A new poll has again given hope to the ACT Greens that they may oust Canberrals Liberals Senator Zed Seselja when the federal election is held.
The Australia Institute-commissioned poll from uComms found that just 29 per cent of voters would support Senator Seselja which, if translated to polling day, would mean the Liberals would fall well short of a quota and have to scramble for preferences.
The Liberals need to win 33 per cent of the vote to attain a quota. In 2019, Senator Seselja and running mate Robert Gunning managed 32.38 per cent, slightly down on 2016.
The telephone poll of 1057 respondents from 3 August found the Greens would garner 21 per cent, an Independent 6.9 per cent and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation 4 per cent, although One Nation did not contest the last election.
The unknown factor is the entry of Independent Kim Rubenstein, who announced her candidacy after the poll was taken and is attempting to ride the wave of support for independents generated by the likes of Member for Indi Helen Haines and Member for Warringah Zali Steggall.
The constitutional lawyer, who has now obtained the necessary 1500 members for her Kim for Canberra party to be listed above the line on the ballot paper, is hoping to pull voters away from both major parties, but any drift of moderate Liberals to her could pose problems for Senator Seselja.
The Greens team of Penny Kyburz and now MLA Emma Davidson could manage only 17.7 per cent in 2019, despite the Dump Zed campaign which highlighted Senator Seselja’s hardline conservative positions.
Greens candidate Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng will be hoping early polling will be reflected on election day and that moderate Liberals, upset at Senator Seselja’s stances on issues such as voluntary assisted dying, will find somewhere else to park their vote and preference flows will favour her.
But the magnitude of the task in the ACT should not be underestimated, and shifting that solid core of Liberal voters would be a seismic change.
Moreover, most of the 4 per cent who say they would vote for One Nation are more likely to back Senator Seselja.
Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said the poll numbers give a fillip to those who think winning the second seat is impossible. However, he still thinks it is a herculean task, particularly under the new Senate voting system where a lot of votes can be exhausted.
“You might not need to get to a full quota to win, but it does show that the seat is theoretically winnable for either the Greens or an Independent,” he said.
Mr Oquist said Professor Rubenstein was bringing a lot of energy to the contest, but she will need more momentum to be competitive come election day.
He said Senator Seselja’s stance on the ACT’s right to debate voluntary assisted dying Territory could be a vote changer as it cuts across other issues.
“I do think the issue of Territory rights is gaining salience with the electorate,” he said. “The idea that the Territory doesn’t have the same rights to legislate this as other jurisdictions has really come to the fore as most other states have voluntary euthanasia laws in place. It’s going to start to look ridiculous that the ACT can’t even debate it.
“ACT politicians who don’t stand up for the right to at least debate it are going to look awkward at the very least.”
Australia Institute polling also shows that an overwhelming majority of Canberrans support the ACT’s right to debate voluntary assisted dying legislation.
But Mr Oquist also believes that some of the floating One Nation vote will go to Senator Seselja and bolster the election day result.
Senator Seselja said he had delivered record infrastructure and health spending in the ACT and tax cuts for Canberrans as a member of the Liberal-National Government.
“The biggest threat to our prosperity and security is a Labor-Greens Coalition Government with a Senate majority,” he said. “That is why I will be working tirelessly to ensure we continue to deliver for Canberrans and retain this crucial Senate seat.”