Former ACT Senator and Canberra Liberals powerbroker Zed Seselja has confirmed his bid for a political comeback by running to fill Marise Payne’s vacant NSW Senate seat.
In a video pitch to NSW party members, Mr Seselja said he and his family would be leaving the ACT as part of the “exodus out of Canberra into regional New South Wales”.
But they won’t be going far. In the video, Mr Seselja is standing by the Queanbeyan River in the border city where he intends to make their new home.
Mr Seselja, who lost his Senate seat to Independent David Pocock in one of the upsets of the 2022 federal election that swept Labor to power, makes no bones about who he is appealing to in the party, ticking off a range of right-wing aspirations and grievances.
“We have to fight against cancel culture, the attempts by the government to censor opinions that they don’t agree with,” he said.
“We need to stand up against the woke indoctrination of our kids in schools and against the left-wing bias of the ABC.”
He advocates for nuclear power, strong borders and a strong military, as well as defending freedom of speech and faith, alluding to the Albanese Government’s plans to curb misinformation and disinformation online.
But he also criticises the current levels of immigration, saying they are putting too much strain on Australia’s cities, making it increasingly difficult for young people to be able to afford a home.
Mr Seselja has some party heavyweights in his corner, including former prime minister Tony Abbott, who calls him an experienced conviction politician who won’t need training wheels in Canberra.
“He’ll be an absolute rock-solid member of Peter Dutton’s team. And that’s what we need with a united, cohesive, committed team in the run-up to the next election, which is absolutely winnable,” Mr Abbott said.
Others going into bat for Mr Seselja are Queensland Senator Matt Canavan, federal frontbencher Angus Taylor and rising MP Andrew Hastie.
Mr Seselja says the way the Voice referendum was defeated should be the template for a Coalition victory at the next election.
“I believe the success of our party in prosecuting the case against the Voice is a demonstration that when we stand up for our values, we can bring the Australian people with us,” he said.
The Liberal hard man issued a clarion call to the party to reassert its core values.
“So now, we as a party have a choice to make,” Mr Seselja said. “Do we retreat and become just a pale imitation of Labor or a lighter shade of teal? Or do we fight?
“I believe we should fight and fight hard for conservative and Liberal values. And bring the Australian people with us.”
Mr Seeslja is in a field of 10 for the Senate seat and faces stiff competition from former NSW state minister and South Coast MP Andrew Constance and former Wentworth MP Dave Sharma.
Ms Payne, a moderate, retired on 30 September after more than 26 years in politics.
The NSW Liberals’ Senate ballot for pre-selection will be held on 26 November.