“There are any number of examples on the internet of how to ask unbiased questions. Clearly, this was never the intention of Senator Seselja,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

ZED Seselja is a senator for the ACT. His prime role should be to look after the people of the ACT who elected him. 

Michael Moore.

His predecessor, Gary Humphries, was the only Liberal Party parliamentarian during the Howard government to cross the floor to vote against his own party. He did so to ensure the people of the ACT retained the same rights as people living in the Australian states.

Senator Seselja’s latest effort is a very thinly veiled attempt to use a “survey” with a simple goal in mind. He is seeking to get community support to have federal legislation once again override ACT legislation. In doing so, he is pre-empting the outcome of an ACT Assembly’s inquiry into MLA Michael Pettersson’s Drugs of Dependence (Personal Use) Amendment Bill 2021.

There is a precedent. The federal parliament has previously run roughshod over the right of the people of the ACT to make their own decisions. 

In the mid-1990s their action removed the power of the ACT Assembly to legislate on the right of individuals to choose to die with dignity. 

The very same parliament that had forced self-government on to the ACT then removed powers based on their own moral righteousness.

Twenty years ago the ACT and the NT were at the forefront of voluntary active euthanasia legislation when the federal parliament voted to change the Self-Government Acts to limit their powers on such matters. 

Zed Seselja… The use of leading questions and a leading introduction are the hallmarks of his online “survey”.

Now Australian states are catching up with the territories. At the start of July, WA became yet another state to commence its Voluntary Assisted Dying Act (2019). The federal parliament has no power to override the states in such matters. By doing so to the ACT and NT in the past, it has made territory people second-class citizens.

The use of leading questions and a leading introduction are the hallmarks of the online “survey” presented by Zed Seselja. It illustrates the difference between himself and his predecessor, who prioritised the people of the ACT and was academically sound in his approach. 

Humphries recognised his prime responsibility was to ensure that the people of the ACT, through their legislature, should be responsible for their own decisions. What a contrast with Seselja, who is seeking support to override the same rights of the people of the ACT. 

This “survey” is introduced with: “Keep the ACT Drug-Free. Illicit drugs like ice will be decriminalised under a plan being considered by Labor and the Greens. Please complete this short, four-question survey now to have your say”…. “They want you to think they are being ‘progressive’, but their plan is actually incredibly dangerous for Canberra families”.

There are any number of examples on the internet of how to ask unbiased questions. Clearly, this was never the intention of Senator Seselja. If it was not for the introduction, his first question may have been considered less biased:

  • “Do you think federal laws should be used to stop decriminalisation of ice and other hard drugs?”

The next three questions are blatantly biased:

  • Do you believe the push from the left to decriminalise ice and other hard drugs is bad for families and public health outcomes?
  • Do you believe the push from the left to decriminalise ice and other hard drugs will lead to more violence in our community?
  • Do you believe it’s a bad idea, with all that we need to focus on post-COVID-19, to decriminalise hard drugs?

The conservatives in the ACT have been long opposed to drug-law reform. The liberals in the ACT Liberal Party have had to take a back seat since the time of Kate Carnell and Gary Humphries. This move by Senator Seselja undermines the Canberra Liberals in the ACT Assembly at a time they are just starting to look less conservative.

The very first sentence of the Seselja survey tells part of the story. “Keep the ACT Drug-Free”. In what possible sense is the ACT drug free? Prohibition of drugs has created so many more problems than the drugs themselves. Senator Seselja wishes to use this “survey” to support an argument for more prohibition and to make territorians second-class citizens again. 

The best way to defeat this sort of biased and unconscionable approach is to respond to his survey and to answer “no”, “no”, “no” and “no”. The survey is here.  

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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