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Why Canberra needs an independent senator

Unhappiness with Zed Seselja from an earlier election campaign. Photo:

“Zed Seselja is feeling vulnerable. And so he should be; his aloof treatment of Canberrans should come back to bite him! His begging letter to constituents, so late in his term, is illustrative of just how exposed he is feeling,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

THE transition from 2021 towards the next year gives us time to reflect on what has been and what might be. Two years of COVID-19 has worn us down. 

Michael Moore.

However, eight years of conservative governments federally has worn us down even more. And an election is likely quite early next year.

The ACT really needs an independent candidate to win a seat in the Senate. Until it does, major party politics in the federal parliament will ensure the ACT is treated as a second-class jurisdiction. 

Senator, the Honourable Zed Seselja has been elected to represent the ACT through the same eight years of Liberal governments. 

He has failed us on key issues. He even voted against the right of the territories to have the same self-determination as the states. This is in marked contrast to his predecessor, Gary Humphries, who felt so strongly that he was prepared to “cross the floor” to protect the territory.

Not Zed! He simply argues that the ACT Assembly cannot be trusted to have the same powers as the states. The issue in question is the right to decide on legislation regarding Voluntary Active Euthanasia. He argues that there are enough Canberrans who “don’t necessarily want their local assembly and 13 members of their local assembly to have absolutely unfettered power.”

He told the ABC: “Legalising assisted dying in the ACT would have national implications”. Bollocks! Pathetic! It was about his own ultra-conservative moral rectitude. Unlike when the Andrews Bill removed this right from the territories in 1996, almost all of the states have now legalised the very same thing. There are no national implications any more.

Liberal Party colleagues in the Assembly take a different view from Senator Seselja. And the ACT’s other senator, Katy Gallagher, has posted on her website: “I, along with my ACT Federal Labor colleagues, want you to have the same rights as every other Australian, regardless of the postcode you live in.”

Zed is a committed Catholic and the church is strongly opposed to this sort of legislation. It highlights one of the key problems of the Abbott and Morrison governments, where the lines between church and state were blurred with support from people such as Senator Seselja. He is part of a government that has introduced the flawed Religious Discrimination Bill purportedly to protect faith – but rather, protects the right to discriminate.

With an election looming the same senator has launched an unprecedented attack on Labor and the Greens. His recent letter posted to Canberrans illustrates his approach to the conduct of the next election. His approach echoes Donald Trump and the Tea Party. “Defend your values and freedom in the next election,” he hollers, “by exposing the radical Labor-Greens power plot.”

Were he not serious, it would be laughable. Actually, it is laughable. First of all, the Labor-Greens government is a territory government. Zed is standing for the Senate in the federal parliament. There is no Labor-Greens alliance federally. There is no “plot” – just scare tactics!

“I am asking you to help build a $75,000 federal election war chest” he goes on to say in such a way that I am reminded of the American evangelists. The money, he argues, is to stand up for “freedom of speech, enterprise and religion”.

Zed Seselja is feeling vulnerable. And so he should be; his aloof treatment of Canberrans should come back to bite him! His begging letter to constituents, so late in his term, is illustrative of just how exposed he is feeling.

It does not stop there. He is also Assistant Minister for Charities and has written to community organisations to defend amendments to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. The main criticism is that the amendments can also be used to silence charities and reduce activism and advocacy within the charity sector.

What really exposes his government’s blatant hypocrisy is the tone that a charity does not have to worry if they are not breaking the law. Isn’t this the same argument for Morrison government ministers and members. They do not have to worry about an Independent Commission Against Corruption if they are not doing anything wrong. Why then have they resisted so strongly despite the promise at the last election?

Canberra can, and should, do much better than having Zed Seselja represent us in the Senate.

Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.

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2 Responses to Why Canberra needs an independent senator

Clare Doube says: 15 December 2021 at 10:04 am

And the great thing is that there is a pathway towards getting an independent Senator elected. And an organisation, proACT, working along the Voices for model to build the community momentum to help make it happen.

Ian McLeod says: 16 December 2021 at 1:59 pm

Zero chance of any change. The second senate seat will likely remain safe Liberal no matter what Zed does (and his behaviour shows this), and Canberra Liberal members overwhelmingly support Zed who reflects the will and views of the party (otherwise he would not be pre-selected with supporters in key positions). There is little sign of this changing, which is unfortunate as the Canberra Liberals will remain un-electable until Zed and the hard right move on, which now appears to be never.

So the 2024 election is already lost to the Canberra Liberals, 2028 is looks like a long shot at best.

So what Canberra needs then are other options the Canberra centre-right to vote for, beyond Zed’s hard-right Trumpist party.


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