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Canberra Today 4°/10° | Monday, October 25, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Zed’s political passing is a Twain ‘exaggeration’

Mark Twain, left, and Zed Seselja… reports of their “deaths” were an exaggeration.

About this time every time in the federal election cycle, reports of Senator Zed Seselja’s impending political passing start circulating. He’s started this cycle by stomping on “The Canberra Times”. It’s another “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

“MARK Twain was undecided whether to be more amused or annoyed when a ‘Journal’ representative informed him today of the report in New York that he was dying in poverty in London.

Ian Meikle.

“The great humorist, while not perhaps very robust, is in the best of health. He said: ‘The report of my death was an exaggeration’.”

That was reportage from the “New York Journal” of May, 1897, and that famous quip of the great American humorist, novelist and social critic still echoes in newspapers today. 

Just ask Liberal ACT senator Zed Seselja. About this time every time in the federal election cycle reports of his (and the same for his predecessor Gary Humphries) impending political death start circulating. 

The latest electoral death rattles started with a survey from the Australia Institute that appeared in “The Canberra Times” this past week.

I’ll get to what Zed thinks about that in a moment, but it’s worth noting that this is the second Australia Institute survey the paper has run in recent days. 

The first revealed the tram to Woden was a no-brainer and, oh, millions of people in the ACT supported it. On “Canberra Matters” columnist Paul Costigan was pilloried for outing the veracity of the survey’s questioning. 

“That report on September 19 and the poll it represented were a load of rubbish pretending to be something serious. Very misleading and dangerous stuff,” he harrumphed.

Like Groundhog Day, the other, more recent, poll reported by “The Canberra Times” suggests the ACT Greens have a chance of ousting Senator Seselja when the impending federal election is held.

The Australia Institute-commissioned telephone poll across 1057 respondents found that 29 per cent of voters would support Zed, which would have him well short of the 33 per cent quota and relying on preferences. At the last election in 2019, the senator secured 32.38 per cent and relied on preferences.  

The poll suggests the Greens would get 21 per cent. Nowhere near a quota. 

So, how does Zed feel about the premature report of his political passing? 

In a personal note to supporters, he outs the Australia Institute as a “left-wing think tank run by a former Greens staff member”.  

Then he sinks the slipper: “We have seen this before from the ‘Canberra Times’, where they publish polls put forward by left-wing think tanks, or even the Greens themselves, with the goal of undermining the Liberal campaign in the ACT. 

“During the last term they published a poll from the Greens that underestimated the Liberal vote by 10 per cent.

“While we should take this poll with a healthy grain of salt, we know retaining the Senate seat is always a challenge and unlike our opponents in Labor we never take the seat for granted.”

Unabashedly, he says he’s been working “incredibly hard for the Canberra community” to deliver record infrastructure spending of $1.8 billion, record health and education investment, individual and small business tax cuts and support for Canberra during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“CityNews” also got up his nose with an open letter last week asking him to try harder to help Canberra’s struggling small businesses, given his position as a Minister in the federal government. 

In the argy bargy of his complaint, he gave me an insight into the work he has been doing in pushing the Barr government to support the private sector. His right-of-reply piece is here. 

Polling and exaggerated predictions aside, the senator is not going down without a fight. But if history is to be believed, in all probability, the senator is not going down. 

AND back to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to bad news. 

Last week readers may recall Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman in the face of a damning report by the ACT inspector of Correctional Services, Neil McAllister, on the shameful, violent strip search earlier this year of a vulnerable Aboriginal woman in the prison, thanked the “committed staff within ACT Corrective Services for their professionalism and dedication”, conceded strip searches “can be stressful and traumatising for both detainees and staff” and committed to minimising strip searching, well as much as possible. And, apart from the promise of two body scanners, it was over and out from Mick. 

But it’s not that easy to walk away. Former chief minister Jon Stanhope writes in his latest column: “The inspector has formally reported that the law, in fact two laws, the Corrections Management Act and the Human Rights Act have been breached. 

“Who, for instance, is to be held accountable for that and for how long and under how many ministers have these laws been broken?

“It is not unusual, where an agency has breached the law or other accepted standards of governance, that the responsible minister or ministers will, consistent with the Westminster conventions, resign or be sacked.”

The government’s silence is deafening.

Ian Meikle is the editor of “CityNews” and can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast” news and interview program, 2CC, 9am-noon.


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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Ian Meikle

Ian Meikle

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