Canberra’s Liberal candidates: underdogs or quiet achievers?

Genevieve Jacobs 14 May 2019 67

The ACT’s federal Liberal candidates. from left: Ed Cocks, Leanne Castley, Senator Zed Seselja, Mina Zaki and Robert Gunning. Photo: Supplied.

Judging by voter reactions, electoral confusion reigns. Redistribution, retirements and a whole new electorate mean many Canberrans are uncertain what seat they’re in, much less who’s standing in it.

I’ve spoken to Liberal, Labor and Green candidates, asking what motivates them; what the major issues for Canberra voters are; are local and federal issues confused; does Canberra suffer from having safe seats and where they sit politically inside their party?

On that, you’ll be relieved (or cynical) to hear that every would-be politician claims they’re factionally independent and on excellent terms with everyone inside their parties.

Conversations were by phone or at venues of the candidates’ choice. For two Liberal candidates, this turned out to be the new Cotter Rd McDonalds.

Mina Zaki is standing for Canberra. Born in Kabul, she’s a copywriter who’s a Liberal “because I know what it’s like to live without individual rights, freedoms and opportunities”.

Zaki moved to Canberra in 2016 and nominated because she didn’t like what she saw happening. “People are struggling to pay rates, to find an affordable place to rent. Canberrans can’t afford more taxes on top of the rates they already pay.”

Doorknocking, Zaki says Canberrans constantly raise “the retiree tax” (all three Liberals repeated this: I clarified they’re referring to franking credit proposals), increasing rates and lack of local maintenance.

“I’m worried about income tax on top of rates. Families won’t be able to afford higher taxes. If this is what they’re doing locally then we can’t afford it federally.”

Zaki resists factional labels, saying “I’m a person of faith and I’m guided by those ideals. If I was to tell you where I was on the spectrum, it depends on the issue at hand.”

A believer in small government, Zaki says Canberra needs a lower house advocate. “I didn’t have the privilege of being born in Canberra…I chose Canberra because its the best place to raise a young family.”

Fourth generation Canberran Ed Cocks is standing in Bean.

He says 20 years of Labor in Tuggeranong means voters feel taken for granted. “I think Labor hasn’t had to fight for this electorate for a long time… we’ve got the better plan, we need to keep the economy strong, we need to make sure we’re supporting people to get up and have a go and not holding them back when they do so,” he says.

On Canberra issues Cocks nominates bureaucratic barriers for business, referencing the Solarshare project which he calls “something great, that’s spent so long having to fight red tape.”

He links rates with Labor tax plans, saying landlords passing on costs will hurt vulnerable renters. The “retiree tax” gets a nod: Cocks says he’s met “a lady in Isaacs who gets $300 in franking credits that keep her car on the road, another who gets $800 that just helps out”.

He defends federal/local confusion, calling out the lack of suburban infrastructure investment. “Zed’s lobbied hard to upgrade the Monaro Highway, but I didn’t see this area being treated the same way as a marginal seat.

“Labor makes a fuss over public sector jobs, but…we were looking down the barrel of 14,500 job cuts under the last Labor government. I didn’t feel a Labor representative had the traction in the party to properly represent this area.”

Regarding allegiance, Cocks calls the ACT Liberals “a very democratic party…the things that bind us on freedom of choice and speech are so much stronger than the things that divide”.

IT project manager and musician Leanne Castley is standing in Fenner. She grew up in Charnwood, saying “I’m all about jobs and family. That’s the cornerstone of a good community and building a strong economy.

“People like me know what it’s like to fight through traffic, work all day, feed the kids, clean the house and get to weekend sport. The government’s there to guarantee essential services but then let us get on with it.”

On voter issues, it’s rates and Gungahlin infrastructure. “We’re hoping the government will get the roads done, not just a quick band-aid…even though we’ve got the tram, it’s not working.”

She believes voters are “thrilled we’re doubling health funding and offering record funding for education”. On franking credits, Castley refers to her own mother, a single mum and nurse, but wants to focus on grassroots, not “fearmongering”.

“When I talk about federal, it doesn’t mean anything. They want to know, can you fix my footpath? I haven’t met Andrew Leigh until recently. I don’t really see him in the electorate, or other Labor MLA’s…it would be good to have a shake-up.”

What’s the take-home message? Despite energetic prodding, candidates prioritised local government issues, gave little policy detail and toed the line from franking credits to factions. They’re representative locals who’ve had careers and lives outside politics. History suggests victory is unlikely for them, but kudos to each one for having a crack at something they believe in.

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67 Responses to Canberra’s Liberal candidates: underdogs or quiet achievers?
Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 6:12 am 17 May 19

To answer the question - bleeders of the public purse. As for Zed, don't get me started.

Jack Stumps Jack Stumps 9:28 pm 16 May 19

Labour=Canberra,,,,,,, libs go home your drunk

John Mavrogenes John Mavrogenes 8:30 pm 14 May 19

zed stinks

Mac John Mac John 6:43 pm 14 May 19

What has this man called Seselja done for canberra? He is arguing to retain the unsustainable subsidies to the rich: he has no policies other than to attack the opposition, he has no vision for change. Put the liberals last.

Bernadette Burcher Bernadette Burcher 6:16 pm 14 May 19

Or come on Jan don’t be like that !!

    Jan Gulliver Jan Gulliver 9:40 pm 14 May 19

    Bernadette Burcher 😁I know Zed, laziest politician ever, done nothing for Canberra, the others I don’t at all want to know, as you can guess I’m not a liberal voter 😊😊😊🌹🌹

    Bernadette Burcher Bernadette Burcher 9:41 pm 14 May 19

    Yes both Geoff and myself thought that Jan !!!!

    Jan Gulliver Jan Gulliver 10:34 pm 14 May 19

    Bernadette Burcher takes all kinds 😁😁

    Jan Gulliver Jan Gulliver 5:27 am 15 May 19

    Bernadette Burcher takes all kinds 😁😁

    Bernadette Burcher Bernadette Burcher 3:56 pm 15 May 19

    Or don’t be like that Jan 😊😊😊

Rob Calvert Rob Calvert 12:21 pm 14 May 19

I’d give Zed a “Z” for effort and that’s a generous grade. Having either avoided a vote or directly voting against the views of a majority of his constituents he can hardly put a case for re-election.

Fred Pilcher Fred Pilcher 11:43 am 14 May 19


Aija Seittenranta Aija Seittenranta 8:37 am 14 May 19

Has Mina fixed her S44 problem yet?

Gay McGuire Gay McGuire 7:49 am 14 May 19

Does absolutely nothing for Canberra doesn’t deserve to represent us!

John Moulis John Moulis 5:52 am 14 May 19

I wasn’t going to vote Liberal this time but when I heard Labor and a gaggle of independents rabbiting on about “real action on “climate change” ” I reconsidered. I have been writing down the names of these candidates and they will be placed last on my ballot paper. See my YouTube videos as The Naked Commentator for commentary on the election and how to vote.

Robert Knight - Canberra Progressives Robert Knight - Canberra Progressives 12:08 am 14 May 19

Hey Genevieve, how about a story on the newcomers - Australian Progressives? The best alternative to the Coles, Woolworths and IGA of Australian politics this city has seen since the Democrats.

Shawn McIntyre Shawn McIntyre 11:40 pm 13 May 19

Under achievers. Quietly doing bugger all.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:05 pm 13 May 19

Quiet dogs and under-achievers should have been the headline.

Bill Wilkinson Bill Wilkinson 8:12 pm 13 May 19

The ACT Liberal Party is not a 'Liberal' Party. It has been infiltrated by the 'hard right'.

Darron Marks Darron Marks 7:59 pm 13 May 19

Met Andrew Leigh the other day he is a pretty switched on guy not sure why he hasn't thrown his hat in for the treasury portfolio he would be more qualified for it than Bowen ?

As for Zed I have met him a few times and he doesn't strike me as someone that has achieved much whilst representing the territory ?

Also unlike Andrew he always has minders that follow him around in some effort to shield him from having to directly answer any questions. Before they quickly whiz him off stage because he has always got something better to do than talk to people in his electorate 🙄

Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 7:50 pm 13 May 19

Where is the funding? 🙄 Go fish 🎏🎣🐟🐠🐡

    Anthony Pesec Anthony Pesec 11:14 pm 13 May 19

    They've been terribly quiet about this after I called them out for lying about the funding behind my campaign.

    Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 11:27 pm 13 May 19

    Anthony Pesec i feel change in the water

    Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 6:16 am 14 May 19

    Ian McLeod 6 years and he's promising funding now? Are U kidding me? Haha

Nicole McGuire Nicole McGuire 7:45 pm 13 May 19

What Canberra doesn’t need is to be the safe seat of any party. We’ve been paying a high personal price for being taken for granted

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 12:36 am 14 May 19

    Nicole McGuire couldn’t have said it better. We’ve had the same mob locally for 30 years. Despite periods of extraordinary mismanagement such as the originally one-lane Gungahlin Drive Extension, there were zero repercussions from the electorate. Governments are like dirty be fair it’s also up to the rest to offer a viable alternative.

    Veronika Sain Veronika Sain 1:39 am 14 May 19

    The last time we had a local liberal government it wasn’t so flash - culminating in blowing up our only decent hospital and killing a little girl. Most people have long memories.

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 11:37 pm 14 May 19

    Ian McLeod I’m proudly a swinging voter and have love for neither of the majors. It’s a pity Canberrans as a collective are so rusted on. With that in mind my vote will make no difference, not until we change systens to that of a popularly elected president...but that’s another issue.

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 11:41 pm 14 May 19

    Veronika Sain there was nothing decent about the old Canberra Hospital. The new Canberra Hospital is an impressive facility. Shameful waiting list for elective surgery though...

    Chris Barry Chris Barry 8:14 am 15 May 19

    Ian my only question for Anthony Pesec is this. He says he wants to lower business and individual taxes while at the same time improving our public health system. I’m not sure how he plans to do both.

    Jim Jim Jim Jim 12:09 pm 16 May 19

    Ian McLeod depends whether your beliefs align with the monarchy or republicanism, another thread entirely.

Robert Howatson Robert Howatson 7:40 pm 13 May 19

Dump Zed

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:35 pm 13 May 19

“A believer in small government, Zaki says Canberra needs a lower house advocate. “

For all the huffing and puffing on this subject, there’s generally not much difference between the major parties on size of government – it’s typically a debate about who pays relatively more or less for the public sector(s) we have. The debate is even more complicated in Canberra because most businesses are either directly or indirectly reliant upon federal government spending (in spite of the statistics which are regularly trotted out about the proportion of Canberrans employed in the “private sector”) and thus tend to be less attracted to small government arguments than their counterparts elsewhere in the country.

If the elusive vision of Canberra as a dynamic hub of high-tech exports (with many, many thousands employed in that sector and competing on the world stage with lower cost nations) ever happens, there might be a solid constituency for smaller government, but in the meantime, the votes will be with keeping the gravy train rolling along.

Jan Gulliver Jan Gulliver 6:43 pm 13 May 19

No thanks no desire to meet this lot. 😊 cheers Genevieve

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