candidate to take this senate seat, in reality, it was Seselja who lost it. Not some left conspiracy. If the Libs want it back put in a moderate candidate, who will actually provide a voice for ACT voters.

Zed’s volunteers were vastly out-numbered – Pocock had reportedly over 2,000 active members which is 5x the entire membership of the Canberra Liberals – which are mostly dis-engaged or stacks if their poor AGM attendance is any guide. That’s what happens when you beat everyone off with a stick. The Canberra Liberals are just a hollow shell desperately whipping up outrage at every opportunity because it’s all they know. Fight fight fight. Emptied out and drained for Zed, bizarre conspiracies, and to for their shrinking “base” which going by recent reports in The Guardian about the LNP as a whole – is ageing and disconnected. The opposite of what Canberra is and needs.

So back to “Can the Tram” and fight with everyone, fight Canberra, fight with themselves, yell at clouds, avoid ever mentioning “climate” lest they all erupt in to non-nonsensical outrage..

Queue the usual games of dragged out or sham early pre-selections (like for Zed over a *year* out) – with a few carboard cut-out and gagged boring candidates mindlessly pushing more boring outrage talking points and many stern faces. More factional “deals” like moving chairs around sinking ship.

More about appeasing the few remaining members who will “blow the joint up” if they don’t get their way.

When will someone just call it and dissolve the Canberra Liberals and start over? This is a joke, a publicly funded joke because if rumours that they now struggle to raise their own funds now that the business community and aspirational middle class have completely abandoned them – have any merit.

So the Canberra Liberals have a choice – keep whipping up outrage (like that’s worked so well for 25 years) or start over. The party president a and all the antagonists in this sad play should be held publicly accountable and moved on, and radically expand membership.

700 members in a city of 300,000 voters is either intentional control or incompetent long term entrenched failure – and the party president has either resisted or done nothing to grow this (raising questions why). If Pocock could raise 2,000 members in a few months – why have the Canberra Liberals fallen this low after many decades?

Failing this – call in the liquidators – shut it down – and replace the opposition with something that actually functions like one because all of Canberra suffers while these people treat this like a failing dying social club of no relevance to Canberra.

Capital Retro7:05 am 04 Mar 23

It was Climate 200, a group of renewable energy carpetbaggers, who funded Pocock and his 2000 supporters and there will be a big price to pay for this down the track.

And what “price” will that be?

Why do you support the likes of Gina Reinhardt buying out the party but have an issue with Pocock?

Were his 2,000 volunteers all secret agents of something or from the Canberra community?

And why is accepting climate science a bad thing?

anthonypesec2:29 pm 02 Mar 23

The Canberra Libs are having trouble getting their heads around the fact that branch stacking and democracy aren’t compatible and that this might have some link to their horrible election results in the last few elections.

Capital Retro8:55 pm 02 Mar 23

Funny how it works for Labor.

It’s not working for Labor, it’s just that the Canberra Liberals are even more deluded and dysfunctional.

And what have they gotten from electing Pocock?

Prices are through the the roof and at best estimates the snowly 2.0 is 18 billion over budget?
We’d need 100 snow 2.0 scale projects to replace coal.

He had a whinge about represetation for the ACT yet sides with the current government to get IR reforms through, with little fanfare.

Yet those that complained about Zed are no where to be seen. Religious biggotry at its finest.

Jenny Graves1:53 pm 02 Mar 23

How can you blame Pocock for the blowout on Snowy 2.0? That was on the cards well before the last election. The Libs just kept it very quiet!

And what does representation for the ACT have to do with IR reforms?

Zed’s unpopularity came down to his unwillingness to stand up for what Canberrans wanted. It was nothing to do with religious bigotry! Perhaps your comments are reflective of that?

Your muddled language Gooters asks what voters have “gotten from electing David Pocock?.” There were many Canberrans supporting David Pocock in his endeavours to unseat Zed Seselja. Unlike the lazy Zed, Pocock has been out there advocating for Canberra citizens. In his brief time as senator, Pocock has been a standout representative, bringing a human and more socially progressive voice to the Senate. He is on top of his brief and knows his stuff. In the recent 10 years of the LNP government we witnessed a lack of political leadership and a degradation of the public service never before seen. A culture of fear and a lack of credibility was ingrained and normalised by a government which Zed Seselja represented. Pocock has been a loud voice advocating to reform the integrity monitoring process for politicians, supporting laws to tackle corruption in government. We are currently seeing the tragic results of this disastrous Liberal government in the Robodebt Royal Commission. There has been blame shifting, finger pointing and a lack of memory from weak and cowardly politicians.
Pocock has advocated for fair and decent wages and supported IR reforms. He has been a vocal voice in taking action on climate change, phasing out fossil fuels and moving the country towards a renewable energy future. Unlike Zed, Pocock has been a fierce advocate in restoring Territory rights which were removed by a Liberal government. Their restoration has been hard fought by ACT residents over many years but blocked by Zed. Pocock is now advocating for Superannuation tax reforms which will benefit all Australians.
I have acquaintances who are Liberal party members. They did not vote for Zed and are pleased to be rid of him. The Liberal Party has a lot of work ahead to get its Senate seat back!

Yes, the LNP are poor managers as you pointed out. The SH was started by the LNP, not Pocock.

BTW pumped hydro stores doesn’t generate power. They’re completely different.

And how have gas prices been working out? Blame renewables and increase gas demand to drive down prices?

Jack D,
Surely no one believes that rubbish?

Pocock has done absolutely nothing for the ACT, the same as Katy G does nothing for the ACT. The same as all of our reps do very little because the reality is they are small cogs in a big machine.

The only difference is ideology, where local progressives are quite happy to accept lacking performance from left leaning representatives whereas they are apoplectic about similar performance from those on the other side.

The continued hatred for Zed is something to behold.

You mean that guy who did nothing for Canberra for 20 years? In fact actually worked against Canberra’s interests, only to be prompted in to some kind of action two months out from the election? 20 years of mindless re-tweets and re-announcements of federal announcements?

Please.. Zed was the laziest politician ever. Never seen anywhere unless there was a branch election to fiddle with or confected non-sensical outrage to whip up.

Not to mention bare faced lying to Canberra that he would respect the outcome of a $80 million poll he wanted.

We saw more of Pocock around Canberra in four weeks of election campaign than 20 year’s of Zed, out in the community actually listening to and standing up for Canberra.

What “ideology” are you seeing in Pocock? Can you be more specific? He seems pretty centrist and reasonable so far, way more so than blindly “ideological” Zed who simply rejected anything that offended his group or narrow world view hence losing his seat.

Do you honestly believed it was Labor voters who voted Zed out?


Yes, there it is.

Katy has voted regularly against Canberra’s interests for years, yet you want to give her a free pass.

Pocock has done nothing since being elected and he hasn’t been able to wield any of the supposed increased power that having an independent should be able to bring.

Only to someone determined to see it that way.

Everyone else has noticed Pocock being seen and consulting more since being elected than Zed in two decades.

How many town halls did Zed hold? How much consultation did he undertake with the broad community? Or did he just spend his time attacking everyone to appeal to his obviously over estimated “base” of angry old men and climate deniers?

Canberra had the highest marriage equality Yes vote yet Zed bare faced lied and abstained anyway.

Do you think that was smart and told Canberra he was listening?


Katy regularly voting against Canberra’s interests and voters giving her a free pass? Oh please! Katy Gallagher represented Canberra voters and their interests in the Assembly for 10 years. She was ACT Chief Minister for 4 of those years. She is now Senator for the ACT and Federal Finance Minister. No small achievement! And what did your golden boy Zed Seselja do for Canberra chewy14? Lost the party’s only Senate seat! Before becoming senator, he sat in the Assembly as an MLA doing nothing for 10 years. During this time, he worked hard with ultra-right conservatives including Advance Australia to make the party what it is today, unelectable. The current Canberra Liberals are still linked to this group. Despite repeated calls for the party to reveal their links to this far right bigoted group they fail to do so. Current members of the party are a rag tag group of grumpy old men and climate change deniers.
During his political career, Zed has ignored Canberran’s concerns and constantly voted against their interests. He actively worked against the same sex marriage bill. He used his power to veto attempts to restore territory rights. Territory rights were removed by the Liberal party and restoring them was hard fought. As Minister for the Pacific, Zed allowed Australia’s relations with the Solomon Islands to deteriorate to the point that their government signed an agreement with China to set up military basis. Zed used his influence and his staff to stack, bully and intimidate candidates in local Liberal branch and university elections.
The destruction of Liberal party corflutes in the lead up to the last Territory election was traced back to staff in his office. One alleged culprit is now linked closely to a Seselja family member!

Capital Retro5:02 pm 04 Mar 23

I did a lot of voluntary work for Zed in his first term. I have never met a more honest, hard working guy. I didn’t leave the Canberra Liberals because of Zed, by the way – there were infiltrators from the left who took over the party.

It’s a tactic of the left to smear people like Zed because he is good and therefore a threat. They did the same to Tony Abbott; even invented the fake story that he was a misogynist.

Abbott saw-off three Labor PMs while he was leader of the opposition. How good is that?

@chewy14 Inside Pocock’s first year in office, we now are in a position where VAD is to be debated in ACT … in his 10 years in office Seselja delivered … um …. errr …is that crickets I can hear?

A true Liberal party supporter carrying out voluntary work for Zed who is an honest, hard-working guy? This Liberal supporter left the party because of infiltrators from the left who make a habit of smearing people like Zed because he is good and upstanding and no threat to them! God dammit, these rotten lefties even did it to Tony Abbott by inventing untrue misogynist stories about him! Thank goodness Abbott was able to see through them and see three Labor PM’s off! Phew!! Sound familiar, conspiracy theories, infiltrations from rotten lefties penetrating the Liberal party? Well CR, it was actually one Labor leader Abbott saw off. I don’t need to remind readers about this unfortunate period in Australia’s political history. Abbott has also recently dubbed Cardinal George Pell the greatest Catholic and called for his canonisation. He also reintroduced the honour of knights and dames to the order of Australia whilst PM. The medals purchased by his government at the time were subsequently valued worthless costing taxpayers. I also read that Abbott has recently joined the board of the UK based climate change sceptic group the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

“Only to someone determined to see it that way.”

Exactly my point and you and Jack are highlighting those double standards well.

“Everyone else has noticed Pocock being seen and consulting more”

Everyone else? LOL, you make my point for me. What you really mean is that YOU have noticed it because you support him and have been following him.

But people like me who don’t support any of them haven’t noticed any change, the performance us the same, just a different set of ideologues are happy.

As for Jack’s one eye,

“Katy Gallagher represented Canberra voters and their interests in the Assembly for 10 years. She was ACT Chief Minister for 4 of those years.”

Yes, she was the local health minister and chief minister that presided over massive reductions in service provision and performance for Canberrans and has taken that into the Senate where she’s far more interested in her political party being in power than the day to day lives of Canberrans.

And? Why is that a good thing?

And you’re also stretching the bow by claiming that Pocock is responsible for the change in legislation.

Once again, you’re just highlighting my point.

You think Zed “did nothing” because you didn’t agree with the things he actually did.


Pocock voted for the Terrirtory rights legislation and campaigned strongly for his fellow MPs to also support the legislation – exactly what he promised he would do. I’m very satisfied with Pocock’s efforts in this space. (Oh and for the record, I didn’t say he is responsible, I inferred that unlike Seselja, he played a part in the fact that the ACT can now debate its own legislation).

And you are 100% correct … I totally disagreed with Seselja (the purported representative of the ACT) actively torpedoing all previous attempts to allow territories to debate VAD legislation and his abstention from the Same Sex marriage vote – despite indicating he would accept the outcome of the plebiscite.

He also promised to get the Territory a “fair” share of infrastructure funding amongst other policies to promote the Territory as key planks to his election pitch.

Strange that he’s gone completely silent on that front isn’t it?

Don’t see a stadium getting built anywhere, do we.

One can only imagine the miserableness afflicting people like chewy14. Living a life of constant negativity, dreaming of the days when his conservative heroes sat in the federal and local Assemblies. None more important than Zed Seselja in his days as a local MLA, constantly seen moping around Civic and David Jones with nothing else to do but fantasise about becoming chief minister. Imagine the havoc of a Zed Seselja led Liberal government, with Vicki Dunne and Baby Alistair in tow? Not to mention the far right Advance Australia group directing and influencing policy! No doubt about these Canberra Liberals, they keep me amused, as long as they stay out of government!

Hilarious when I don’t support any political party, so have no “heroes” as anyone with even a basic level of comprehension would understand.

“One can only imagine the miserableness afflicting people like chewy14. Living a life of constant negativity”

Even more hilarious coming from the person who takes even the most mild criticism of the local government as yet another chance to go on a rambling, incoherent rant about how much he hates conservatives, the Liberals and anything they have done whilst in power.

No wonder the local ALP/Greens have become so incompetent and arrogant, they know that people like Jack D will never vote for anyone else and they can do whatever they want, no matter how nonsensical.

You got one thing right chewy! I do hate conservatives. There is nothing that gets me more riled. I Don’t know about Liberals though. Depends on what context of Liberal you mean. Canberra Conservative Liberals or Liberal in its true sense?

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