“The churlish Seselja should have read the writing on the wall on election night and conceded to Pocock. Instead, he remained steadfast until the final declaration by the Australian Electoral Commission,” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.
A MAJOR challenge for Senator David Pocock, and his independent colleagues, centres around trust.
Trust in politics, politicians and political parties has been deteriorating remarkably. The election of so many independents is just one indication of the community’s desire for a breath of fresh air in the federal parliament.
Our democracy should be one of our most prized possessions. However, poor behaviour, along with lack of integrity, has really undermined the trust that the community has in our democratic systems.
Looking at the 2019 federal election Prof Ian McAllister, of the Australian National University, commented: “I’ve been studying elections for 40 years, and never have I seen such poor returns for public trust in and satisfaction with democratic institutions”.
In the same year he reported a major concern was that “a little over one-in-10 Australians, 12 per cent, believe the government is run for ‘all the people’ and “in contrast more than half, 56 per cent, say government is run for a ‘few big interests’”.
This must change if there is to be a more cohesive community committed to the general good and concerned about building our nation for the next generation and the generations to come. The change of government has brought that promise to some degree. However, people such as Pocock and his “teal” colleagues have the potential to change the way federal politics operates.
For the first time in almost half a century, since the ACT representation commenced in the Senate, the major party grip has been broken. The man who will be the new senator for the ACT looks set to not only change the way the ACT is perceived within the federal parliament but also has the chance to combine with others to ensure a more accountable government.
When the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed Pocock elected as a senator alongside Labor’s Katy Gallagher for the ACT, it opened a new page in history. The out-of-touch Zed Seselja had not been able to gain even a third of the vote from Canberrans, an extraordinarily poor showing for the Liberal Party in this territory.
Although a poor showing for the Liberals, it was not unexpected. The contrast was obvious as Pocock has begun to address issues that appeal to Canberrans.
Climate change was on top of the list. He told ABC radio: “Fossil fuels have served us well but they are not the future, and so we have to ensure that we have an orderly transition that actually looks after everyday Australians”.
This is the sort of sensible approach expected by the vast majority of Canberrans, but was not delivered by the previous government which relied on a pretence regarding climate.
Additionally, along with Scott Morrison, Seselja used his personal objection to Canberrans having the right to legislate on the “right to die with dignity”. His approach was even inconsistent with ACT opposition leader Elizabeth Lee and the attitude of the Liberal members of the Legislative Assembly.
These are just two issues that illustrate a long overdue change and one consistent with attitudes held by the vast majority of Canberrans who have voted to move from ultra-conservative to progressive politics.
The change received a churlish response from Seselja. His Advance Australia lobby group supporters were happy to play dirty tricks politics with attack after attack focused on Pocock.
This should not have been surprising. The ruthless manner in which he originally pulled together the numbers to unseat his predecessor Gary Humphries illustrated his willingness to play hardball politics.
When the Canberra Liberals moved their support from Humphries to Seselja, Humphries gracefully accepted the decision of the party and stood aside.
In marked contrast, the churlish Seselja should have read the writing on the wall on election night and conceded to Pocock. Instead, he remained steadfast until the final declaration by the Australian Electoral Commission.
It is time for good grace, respect and integrity to return to federal politics. An excellent start will be the establishment of an Integrity and Corruption Commission with real teeth.
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. There are more of his columns at citynews.com.au
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