The fallout from the toppling of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister is rippling through the Australian electorate with his blue-ribbon Liberal seat of Wentworth now appearing vulnerable at the looming byelection, and perhaps hinting at similar repercussions here in the ACT.
The Greens have long harboured ambitions for an ACT Senate spot in what they see as an increasingly ‘progressive’ electorate, and are zeroing in on the conservative Liberal incumbent and coup plotter Zed Seselja, who backed the right-wing Dutton insurgency, as Turnbull himself put it.
They have now chalked up a catalogue of sins the Senator has committed:
- Resisted the push to restore Territory rights on voluntary assisted dying
- Abstained from the marriage equality vote, after saying he would vote with the electorate
- Supports removing exclusion zones around women’s health clinics
- Instrumental in trying to install Peter Dutton as the new Prime Minister
Some of the Senator’s conservative positions on abortion and same-sex marriage are arguably conscience matters, but he is also aligned with a minority group of coal-loving climate change deniers and hard-line anti-immigration advocates, who have suddenly had a supposed revelation about infrastructure in our major cities.
They seem a pretty grim lot. And despite the Senator being rewarded for his treachery with a new ministerial position (Assisting the Treasurer), the Greens believe he is increasingly out of touch with ACT voters.
Most Australians apart from rusted-on conservatives and listeners to shock jock radio were appalled at last week’s events that culminated in a Scott Morrison-led Government, compensated ever so slightly by dodging the Dutton bullet.
Many Liberal voters who supported Turnbull seem to be now reassessing their positions, with initial polling in Wentworth showing Liberal and Labor neck and neck, and in the new seat of Canberra, the Greens ahead of the Liberals in Senate voting intentions.
The Greens hope to capitalise on this kind of disaffection, as well as an influx of young voters to the electoral rolls.
But despite the Greens going close in previous elections, particularly in 2013 with the high-profile Simon Sheikh of GetUp! fame, the numbers always suggest there are enough faithful Liberal voters in the ACT to get Zed over the line, and ensure we always send one each from the major parties to the Senate.
In 2013, the Labor/Liberal/Greens split was 34.51 per cent, 33.15 per cent, and 19.31 per cent respectively. In 2016, it was Labor 37.94 per cent, Liberal 33.21 and the Greens 16.10 per cent.
So while the Dutton plotters apparently couldn’t count, the numbers are on Zed’s side.
And the right-wing controlled branches aren’t about to see him rolled at preselection, like the way he took down the sitting moderate Gary Humphries in 2013.
The wild card though could be a well-known small liberal independent with strong community credentials who would give Liberal voters another choice they could live with.
No one has put their hands up yet but the electorate may have got enough of a fright last week, and sufficient Turnbull supporters may maintain their rage, to throw up someone.
Scott Morrison needs time, so the election will likely be held in May next year, unless he somehow loses control of the House.
But the chaos of last week and what it exposed for all to see, should still define this election, because the alternative vision for the country of the ‘patriots’ who attempted to wrest control of the Liberal Party and the Government is as dark as the lump of coal Morrison was so happy to throw around the Parliament.
With the ever popular Katy Gallagher returning from her High Court imposed exile, Labor can expect a record vote. The Greens’ Dr Penny Kyburz faces a big task to convince Liberal voters to switch but it’s as good a time as any.
Anyone for an Independent?