11 August 2022

Ousted former Senator Zed Seselja felt 'deep sense of dread' before election

| Lottie Twyford
Join the conversation
Zed Seselja

Former ACT Senator Zed Seselja told Sky News he felt a “deep sense of dread” in the lead-up to the May election. Photo: Cassandra Choake.

In his first interview since being ousted by independent Senator David Pocock, former ACT senator Zed Seselja has revealed he felt a “deep sense of dread” in the lead-up to the Federal Election.

Mr Seselja’s primary vote in the May election plummeted to less than 25 per cent, well below what he needed to push back against Mr Pocock’s vote and the preferences flowing to him from other progressive minor parties and independents.

That loss ended an 18-year run in both federal and local politics for the former Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

Mr Seselja entered federal politics in 2013 after serving as the Leader of the Opposition in the Territory’s Legislative Assembly.

The loss of the seat marked the first time the ACT has had no Liberal Party representation at a federal level.

READ ALSO ACT powers ahead on journey towards 100 EV chargers by next year

He told Sky News that voters had largely formed their view of the Coalition government before the election and that he had been hurt by the election loss and felt a “level of rejection”.

“I certainly had a deep sense of dread going in,” he said.

Mr Seselja conceded this feeling may have been shared by other members of his party.

He said one of the contributing factors to the negative perception of the Morrison government was a belief the vaccine roll-out – or stroll-out as the Opposition labelled it – had been too slow.

“There was a feeling, and certainly a narrative that took hold, that we weren’t getting it done quickly enough,” he said.

vaccination hub

The Federal Government intended to use AstraZeneca for the majority of the country’s vaccine roll-out. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Mr Seselja went on to question if it had been a good idea for the government to have listened to its medical advisory body when it limited AstraZeneca to older age groups due to the risk of rare but deadly blood clots.

“I think that really set things back considerably at the time. I think there’s a question mark over whether we should have accepted that advice because I think AstraZeneca is a safe vaccine. I think it’s proven to be a very effective vaccine, but you’re in a difficult spot,” he said.

READ ALSO Expansion flagged as report finds Drug and Alcohol Court helps offenders, saves money

He defended National Cabinet but said it became a burden for the government at the time.

“The national cabinet was a correct and heroic response at the time for the country. I think it then became a bit of an albatross,” Mr Seselja said.

“There was a feeling perhaps among some of our people that we didn’t stand up to the premiers.”

Mr Seselja also agreed that an “impression was created” that then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not listen to women and their concerns.

“The issues that emerged in [Parliament House] were very distressing, very concerning and of public interest,” he said.

The former Senator said replacing the Prime Minister had not been contemplated in the lead-up to the election.

READ ALSO Survey finds Canberrans to be happiest people in Australia – here’s why

Since the election loss, infighting has broken out in the ranks of the Canberra Liberals.

The moderate Menzies Group has urged a clean-out of the party’s powerful Management Committee, while other insiders have suggested to Region that the party must steer itself to the centre if it is to have any future success in the electorate.

But many have warned the conservative shadows of Mr Seselja and his allies loom large within the Liberals, despite the election of moderate Elizabeth Lee to the leadership role.

The last Liberal Chief Minister of the ACT, Gary Humphries, told Region in May that Ms Lee had done well to publicly portray the party as more moderate since her appointment to the leadership in 2020, but he said she must now win support within the organisational wing of the party or she risked being undercut.

A review of the Canberra Liberals’ election campaign is now underway.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

The crazy right are in trouble?! That’s just terrible!!!!! BSEG

As usual Mr Seselja is avoiding the real elephant in the room … ACT electors showed an overwhelming preference for a Senator who presented a platform framed around representing the majority view

Yes Capital, Zed did get more votes than David, so it should be like a vote at your local club, Majority rules, OK? ….well no.

We have a preferential system, which I can’t understand (and I must have another go at it) but owing to this what seems to be a rather convoluted system, David ended up with the chocolates.

Put simply, in a preferential system it is the majority that rules, while in a first past the post system, too often the minority can rule by vote splitting what the majority want. That’s why preferential voting is more democratic and represents the community’s wishes better.

Peter Graves4:10 pm 14 Aug 22

Antony Green’s history of voting in Australia is here – https://www.abc.net.au/elections/federal/2004/guide/prefhistory.htm

Compulsory preferential voting ensures that at least about 51% of the electorate do – eventually – want the winner. Otherwise, in first past the post, it only requires there be 3 or more candidates and a winner can be elected by a minority of (say) 25-33%+ 1. About 66% NOT wanting that candidate, though.

Actually MERC600 as I said below, Seselja did not get more first preferences than Pocock https://results.aec.gov.au/27966/Website/SenateStateFirstPrefs-27966-ACT.htm … the preferential system merely meant that the Pocock party #1 candidate was elected over the Liberal party #1 candidate

limestonecowboy1:07 pm 13 Aug 22

Having enjoyed the advantage that preferential voting gave him for many years Zeselja suffered the fate that politicians who don’t listen to their electorate invariably do. Unless a large part of his response was deleted he still is so out of touch with the electorate that any likelihood of him ever representing the ACT again is remote. He actively worked against the repeal of the Andrew’s Bill which denied us a fundamental democratic right. He allowed his extreme personal religious beliefs to override those of the majority of his electorate. How he survived for as long as he did is the surprising bit. Equally the current (and very likely temporary) leader of the Federal Opposition is also in denial.

Yes, CR, you are wrong … Mr Seselja did not receive anywhere near the first preferences as Senator Pocock. Check the true facts here at the AEC website – https://results.aec.gov.au/27966/Website/SenateStateFirstPrefs-27966-ACT.htm = Seselja = 5,600 V Pocock = 15,546. If you had said the Liberal party above the line vote was higher than the Pocock party above the line vote then that’s a different matter – but of course above the line does not equate to a specific candidate

Capital Retro11:36 am 13 Aug 22

I may be wrong (again) but didn’t Zed get more primary votes that Pocock?

I may be wrong but doesn’t Australia have a preferential voting system?

Capital Retro4:12 pm 13 Aug 22

Indeed Australia does has a preferential voting system but that isn’t the question I asked.

So what was the intent of your question, CR? Were you hoping Mr Ses could get elected in England where they have ’first past the post’? He could go there. No pressure.

We have an electoral system more clearly conceived as instant runoff. Anything outside the operation of that system is as pertinent to discussion as your shoe size. Three people arrived at the final phase of counting, and Mr Ses was third, rather like coming last in the circumstances. More people cheered than not. There are your relevant votes.

Capital Retro11:23 am 14 Aug 22

I was suggesting that Zed is more preferred one on one than Pocock but that appears incomprehensible to you.

But it was not the case, CR. One-on-one, people preferred Pocock else he would not have been elected. Are preferential voting sysems incomprehensible to you?

Absolutely the correct lesson for the Liberals: there’s nothing wrong with the way Zed “represented” Canberra and there is nothing to be learned from a review of the election result.
The problem was either that the ignorant voters preferenced Pocock over Zed or the preferential voting system itself. I mean it’s fine when it ensures preference swaps between the right kinds of voters but it’s an abomination when used by the wrong sort.

“One on One ” ?
Mano a Mano .. Hah !
Oh, bless you, Capital Retro !
What a quaint notion, i.m.o.
Fancy imagining that Senator Zed could be “preferred”.
Yes, there WERE folk who voted for the Liberal PARTY – and some welded-on ones could forget what Senator Zed had voted for / against.
YES, there must be some folk who actually did vote for Zed himself, personally.
And YES, fewer folk voted first-preference for the guy who knocked off ex-Senator Zed, via their preference votes.
I voted for Pocock well after those whom I judged other non_Liberal and non-RWNJs, and yet I ranked Pocock BEFORE Zed on any measure.
Yep, Zed was the recipient of more first-preferences than Pocock, but what a Fall – out of the Ministry, out of sufficient preferences, out of the Senate altogether.
I do prefer the ACT result by which the majority voted their own various preferences..
But “one on one” .. big deal !

Yes, CR, you are wrong … Mr Seselja did not receive anywhere near the first preferences as Senator Pocock. Check the true facts here at the AEC website – https://results.aec.gov.au/27966/Website/SenateStateFirstPrefs-27966-ACT.htm =>Seselja = 5,600 V Pocock = 15,546. If you had said the Liberal party above the line vote was higher than the Pocock party above the line vote then that’s a different matter – but of course above the line does not equate to a specific candidate

Lol the comment section is mostly clueless.
Whingers that Zed didn’t give them what they wanted and didn’t understand them.
“Ignored the wishes of the majority”.

While his policies were not everyone’s cup of tea what the majority seem to vote for the woke mob that achieve nothing. Our local government mainly target the minorities.

The right lost the far right vote because they went to far to the centre.
Comments from the far left that would never have voted right is conceited pointless drivel.

Honest question to what Zed did or didn’t do compared with the others?
Usually the answer is crickets.

I have already listed three things Mr Ses opposed or did not do, gooterz. More will be done if alternatives merely passively wave them through.

If the right lost the far-right vote, where did it go, after preferences? “Far left” ?

I propose you stir-fry your crickets. Correctly sauced, you may find them tasty.

“like more effective action on climate change, an aspect of rights allowed the Territory, and a viable form of ICAC.”

I fail to see any reasonable link between these and just Zed?
I’m not sure how giving more power to ones opposition is a good property of a senator? Shouldn’t that fall to Gallagher.

To my knowledge Zed was never stripped of his position for not qualifying for it. Perhaps that is why you never considered Gallagher for your interest in an ICAC.

Zed was outwardly focused being “Minister for International Development and the Pacific”, One would assume this would require diplomatic stance around climate change issues?

Far right voted for independent it would seem. Better to have a change and renew the party going into an economic time that would disadvantage a government

“…what Zed did or didn’t do compared with the others”
“I fail to see any reasonable link between these and just Zed?”

So when examples are given, suddenly Mr Ses’ responsibiiity disappears into the party entity. On that basis, you would have no comparison to make with anyone else anyway. However, we know that other Liberals fairly openly agitated on those issues and one crossed the floor on the topic of an ICAC during the life of the previous government. Mr Ses? Nothing.

“Zed was outwardly focused being “Minister for International Development and the Pacific”, One would assume this would require diplomatic stance around climate change issues?”

Well he sure flopped those requirements, didn’t he. Most of the Pacific islands have wanted urgent action on climate change for years. Mr Ses’ “diplomatic” response was to ignore them in word and deed, eschewing any opportunity to make some difference (see also my previous paragraph). In fairness I do not hold him responsible for the Solomons debacle, but nor did he accomplish there anything anyone can see.

The argument “but nobody else did anything either” is about as weak bit of whataboutery as one could find.

The far right would certainly have preferenced Mr Ses before left-leaning independents, accused by some (probably including you) of being a closet Green. You lost the Liberal centre. Change, or live with it.

Ah Zed….telling Sky (not) News that voters got it wrong! No wonder you are now irrelavent.

Mr Seselja is entitled to his views however, I think very few peoplew would share his analysis of the recent Federal election as it related to him.
The two Senate seats allocated for the ACT have been shared between the two major Parties since their establishment. Over the years both Parties have taken it for granted that their candidates would automatically be re-elected or the pre-selected candidate would simply replace the retiring Senator. Eighteen years in politics, with nearly 10 years as a Liberal Senator representing the ACT, is too long. Indeed, it is difficult to identify what contribution(s) Zed Seselja has made to improving the lives of ACT residents. Certainly, his rejection (on religious grounds) of the ability of the ACT to determine whether or not to legislate for assisted dying did not improve my life or that of many other Canberrans.
Fortunately for the citizens of the ACT, all this changed following the election of David Pocock as an independent Senator.

Well done, Hank, I can’t think how anyone who could disagree with anything you say.

It was nothing to do with the vaccine rollout or any other policy, Zed. You were voted out because you were supposed to represent us, but you ignored the wishes of the majority because they didn’t agree with your right-wing conservative beliefs. What else did you expect?

God awful Zed, blaming it on the electorate because we finally stood against your imposing-minority-over-majority tyranny. At least you have your god to give you comfort. Now please go far far away.

It was you Zed. You have strong religious and right wing beliefs that are out of touch with the beliefs of the majority of your electorate. You are entitled to have your extreme beliefs, but we are equally entitled to vote for someone who reflects our wishes.

Zed and ScoMo are just two of the many politicians who profess a religious faith that have or who still are in the Parliament and having a faith position doesn’t mean you are out if touch, because having a religious faith isn’t restricted to the conservative side of politics either
Our Parliament operates on a secular basis. A person’s personal faith or otherwise is largely irrelevant in Australian politics.
The only situation where it could arise is where there is a conscience vote and these situations are incredibly rare.
It wasn’t Zed’s religion that you objected to, it was the policies of the party that he belonged, because members vote along party lines.

“There was a feeling that… an impression was created….”. Still no recognition that these were feelings or impressions, but reality.

Here’s a hot tip for you Zed. You know the old saying, “it’s not you, it’s me”? Well, in this case, it *was* you.

HiddenDragon6:58 pm 11 Aug 22

To this list of nails in the Liberal coffin might be added Morrison’s absolutely over-the-top public humiliation of Christine Holgate. The gender aspects of that episode are well covered in this article –


– but another aspect, ignored by most commentators, but maybe not by a number of voters on 21 May, is that Holgate had strong support from many of the small business people who are Australia Post franchisees.

These people are (as we are so often told) the bedrock on which the Liberal Party is built – but a prominent women who was seen by many of those people as a champion and an ally was kicked out of her job by a Liberal PM. One could speculate whether this might have been a significant impetus for the teal independent movement, which proved so lethal to the Liberals in several of their former heartland seats.

All of that said, it has to be observed that current polling suggests that NZ voters are seriously contemplating replacing Jacinda Ardern with a conservative male who, aside from a liking for aloha holidays, has more than a bit in common with Scott Morrison – so what happened on 21 May might, as much as anything, have been about voters wanting to put the pandemic era behind them.

Mr Seselja “revealed he felt a ‘deep sense of dread’ in the lead-up to the Federal Election”

Nothing compared with the dread felt by most others beforehand.

“Mr Seselja also agreed that an ‘impression was created’ that then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not listen to women and their concerns.”

Jeez, I wonder where people got that impression?

Mr Ses is off the ball, wrapped in his own game, as always. I am rarely so pejorative of an individual. Mr Ses serves among the end markers.

Seselja did nothing. Funnily enough it’s doubtful whether any of the others with do more.

Very doubtful.

chewy, see a few things Mr Ses did not mention, like more effective action on climate change, an aspect of rights allowed the Territory, and a viable form of ICAC.

Any replacement need only vote yes to one or more of those to have done far, far more.

Good point on climate change, Seselja and the entire Liberal party performed woefully in that area.

I think the ALPs current legislation on the topic strikes a good balance and both our Senators supporting it is welcome.

The other topics I’m more ambivalent about. A viable integrity commission is needed but I have doubts about any political party’s ability to strike the right balance and as previously discussed, I don’t believe giving our territory government more power is an inherently good thing. Even if I agree with them on some specific issues (like VAD).

There are, however, countless other issues which are just as important.

I suppose my main issue is the amount of shade thrown at Seselja for doing nothing (which I agree with), when Gallagher has hardly done much better for the ACT yet gets praised by our local media and electorate.

Thank you for your service.
Talk to the hand ..

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.