Zed for Canberra?
ACT Liberal Zed Seselja. Photo: Jay Cronan
Speculation is rising among ACT Liberals that Zed Seselja may put his hand up for the seat of Canberra if his senate preselection is overturned.
The former ACT opposition leader says he hasn't given the lower house seat a thought, but some close to him insist nothing can be ruled out.
Mr Seselja won preselection last month to head the Liberals' Act senate ticket for this year's federal election.
He defeated incumbent senator Gary Humphries 114 votes to 84, but a backlash of the party membership over many not being able to take part in the ballot has thrown doubt over the outcome.
An extraordinary divisional meeting had been scheduled for March 15 where the preselection could be challenged, but that meeting has now been delayed.
“If Zed loses his preselection in that challenge, he will have to do something to save face and the electorate of Canberra could be the answer,” one Liberal Party operative said.
“He doesn't want it to come to that because Canberra is not a guaranteed win for him come election time like the Senate seat is – not by a long shot.
“But let's be clear, everything would be back in the table.”
Mr Seselja insists he is not interested in the seat of Canberra and he remains confident that his senate candidacy will be ratified.
“I've been preselected by the Liberal Party for the Senate and I'm 100 per cent committed to running for the Senate,” he said.
“I anticipate that my preselection will stand and I am not looking beyond that.”
Public servant Tom Sefton gained Liberal Party preselection for Canberra last month.
He made no comment on Wednesday when asked if he would step aside for Mr Seselja – or if he had been asked to – should the former opposition leader wish to contest the seat.
Mr Sefton said he would not be “in a position” to talk about the campaign for Canberra until possibly next week.
A practical problem could hinder any plan for Mr Seselja to keep his options open because in last month's party ballot the seat of Canberra was preselected before the Senate ticket was decided.
There may be a move made at the divisional meeting to reverse the order if the whole preselection process is to be repeated.
Party sources say Mr Seselja had never taken the Canberra option seriously and had always had his sights set on the Senate.
But one Liberal source said because the Assembly election gave the former leader a huge profile boost in the south of the territory, seizing Canberra from the Labor Party was not out of the question.
“And let's remember, Zed said he wasn't going to challenge Gary for the Senate,” the contact said.
“So him saying now that he hasn't even thought of Canberra as a contingency plan doesn't mean much at all.”
Gai Brodtmann holds the seat of Canberra for the ALP on a comfortable margin of 9.2 per cent.
Ms Brodtmann said of the speculation about Mr Seselja:
"I have always treated the seat of Canberra as marginal and always campaign that way.
"I am not commenting on who the Liberal party might eventually pre-select – I am getting on with my job of working for the southside of Canberra."