Opinion: Pulp Fiction or bland ambition? Zed Seselja's Senate push

Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash
Thursday 16 November 2023

By Mark Kenny

A version of this article was originally published by The Canberra Times.

"Whose chopper (Senate spot) is this?

"It's Zed's.

"Who's Zed?

"Zed's dead, baby."

Perhaps this is what Zed Seselja has concluded also? That is, that his chances of re-entering Parliament via his former Senate seat in the ACT are no more.

Chalk that up to David Pocock, the Bruce Willis of the red chamber (based largely on his haircut, admittedly), who has ridden off on Seselja's once reliable conveyance - grand theft moto.

How? By actually reflecting the mainstream liberalism of ACT voters on matters like voluntary assisted dying, same-sex marriage, environmental reform, and more. Pocock is less animated by say, "woke indoctrination" and the "left wing bias of the ABC".

Representation rather than culture wars is an old trick but it works.

Still, zipping Zed's defection across state lines is a bit of a blow to his former supporters who had taken him to be steeped in the capital through thick and thin.

Thick and thin, by-the-way, is a reasonable description of his endorsements heading into a crucial NSW Liberal Party vote to fill the casual vacancy of the retired pseudo-moderate, Marise Payne.

The country's least energetic Women's Minister after Tony Abbott [cough] could be replaced by someone more in tune with Abbott in every respect. But don't take my word for it. Take Tony's.

He is one of a roll call of conservative hardliners lining up to back the dumped Canberran as the most worthy new New South Welshman.

It's a heroic call when you look at it through their end of the binoculars. Out of eight-plus million people, they recommend going outside the state to find an adequate representative. Even then, the name they come up with has been freshly rejected by voters at the start of this very parliamentary term.

That only makes sense if you take Keating's famous dismissal of the Senate as "unrepresentative swill" as if it were meant in a good way.

To be fair, Seselja's swimming with the real sharks now, having convinced not just the aforementioned ex-PM, but Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and a slew of Coalition luminaries like Matt Canavan, Angus Taylor, Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Andrew Hastie.

Of course, there's support and there's support. Or, to put it another way, there's members of the NSW Liberal Party - say Taylor and Abbott - and then there's Dutton, Hastie, Canavan and Nampijinpa Price, who are not.

Still, nobody will mind the intrusion in Sydney I'm sure.

The whole thing of outsiders rolling in and taking all the best spots is what made the premier state what it is.

And you don't hear too many in the party's NSW Division apologising for that.

Mark Kenny is a professor at the ANU Australian Studies Institute and host of the Democracy Sausage podcast.

Updated:  20 November 2023/Responsible Officer:  Institute Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications