6 March 2019

Poll showing primary vote collapse puts Zed in 'danger territory'

| Ian Bushnell
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Senator Zed Seselja: this could be his toughest fight.

New polling on the coming Senate vote in the ACT would have set the alarm bells ringing in Zed Seselja’s office, according to political observer John Warhurst.

Polling conducted for UnionsACT at the end of January and released at the weekend shows the Liberal vote collapsing and Senator Seselja at risk of losing his Senate seat.

The ReachTEL poll shows the Liberal party Senate primary vote is at a record low of 22 per cent (a quota is 33 per cent), with 58 per cent of ACT voters disapproving of the senator, and more than 65 per cent not believing he has done enough to deserve re-election.

UnionsACT is conducting a ‘Dump Zed’ campaign and will launch a massive TV and community campaign in March, to remind voters of Senator Seselja’s key role in promoting Peter Dutton’s failed bid to become Prime Minister, as well his failures on climate change, penalty rates, and marriage equality.

Emeritus Professor of politics at the ANU, John Warhurst said that despite it always being a steep challenge to unseat a Liberal senator, Senator Seselja would not want his primary vote to be languishing down at 22 per cent.

“That’s danger territory for him,” he said.

In 2016, Senator Seslja relied on preferences to be re-elected but his primary vote was closer to 30.5 per cent.

Noting the entry of independent candidate businessman Anthony Pesec, Prof Warhurst said the key would be to what extent dissatisfied Liberal voters, when it came to the crunch, voted for someone else and to whom they gave their preferences.

He said all preferences would likely be distributed and it would be crucial how that panned out.

“Even the Green preferences don’t go any more than 85 per cent to Labor,” he said.

Senator Seselja had a high profile and name recognition but possibly for the wrong things in the eyes of many ACT voters.

“He got a lot of publicity over the Turnbull thing, opposing same-sex marriage, and being accused of not representing the views of the ACT,” he said.

Prof Warhurst said the apparent drop in support would be due partly to the general swing against the Government around the country and a bigger swing against the Liberals in Canberra, following Senator Seselja’s support for Peter Dutton and his high-profile role in the Turnbull coup.

“It may be more personal towards him in the Senate and not more generally with the Liberal candidates in the ACT,” he said.

But the other candidates, especially the Greens’ Penny Kyburz, may need a perfect storm to topple the Senator.

“It’s just an extremely difficult thing for opponents of Zed to pull off because of the fact there’s only the two Senate seats to get the Liberal vote after preferences down below a third [of the vote for a quota],” Prof Warhurst said.

“You have to have a combination of circumstances, and I would say that would be a very strong Labor vote, anti-government vote overall and also an anti-Zed vote on top of that.”

And while Prof Warhurst expected Labor to win come May, he did not think the voters are waiting with the baseball bats ready.

“It’s not all done and dusted. I think Labor will win but whether it’s squeaking over the line or like in the Victorian election a really really decisive victory I’m not too sure and that would make a difference to the ACT,” he said.

So much was going wrong for the Government with resignations and the like but it has put out a positive message with new climate change policies for example, as well as the negative fear message.

“Morrison is very active but whether he’s cutting through I doubt it,” Prof Warhurst said.

For Senator Seselja, the weight of evidence would be that he was likely to get back ”but the alarm bells would be ringing and he would be reading that poll and getting worried and getting ready to really campaign hard”.

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Capital Retro10:36 pm 19 Apr 19

“Zed needs to go. He’s lost touch with the values of the people he’s representing.”

He represents me and I support his work and his values.

Capital Retro12:50 pm 19 Apr 19

“I asked zed what is his and coalitions view on foreign land ownership over a month ago” said someone.

I don’t know that either. By the way, what is the policy on the subject held by the ALP and the Greens?

I am happy that finally an independent candidate like Anthony Pesec has nominated for the ACT. It is long overdue for Canberra to have a representative in the Senate who believes in Canberra and in climate change and is also in the centre of politics. Canberra has long been the forgotten place as the ALP and the Liberals always assumes they will have a Senator representing us. I wish Anthony well and hope he will get many many votes.

Won’t be missed.

HiddenDragon6:11 pm 05 Mar 19

The really interesting statistic in the first table is the markedly low (by Canberra standards) combined Labor-Green vote for the 18-34 age group – at least 10% below the combined figure for other age groups.

Perhaps an encouraging sign for independent candidates – provided they really are independent – and a reminder to the Greens that talking about the “old parties”, as they sometimes like to do, could have unintended consequences in a hitherto key demographic group…..

Capital Retro1:08 pm 05 Mar 19

The haters are having a field day on this thread. One thing we conservatives can’t do is hate like the left. Some of you people should take a good look at yourselves.

Absolute rubbish. Recent behaviour by the Conservatives make Labor look positively amateurish.

Capital Retro2:20 pm 06 Mar 19

I don’t hear the conservative side of government refer to opposition senators as “trash” and wish them to “be dead”.

It’s about the lack of civility you and your fellow travellers have.

Can you tell me which school you attended, please? I don’t want my grandchildren going there.

Not a big fan of this guy, I gotta say. Anyone who supports Dutton cannot be too intelligent.

Worst Senator in our history. Let’s get someone who listens to Evidence not Shock Jocks.

Oh, a union poll?

Perhaps we can have a Greens poll to confirm this swing?

There was a Greens poll conducted in August last year that had the Liberal first preference vote at a similar level. I would be interested to know what lead up questions were asked, if any, before those about voting intention.

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