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Former Liberal minister Zed Seselja has received the endorsement of a string of senior conservative MPs, 10 days before Liberal Party faithful vote on who should fill the Senate vacancy created by Marise Payne’s retirement.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, former prime minister Tony Abbott and Coalition party frontbenchers Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Andrew Hastie and Angus Taylor have all publicly endorsed Seselja for the casual vacancy, in a significant intervention that could shake up the contest.
Zed Seselja has entered the highly competitive race for Marise Payne’s former Senate seat, which will be decided on November 26.Credit: Screenshot
Former NSW Liberal state minister and moderate Andrew Constance has been considered the leading candidate because Seselja, Monica Tudehope, James Brown and Lou Amato are all battling to secure support from conservative-leaning pre-selectors.
Seselja is a former minister for the Pacific in the Morrison government and ACT senator who lost his seat to progressive independent David Pocock at the 2022 federal election. He has entered the highly competitive race for Payne’s former Senate seat, which will be decided on November 26.
In a candidate video, Seselja says the Liberal Party faces a choice: “Do we retreat and become just a pale imitation of Labor or a lighter shade of teal, or do we fight? I believe we should fight and fight hard for conservative and liberal values.”
His pitch to the approximately 700 party preselectors includes support for strong borders, a strong military and nuclear power as well as plans to fight high immigration, cancel culture and “the woke indoctrination of our kids in schools and against the left-wing bias of the ABC”.
“We need to have the courage to say that our current levels of immigration are too high, they are putting too much strain on our cities and they are making it increasingly difficult for our young people to be able to afford a home of their own,” he says.
Dutton, in a letter to preselectors, said Seselja had been a “consistent champion of small government” and would again play a senior role within the Coalition if returned to parliament.
Abbott offers Liberals three reasons to choose Seselja, saying he would not be a politician on “training wheels” given his previous ministerial experience, he is a solid Dutton supporter, and he is a person of courage and conviction.
On the conservative side, Tudehope has previously worked as former NSW premier Dominic Perrottet’s policy director. Brown is a former solider, RSL NSW president and Space Industry Association chief executive who has been endorsed by former prime minister John Howard.
The pair is considered the other two front-runners from the conservative group, but the string of endorsements for Seselja arguably put him ahead in that faction and means both Tudehope and Brown will need to pick up more votes from moderate-leaning Liberals to have a chance of victory.
Former federal MP and moderate Dave Sharma is considered an outside chance to secure the casual vacancy as a consensus candidate.
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