Liberal Senator Zed Seselja has dismissed claims from Independent challenger Anthony Pesec that only he can beat the Senator and right-wing power broker in the race for the two ACT Senate seats on offer on 18 May.
In clear pitch to Liberal voters in the ACT, Mr Pesec said in a statement today that he was the only candidate with a realistic chance of defeating the incumbent, arguing the Greens would not be able to garner enough votes from its side of politics.
“The maths is pretty simple. It is a virtual certainty that Labor will secure the first Senate seat, but there simply aren’t enough left-of-centre voters in the ACT to elect two left-of-centre Senators,” he said.
“I therefore urge voters who believe that Zed Seselja should not be returned to consider this reality.”
Mr Pesec, who has positioned himself as a small-l liberal and green conservative alternative to Senator Seselja said feedback at pre-poll booths showed that many Labor voters understood this and had given him their second preference.
He warned that a vote for any of the minor parties or ungrouped candidates could help re-elect the Senator.
But Senator Seselja said at a funding announcement for the Woden Valley Gymnastic Club at Holder today that a vote for Mr Pesec would only be a vote for Labor or the Greens.
“Traditionally the threat, if you look at the numbers, to our seat comes from the Greens,” he said. “There is no doubt that if we were to lose the seat it would probably be to a Green.
“One of the risks always for people voting for independents is that they would end up with only Labor and Greens representatives in the Senate.”
But Mr Pesec hit back saying Senator Seselja is not really aware of what is happening out on the hustings across Canberra.
“That’s unsurprising given that he’s been up in Warringah campaigning for Tony Abbott,” Mr Pesec said. “There is a clear mood for change in the electorate and an even clearer dissatisfaction with the job that Zed has done over the last term.”
Mr Pesec said the people of the ACT have a viable alternative to both the Greens and Senator Seselja for the second Senate seat.
“For those in the political centre who want to see genuine action on climate change and greater transparency and integrity in Federal parliament, I am their best choice,” he said “Zed is right in one respect – the worst outcome for the ACT would be only Labor and Greens federal representatives. The risk is not with voting for me, but rather that voting or preferencing the Greens may contribute to Zed’s re-election.”
Mr Pesec, a former investment banker and renewable energy developer, has been campaigning on climate and energy, integrity and transparency in politics and anti-corruption measures such as the need for a national integrity commission, as well as arguing that he would better represent the Canberra community’s interests.
But he has criticised Labor’s tax concession measures including changes to negative gearing and franking credits, something in common with Senator Seselja, who defended the Liberals’ strategy of labelling Labor’s revenue raising measures as taxes.
The Senator denied the Liberals were cheapening the debate in doing this, rejecting Labor’s assertion that it was axing subsidies not imposing new taxes and launching an attack on the grandfathered changes to negative gearing.
Senator Seselja said modelling from the property industry showed that people in the ACT would lose out with rents up on average $56 a week and the value of homes down on average $65,000. He said the building industry believed it would be significantly hit, predicting the loss of about 32,000 jobs nationally.
“We’re certainly not going to back away because Bill Shorten pretends that a $32 billion tax hike on housing is not a tax increase, or he pretends that he doesn’t have a plan to increase taxes on super by $34 billion. With $387 billion of extra taxes were going to argue against them very, very strongly,” Senator Seselja.
Asked what ACT rates had to do with the federal election, referring to the Liberals’ campaign signs on Canberra’s verges, Senator Seselja said Canberrans were experiencing right now what happens when Labor governments can’t control money.
“If that were to happen at a national level not only would they have a huge hike in rates they would be paying more in income tax, they would see the value of their home going down, they would see their rents going up,” he said.
“People are seeing that link, because the Labor Party doesn’t change what it does at an ACT level or a Federal level.”
Senator Seselja, who is battling a concerted Dump Zed campaign, said the feedback from pre-poll centres indicated the election would be very close, with only a few thousand votes in key seats in it.