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Seselja backs decision not to compromise

Date

Michael Inman

Opposition Leader Zed Seselja.

Opposition Leader Zed Seselja. Photo: Colleen Petch

EARLY last week, Canberra Liberal leader Zed Seselja truly believed he was ready to be the ACT's next chief minister.

However, by Thursday, the picture had become plain that there was no way he could win the support of the ACT Greens' Shane Rattenbury.

In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Canberra Times, Mr Seselja said he wasn't prepared to sell out the majority of voters in Canberra just to seize power.

Mr Rattenbury on Friday said he would support Labor leader Katy Gallagher to form government.

In return, the Greens would have substantial policy concessions and take a ministry for the first time in territory history.

Attention will now turn to Mr Seselja's future after he failed to form government at two elections.

But the Member for Brindabella, who led the party to its biggest vote since 1995, said he had no intention of stepping down as Liberals leader and would continue to fight despite the difficulties he would face in the chamber.

Mr Seselja entered discussions with sole Greens MLA and kingmaker Mr Rattenbury at an ideological disadvantage.

He had ruled out offering the Greens a ministry and would not negotiate on undoing Labor's tax reforms. But, armed with an all-time high of eight seats and narrowly winning the popular vote, he was confident a compromise could be reached.

''We were prepared to compromise on certain issues but we weren't prepared to sell our souls, and that included not giving a ministry to the Greens or suddenly backing massive increases in people's rates in order to take government … we had to keep faith with the people who elected us,'' Mr Seselja said. ''I was asked in the first meeting if I would change my position on offering a ministry and I said no [because] I wasn't willing to dump one of our own [MLAs] in order to accommodate [Mr Rattenbury] in the cabinet.

''I don't think if we'd offered a ministry that there would've been a different outcome.''

It was the first time in ACT history that the party that received most votes was not given the chance to form government.

''I treated [the talks] in good faith and genuinely tried to negotiate an outcome because I thought I had an obligation to do that for all the people who wanted to see a Liberal government,'' Mr Seselja said. ''We weren't prepared to just do anything just to take government. I got a sense as the week went on, and certainly knew by Thursday, that it wasn't going to happen.''

On Tuesday, Mr Rattenbury will take his ministry in Ms Gallagher's administration and have access to all cabinet meetings. He also has the right to vote against government legislation.

Mr Seselja would not rule out working with Mr Rattenbury, but said he would be viewed as an adversary in the chamber.

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