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Candidates in debate stand-off after email feud

Date

Noel Towell and Lisa Cox

Zed Seselja.

Zed Seselja. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

ACT Liberal senator Gary Humphries has challenged his internal rival, Zed Seselja, to a debate before the two men face off in their preselection showdown on Saturday.

But Mr Seselja has refused to debate the senator unless he promises ''no more public destructive commentary about the party''.

Both men agree the debate should take place away from media scrutiny, with just party members present.

The senator suggested the debate should be about the big issues likely to feature in the federal election campaign, such as the public sector job cuts, the economy and action on climate change. He suggested the event be held this week and be moderated by a party member acceptable to both candidates. Senator Humphries and Mr Seselja would make a speech to party members, who would have the opportunity to ask questions.

But the request from Senator Humphries began a heated email exchange between the candidates.

''As you know, I am concerned at the exclusion of so many ACT party members from this preselection process, hence my proposal that all of them be invited to attend this debate,'' Senator Humphries wrote.

But Mr Seselja said he would not debate until ''important issues'' were resolved, including that the debate not become a forum for discussion of the preselection process.

''I also ask that you desist from making public comments which bring the party into disrepute,'' he wrote. ''I'm concerned about the comments of some of those aligned with you such as [former party president] Gary Kent, as well as your comments claiming the process is unfair, your incorrect claims that you didn't know about the preselection process until January and your incorrect and offensive claims of a deal in relation to the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party.''

The former leader said both candidates should publicly affirm the independence of the party's internal electoral returning officer and commit to abiding by the decision of preselectors on Saturday.

But Senator Humphries said it was unreasonable to link his views about the preselection to the format of the debate. ''It is fundamentally wrong to exclude over 400 ACT Liberal Party members from the right to vote in possibly the most important decision the division will take this decade,'' he wrote.

''My concerns had been deepened by the discovery in the last few days that a further 15 or so members who were previously qualified to vote have been disqualified because of technical irregularities.''.

12 comments

  • Give up Zed and keep your promise to your constituents for the next three years. You are out of your depth here in the ACT. Don't embarass us any further by thinking you have what it takes to make it in the Big House.

    Commenter
    Getting Serious
    Location
    Campbell
    Date and time
    February 19, 2013, 8:49AM
    • Yes I'd like to hear them debate to discuss how they'll deal with the scorched earth policy which their leader has for Canberra. Abbott and Hockey have shown their complete disdain for Canberra and both these candidates will do absolutely zero. Hopefully the Greens will take the seat. Why pay a Liberal Senator to sit and watch Canberra being trashed?

      Commenter
      Who Cares?
      Date and time
      February 19, 2013, 9:00AM
      • hahaha that made me laugh for the day when you said hopefully the Greens get in. The Greens will be obliterated at the next Federal election just like they nearly became extinct at the last territory election. Their pandering to Labor will cost them dearly. They made their bed years ago with their marriage into Labor and it's time for them to pay the consequences

        Commenter
        Ben
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        February 19, 2013, 11:08AM
      • At least the Greens didn't say they would do anything except sell their butts to Be PM. Labor has had o make compromises just like Abbott would have and I'll be the one laughing because thankfully he won't have control of the Senate. Now that would be really scary. Zed is a total opportunist, just like Abbott. He has abandoned his constituents in Tuggeranong for his own personal gain after less than two weeks of the assembly sitting.. The Greens maybe from the loony left with some crazy, impractical ideas but at least they stand or something other than the 1950s. I lived in the fifties, I don't want to go back there.

        Commenter
        Anyone But Liberal
        Date and time
        February 19, 2013, 11:51AM
    • Does anyone care?

      Commenter
      Badger
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      February 19, 2013, 9:02AM
      • Of course we care. We want to know if a fool or an idiot will be the liberals choice!

        Commenter
        Joe
        Date and time
        February 19, 2013, 9:32PM
    • Of course this debate should be public. Canberrans have every right to know why Zed - the man who turned around the fortunes of the Canberra Liberals and brought them within a breath of forming government in their own right - has decided not to lead the team to an almost certain victory in 2016. In opposition with numbers so finely balanced the Canberra Liberals can be incredibly strong and effective and really position themselves as an alternative Government - strong leadership and personalities are important. Humphries is an ex-Chief Minister and ex-Attorney General with a proven record in opposition and in government both federally and locally. He has shown the courage of his convictions in crossing the floor when it comes to ACT rights - he's proven his mettle, he's a known quantity, he's earned his place, so to speak.
      I'm not a member of any party but as a swinging voter, I want to know why.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Location
      Yarralumla
      Date and time
      February 19, 2013, 9:24AM
      • Lots of people whinging that they don't get to vote in the preselection because they haven't been to meetings or because meetings didn't have a quorum. Seems to me that indicates the majority of members are uncommitted part timers. They don't deserve a vote if they can't be bothered to attend more meetings and/or encourage others to do so.

        Commenter
        Resident Cynic
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        February 19, 2013, 10:12AM
        • Boo hoo hoo, spare us the hystrionics - the 'Last Letter' has 'How much can a Humphrey Bear' in a choke hold. It's a grubby contest, it's politics.

          Commenter
          Old Bloke
          Location
          Back row
          Date and time
          February 19, 2013, 11:37AM
          • The Liberal members who will be selecting their candidates have a very important job to do on behalf of all Canberrans. Given that we are likely to be lumped with someone even loonier than Howard as PM, it is inevitable that the ACT will be punished every time Abbott or Hockey feel the need to tighten the purse strings.

            Knowing that the rest of Australia doesn't give a toss about Canberra, we will need someone VERY committed to fighting for the ACT's interests in the next Parliament, therefore I believe it is important that we ALL get to hear how either Humphries or Seselja plan to do this.

            I'm sure one of the first questions on all Canberrans tongues is about just how the incoming Senator will protect the ACT's workforce and economy as Hockey wields the axe, and secondly how they plan to guarantee that protection will eventuate.

            The other issue of note here is the cynicism of seeing a Liberal Party which supposedly prides itself on unity, decorum and democracy, dragging itself through the mire just like any other political party. Vicki Dunne's attempt to gag members from talking to the media just highlights that the Libs are evidently no better than their ALP cousins.

            Commenter
            Ngunnawally
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            February 19, 2013, 11:47AM

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