16 May 2019

Is this the candidate who could topple Zed Seselja?

| Genevieve Jacobs
Join the conversation

Businessman Anthony Pesec will be an independent Senate candidate for the ACT. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

In an already feverish electoral atmosphere, Canberra voters are the latest to be offered an alternative to incumbent hard-right conservatives. Canberra businessman Anthony Pesec, a former investment banker and renewable energy developer, has announced he’ll stand for the Senate as an independent candidate.

ACT electoral history indicates that a full Labor quota for the Senate is all but guaranteed. In 2013, Greens candidate Simon Sheikh ran Senator Zed Seselja to the wire over several weeks of counting, but traditionally the Liberals have always taken the second seat, albeit with a lower proportion of the vote than the ALP.

Pesec is Chapman born and bred, having returned to Canberra four years ago after spending around a decade setting up investment banking in Croatia. His parents left “an oppressive Communist regime” in the former Yugoslavia for the ACT, settling here permanently in the late 60’s to establish a family business as builders. Pesec still lives in the house he grew up in.

He’s a product of Chapman Primary, Weston Creek High and Stirling College, followed by a degree in Civil Engineering at UNSW. He has an MBA and after working in the UK, was prompted by both curiosity and the British weather to try his luck in Croatia as it was entering the EU.

Strongly motivated by concerns about climate change, he’s been investing in renewable energy for around 15 years and now runs Intelligent Energy Solutions, which trades and invests in solar energy capacity. Politically, he’s galvanised by climate change action, economic policy and Territory rights, positioning himself at “the sensible centre”.

“Renewable energy is the first thing I’ve been really passionate about,” he says. “The ideological discussion about climate change, whether it’s really happening and what we should be doing about it in Australia is extremely frustrating in a sector where you can actually measure and quantify impacts.”

“It’s insane not to adopt a clean energy policy that benefits everybody without being a subsidy-driven social issue. We could look at it as an investment in growth opportunity for Australia at a point when we need to replace our ageing generators.” By contrast, he describes current Federal renewable energy policy as “completely incoherent”.

He’s also angered by what he sees as a critical lack of representation in the ACT. “Since self-government, Canberrans have wanted the right to choose our own course and we haven’t had good representation”, he says. “Gary Humphries crossed the floor during the Howard government (over same-sex marriage legislation). We haven’t seen that courage since. Euthanasia, marriage equality and the like are complex and subjective issues, but it’s not right to ignore your own constituency.”

Pesec denies he’s a Liberal in disguise while admitting that’s predominantly where his vote has gone in the past, although he’s also voted Labor. He also denies that he’s simply in this to take on Zed Seselja, despite reports that the moderate Liberal breakaway Menzies Group is re-energising ahead of the election.

“If Bill Shorten is elected, it will be with the lowest popularity rating of any Prime Minister in history. That indicates to me that a lot of voters are not so keen on Labor but turned off by the complete implosion of bickering inside the parties”

He says a clear Shorten victory will imply a mandate on policies like negative gearing and franking credits reform that he finds economically worrying, whereas a strong Senate crossbench can make or break the politics. While concurring with the Greens on some environmental policies, he says they’ve done a poor job of achieving real change and come with a raft of less acceptable social directions.

“Maybe it’s an arrogant perspective from an outsider, but there seem to be too many career politicians who are focused on themselves than representing their constituents,” he says.

So where will the money come from for what’s clearly a serious campaign with serious backing? Pesec is coy at this stage on who his supporters are but says there’s business and political funding from both inside and outside the ACT. He admits to being part of the wave of money for centrist candidates and says disclosure laws will be adhered to fully when the time comes.

Common interests in renewable energy had already put him in contact with Malcom Turnbull’s son, Alex, who has been open about his intentions to fund locally based, moderate candidates who want action on climate change.

And is Pesec’s candidacy a long term prospect or a flash in the pan? “I view the House of Representatives and the Senate as parallels to executive management and the corporate board. You don’t get into those positions without experience and I hope I’ve got enough real-world experience to do a good job for the future,” he says.

It seems clear that denials to the contrary, Pesec is looking to gain moderate Liberal votes, to shift environmentally-conscious voters who aren’t in love with Green social policies, and some centrist Labor supporters. That means a dogfight, especially on the right. So has this quietly spoken businessman got enough fire in the belly for some potentially nasty politics?

Pesec laughs. “Investment banking could be pretty nasty. So was working on large construction sites like Sydney Airport with strict curfews, and aggressive unions barking down my throat. I’ve worked in high-stress environments before. I’m looking forward to this one.”

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments
Steven Bailey3:35 pm 08 May 19

Yes. Team Zed is frightened. Last year the Libs simpy covered Canberra with signs of Turnbull, this year Zed isn’t even in the ACT.

Zed’s campaign strategy is to stay out of the ACT and support Dutton and all the duds that have the gall to call themselves Liberals.

If you vote Labor, know that Katy will get into the Senate safely, so give Anthony Pesec your number 1 vote.

If you’re a true Liberal, and believe in climate change, VOTE 1 for Anthony Pesec.

If you’re a Green, I’m sorry Penny has not run a strong enough campaign, VOTE 1 for Anthony Pesec.

This is how change happens. VOTE 1 Anthony Pesec.

– Steven Bailey

Timothy Hughes12:53 pm 08 May 19

I know and like Zed personally but don’t like his political views. Hope he gets voted out.

A Nonny Mouse8:17 pm 28 Feb 19

Whether your inclinations are for the Greens or you like this guy who seems like a Liberal except that he understands climate change or you go for someone else, just remember to “Put Zed last”.

Capital Retro12:11 pm 01 Mar 19

There are several versions of “climate change”. Which one are you referring to?

Capital Retro6:33 pm 03 Mar 19

At least say you can’t tell me or the science is settled.

And what are the versions you refer to? Please list and explain them, these “versions” you refer to.

Capital Retro8:46 am 05 Mar 19

There are two versions of climate change, the natural one which has been happening since time on earth began and it continues. Field studies by physical geographers 150 years ago discovered that certain existing land forms have been produced under climatic conditions quite unlike those prevailing today. The noted geographer William Morris Davis, professor of physical geography in Harvard University, wrote widely on these studies and his proof-sheets were endorsed by many academics at that time.

Then there is “modern climate science” which evolved from an obscure Japanese meteorologist named Syukuro Manabe in 1949 who linked his theory of “global warming” to increased presence of carbon dioxide. This led to, with the use of computers, a mathematical climate model which is selective on dates and other inputs to ensure that we believe that ‘extreme weather events” are increasing.

Are you happy with that?

HiddenDragon6:53 pm 28 Feb 19

“So where will the money come from for what’s clearly a serious campaign with serious backing? Pesec is coy at this stage on who his supporters are but says there’s business and political funding from both inside and outside the ACT. He admits to being part of the wave of money for centrist candidates and says disclosure laws will be adhered to fully when the time comes.”

The law is the law, and that’s fine, so far as it goes, but a candidate who wanted to stand out from the rest would be up-front and early about the financial backing for their campaign.

In the video, didn’t he say that financing hadn’t been fully worked out yet, but there had been contact with Alex Turnbull? Wouldn’t it be a bit premature to say that funding is coming from a certain person or group before it’s finalised.

Capital Retro11:29 am 27 Feb 19

The reason we have a “fragile third world China subservient economy” is because we have found some obscure reasons to hate coal whereas China is now using our thermal coal for electricity generation for its industries and coking coal for its steel production.

I recall a little country called Australia used to do that and it gave many prosperous years to all who lived there.

Forget us ever getting out of debt too because due to our wage structures in the manufacturing sector we are totally noncompetitive with the rest of the world.

This is why we will never again have a “strong, diversified export economy” but if you can give me some reasons why I am wrong please respond accordingly.

You might think looking after the planet is an obscure reason to shun coal, but most of us (particularly in Canberra) don’t. We need to send a clear message to Zed Seselja and anyone else who supports that smirking fool with a lump of coal who passes for the current PM.

Capital Retro7:48 am 28 Feb 19

You infer that coal has something to do with the well-being of the planet we live on.

Well, billions of others would disagree with you as Chinese production and consumption of coal continues to increase yearly. China is by far the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, accounting for 46% of global coal production and 49% of global coal consumption in 2012—almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

As a manufacturing country that has large electric power requirements, China’s coal consumption fuels its economic growth. China’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.7% in 2012, following an average GDP growth rate of 10% per year from 2000 to 2011.

Coal accounts for most of China’s energy consumption, and coal has maintained an approximate 70% share of Chinese consumption (on a Btu basis) since at least 1980, the starting date for EIA’s global coal data. By way of comparison, coal was 18% of U.S. energy use and 28% of global energy use in 2012.

China continues to build new coal-fired power stations every week while we are closing them down in the belief that expensive and unreliable renewables alone will win back our ability to again be a great manufacturing nation.

Instead of berating Scott Morrison why don’t you take on the leaders of China? Better still, how about you impose a ban on all things produced in China?

Capital Retro where you you getting your information from ? This article states that it has been decreasing since 2013 https://www.brookings.edu/2018/01/22/chinas-coal-consumption-has-peaked/

Capital Retro9:19 am 08 May 19

The planet is looking after itself.

Zed has long outlived his usefulness. He knifed Gary Humphries in 2013 and Malcolm Turnbull in 2018. He does not even pretend to represent the wishes of his constituents in Federal Parliament, his sole focus is advancing his career and his hard right opinions. Time’s up Zed, Anthony will be a breath of fresh air. He has had a real career and a genuine interest in Canberra. He gets my vote.

Capital Retro7:39 am 27 Feb 19

“Spot on and that’s why Canberra has been neglected for 20 years….”

What a coincidence that is, given that it’s the same time span that our current ACT Labor (sometimes minority) government has been in power.

If we believe the spin that our local government belts out we don’t need any help from the federals.

It’s refreshing to hear a candidate talking and actually saying something about issues that are meaningful to me. I think he has a strong chance.

I’m so disenchanted with the Liberal party at both Federal and Territory level, but also the ACT Labor party at the local level.
The sooner we get quality independents or the major parties start to select candidates with independent thought and ability to undertake evidence based analysis the better it will be for all us voters.

Capital Retro1:26 pm 25 Feb 19

With backers like Alex Turnbull and others not revealed it looks like another attempt to getup a candidate with cherry-picked policies designed to pull Zed’s votes and possibly allow a Green or a second Labor candidate to be elected. Who is he directing his preferences to?

I don’t believe a successful businessman like Mr Pesec would be willing to seriously abandon all he has created for a Senate seat.

I was FB message chatting with Anthony Pesec last week about various matters. He said he was receiving some funding from Alex Turnbull. That was enough to turn me off, I pre-polled yesterday and did not give Mr Pesec a nod.

russianafroman1:09 pm 25 Feb 19

Seems good, unfortunately centrists tend to be reluctant to take action on pressing matters as they need to appeal to both the left and the right.

I would say that he has no hope of replacing Zed, but may be a tool to evict Zed.

Too many Liberal voters will vote for Zed because they always vote Liberal and he appears to be the Liberal’s preffered candidate.

This new guy (probably not worth remembering his name as he probably won’t be back next election) is extremely unlikely to gain enough votes to get in.

However he may gain enough Liberal leaning voters to reduce Zed’s numbers enough that another candidate (probably Greens) gets in instead of Zed.

Now perhaps the more interesting question is Genevieve’s motive in creating the article. A cynic would suggest it is to facilitate that scenario. i.e. to assist a Greens senator and not out of any real interest in the new guy.

Not being a member of a political party means people have to vote below the line for this candidate. Last election 90% of votes cast were above the line. He has buckley’s chance of being elected. However, if he pulls some votes away from the major parties, where those preferences go and whether they exhaust before reaching Seselja or the Greens candidate could be important in determining who wins the 2nd seat. I’d suggest the odds still support Seselja retaining the seat.

So I reached out to someone I know and it turns out a group ticket can be run without being in a party. He just has to have a second/supporting candidate. The odds would still be in Seselja’s favour, but not as strongly as I thought before.

Not a chance. Too many people vote the party line. The Liberals could put up Attila the Hun and Labor could put up Uncle Joe and they’d both get in. Good luck to Mr Pesec though.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.