Election 2022: What’s going on in Canberra’s senate race?

By Chris Johnson

May 18, 2022

David Pocock
David Pocock, man of the people. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)


Traditionally, the senate race in the Australian Capital Territory is an attempt at a robust fight that always results in one Labor senator and one Liberal senator being elected.

Always has, always will be. Or will it?

In this election, it’s actually not a given that the outcome is going to be business as usual and that the two major parties will nab a seat each.

Incumbents Katy Gallagher (ALP) and Zed Seselja (Libs) have both been spooked by the campaign and popularity of independent candidate and former rugby union star David Pocock.

And while the initial threat appeared to be all Zed’s way, it’s now Gallagher and the Labor camp who are fearing a split in the progressive vote might seriously impact them.

A Redbridge robo-phone survey commissioned by the Climate 200 group, which is backing Pocock as well as fellow progressive independent Kim Rubenstein, shows the rugby star’s star is also rising in Canberra’s cut-throat political world.

According to the polling, Gallagher’s primary vote dropped from 35% to 27%, with Seseldja’s at 25% and Pocock surging to 21%.

On these figures — which are likely to have changed somewhat since the poll was conducted — neither Gallagher nor Seselja are guaranteed a quota in their own right.

Add to this the fact that Rubenstein is also running a solid and popular campaign, as is Greens candidate Tjanara Goreng Goreng, and it is clear that the progressive vote has a very real chance of splitting to the detriment of the ALP.

Preferences will play an even greater role than they normally do in the outcome of the ACT senate election. 

Seselja will benefit from United Australia Party (UAP) preferences, which will be significant.

But with progressive preferences likely to criss-cross between candidates, the effort to oust Seselja could in fact have the opposite effect and harm Gallagher.

Both the Liberal and Labor camps have every reason to be worried — and they are.

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