For nearly half a century, the two ACT Senate seats have been held by the Liberal and Labor parties.
In 2022, high-profile independent candidates hope to change that.
Former representative rugby union player David Pocock is running as an independent, as is legal scholar Kim Rubenstein. Greens candidate Tjanara Goreng Goreng is also hoping to upset the major party incumbents, Labor Senator Katy Gallagher and Liberal Senator Zed Seselja.
Mr Pocock, running on a platform of trust, integrity and leadership, says he is the change Canberrans want to see in parliament’s upper house.
“There’s a deep frustration with the way things have been going, how politicised every issue seems to be rather than actually dealing with problems,” he tells AAP.
“We see it every election – parties promise the world, trying to get re-elected, but we don’t see the follow through.”
Mr Pocock says he was inspired to run by independents including Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie and federal MP Helen Haines, representing the Victorian seat of Indi, both of whom he says have secured important gains for their communities.
“I think making (the ACT) marginal and having someone who isn’t tied to a party line formulated to win an election, but actually represent it, is pretty exciting to me,” he says.
Mr Pocock is targeting voters who have previously voted for the Liberals on the Senate ballot.
Senator Seselja is aware of the challenge.
“I’m always nervous because these things are always close and so I’m very much fighting for every vote,” he tells AAP.
“I never take my seat for granted.”
In last month’s federal budget, the government announced a further $51 million would be provided to the ACT for infrastructure projects.
Senator Seselja says housing affordability is one of the most important issues Canberrans want addressed.
“One of the most important things that I’ve been a constant champion for is people being able to buy a home and I’ve been fighting for policies that make it easier to do that for years,” he says.
“I’d be happy to compare the $2 billion federal investment in the ACT to any independent. I just don’t think independents can get the same level done.
“Independents are very good at making promises.”
Mr Pocock says it is the Liberal party that has made unfulfilled promises, including failing to establish an independent anti-corruption body, which was a 2019 election commitment.
“Through rugby, I had a track record (campaigning) on other things around climate and the environment, homophobia in sport, marriage equality … issues that are important to a lot of people in Canberra,” he says.
Along with fellow independent Prof Rubenstein, Pocock’s campaign has been backed by Climate 200, a group which has raised funds from more than 9000 donors to support community-selected independent campaigns across Australia.
Two new voter polls published by The Canberra Times show Senator Seselja could fall short of the quota needed to secure his re-election.
The polls were commissioned by Climate 200 and conducted by the RedBridge Group in late March.
Senator Seselja is sitting at 25 and 24 per cent of the primary vote in each poll, short of the required 33.3 per cent needed to secure a spot.
Mr Pocock is sitting at 11 and 13 per cent, slightly behind the Greens candidate’s primary vote position of 14 and 15 per cent.
While Senator Seselja has a clear lead in primary votes, he is at risk of losing on preferences, ABC election analyst Anthony Green told The Canberra Times.
Last month, the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed Mr Pocock would be listed above the line on the ballot paper after he secured the required 1500 party members, removing an impediment that many Senate hopefuls face.
Almost 80 per cent of Canberrans voted above the line at the last federal election.
In the House of Representatives, the three ACT seats are tightly held by Labor’s Andrew Leigh, Alicia Payne and David Smith.
Candidates from the Liberals, Greens, United Australia Party and an independent will attempt to unseat Labor’s hold over the lower house electorates.
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