9 May 2024

Is this the Canberra Liberals' Senate fall guy?

| Ian Bushnell
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Endorsed Liberal Senate candidate Jacob Vadakkedathu faces a huge challenge. Photo: Facebook.

Are the Canberra Liberals serious about next year’s Senate election?

It doesn’t look that way.

With all due respect to their chosen candidate, Jacob Vadakkedathu, what the party needed was someone with a high enough profile to challenge Independent Senator David Pocock, who is looking more and more at home, and effective, on the Hill.

Senator Pocock will go to ACT voters with three years’ experience in the Senate, more than a few wins and a record as an honest broker and fierce advocate for the ACT.

He will also have an experienced and enthusiastic team behind him.

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Mr Vadakkedathu’s community credentials and commitment can’t be faulted, but he hasn’t been able to crack a seat in the Legislative Assembly in three elections, so how the party expects him to win back its Senate seat is anybody’s guess.

He is a migrant success story, but he is not well known outside of the party or the Indian community, some of whom he has recruited to the Liberals and may have contributed to his surprise victory.

The field itself wasn’t that inspired.

The only elected politician who ran, former MLA Giulia Jones, at least is well known, a woman, and has a great story to tell as a thriving cancer survivor.

She was rolled in the first round.

Dr Jerry Nockles sacrificed his endorsed candidacy for Kurrajong in the ACT election in October to run for the Senate, presumably because he thought he had the numbers.

He ran in Eden-Monaro in 2020, but his ACT residency has been a bit fluid. Apart from his Navy service, he appeared to be more of a party operative, although, of all the candidates, he looked as if he would be comfortable, if not dynamic, in the role.

Dr Nockles’ move did open the way for decorated AFP officer Mick Calatzis, with some wondering why he didn’t get the nod in the first place.

The supposed favourite, defence lobbyist Kacey Lam-Evans, ran with the losing Zed Seselja in 2022 and had being a woman going for her, but beyond that, is hardly someone with a profile to match Senator Pocock.

So what’s going on? Where was the Liberal community champion who could galvanise the vote and restore order in the ACT?

The ACT review of the 2022 disaster urged the Canberra Liberals to engage the community on a more diverse and broad-based level. It slammed the local party for a lack of female candidates, which only confirmed a belief that the Liberals generally had a ‘woman problem’.

With two women in the 2024 Senate field, the chance was there to correct that assumption. The fact that Defence data analyst Hayune Lee won the unwinnable No 2 slot does not make up for this lost opportunity.

There is no doubt the Liberal Senate ticket will be culturally diverse, but is it a winning combination?

For many, the answer is already no.

If you expected the Liberals to close ranks and unite behind the candidates, then you’d be wrong.

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There is anger and dark mutterings that the Seselja forces are playing the long game, plotting for a return of the party hard man to the fray in 2028, when the possible addition of two Senate seats would make it an easier contest.

With Labor likely to squeak back for a second term, 2028 may also offer a more realistic shot at returning to government.

If next year’s race is another disaster for the Liberals, possibly following yet another ACT loss, the argument goes that the Seselja forces will emerge from their temporary setback to regain control of the party.

Conspiracy theory or not, the very airing of such thoughts shows the long shadow Zed Seselja and his allies still cast over the party and the challenge it has to attract quality candidates and win the community’s trust.

It may be others have also calculated that the 2025 window has closed, and 2028 is the time for serious contenders to emerge.

Whatever the situation may be, questions remain about the Liberals’ commitment.

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Thanks Bulldog!

Jacob Vadakkeddathu has a snowballs chance of clawing back the party’s senate seat lost to David Pocock. Mr Vadakkeddathu has been a losing and dismal candidate for the Canberra Liberals at three elections now and is a close ally of Zed Seselja, who also had branch stacking allegations made against him.

For those not familiar with the term, branch stacking involves recruiting new members to a political party who will vote for and support a candidate in its elections. The “stacker” is then able to manipulate internal party decisions. The new recruits mostly have no real interest in supporting the principles of the party or participating in its activities. The recruitment of these new members is rather murky and sometimes involves the stacker reporting false addresses, paying membership fees and recruiting those who do not even know they are joining a political party. Through these allegiances, the stacker is able to manipulate the party’s ruling bodies. These bodies control the party’s internal affairs and the rules about how it selects candidates and resolves disputes.

Branch stacking is not illegal nor isolated to any one party. It has been suggested by those more knowledgeable in political science than me that one way to reduce branch stacking would be to adopt the Queensland model of electoral commission oversight. In the ACT we could do this by shifting responsibility and compliance to ElectionsACT to reduce this practice.

“He is a migrant success story, but he is not well known outside of the party or the Indian community, some of whom he has recruited to the Liberals and may have contributed to his surprise victory”

In the ALP this is called branch stacking

Ian De Landelles12:21 pm 12 May 24

One man’s ‘recruitment’ is another man’s ‘stack’.

Incidental Tourist9:56 pm 10 May 24

Pocock has been seeking attention like he still kept playing footy. He took ideas from Greta Thunberg playbook like “climate change duty of care”. Even if legislated, we wouldn’t see any legal case on this duty of care basis within 100,000 years. He promised a voice for Canberra and what has his voice done good for us?

Unfortunately Canberra has been far too easy target to cut and attack from all sides of politics. Jacob wants to attract more commonwealth funding for our National Capital. His position is central and goals are real. Jacob is in for a real tiring job. It won’t make a lot of headlines. But getting more funding is in the best Canberra interests. Sadly this article has no single word about Jacob’s platform. It judges people by the size of headlines.

Capital Retro9:18 am 11 May 24

Jacob needs to first chain himself to an excavator working on the tram line extension then get Climate 200 to bankroll his campaign.

This is the only way he can be competitive with Pocock.

Done good? You mean he run strong?
Who could disapprove of that?

(apologies to those not of a certain age nor from Sydney).

@Capital Retro
You mean the Libs and their backers won’t be bankrolling Jacob’s campaign, CR?

I was expecting the Liberals to find a popular local footballer or radio announcer to be their No 1 Senate candidate. The maths are with the Liberals. To win that second Senate seat, all they need is 33.3% of votes cast, whether to the Liberals or preference flows from Family First and One Nation. It is strange that the Liberals want to play dead for what should be an easily winnable Senate seat.

Ian De Landelles1:54 pm 10 May 24

Given recent events, it’s obvious the only lesson the ACT branch of the Liberal Party has learnt, is they haven’t learnt anything. Personal political ambitions of certain party members rate much more highly than their party’s political success, and unless and until those in power come to the realisation that the Canberra electorate finds them unelectable, they will continue to languish on the opposition benches locally and without representation in the house on the hill.

I’ll take him over Mean Girl Katy that’s for sure, yikes.

Better than Mean Girl Lizzie, just ask Giulia with a “G”!


Liberals have a men problem. It is they who have problems with women leading within their party.

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