Get all your news in one place
100’s of premium titles. One news app. Zero ads. Just $10 per month.

Liberals in the ACT 'have a lot of soul-searching to do' as David Pocock looks likely to secure Senate seat

David Pocock says he was "overwhelmed" by the amount of support his campaign received. (ABC News: Simon Beardsell)

As David Pocock looks set to oust Zed Seselja and become the first ACT senator from a minor party, former Liberal chief minister Kate Carnell says her party has many lessons to learn.

Mr Pocock, the independent candidate and former Wallabies captain, is on the verge of unseating Liberal senator Zed Seselja after securing a strong vote in the federal election.

He said had been "overwhelmed" by the amount of support for his campaign.

"We tried to keep it positive," he said.

"Trying to make it about people … and I think that really drew 2,200 people in Canberra to volunteer and I was blown away by the support."

Mr Pocock said the increased support for independents across the country showed the public wanted more from its representatives.

"It's a clear message that people want politics done differently," he said. 

"Communities have realised that they can actually have someone standing up for them that doesn't have to toe a party line."

David Pocock on the verge of taking second ACT Senate spot

In a statement on social media, Senator Seselja congratulated Labor federally and said he was proud of his team’s campaign.

However, he stopped short of conceding his seat.

“At this stage, it is too early to determine a result for the second ACT Senate seat," he said on Facebook.

"Much of the vote is yet to be counted, including significant numbers of pre-poll and postal ballots, which traditionally provide a boost to the Liberal count."

The Liberals' Zed Seselja is likely to lose his Senate seat to independent David Pocock.  (ABC News)

While the count shows Senator Seselja is currently ahead of Mr Pocock, most minor parties urged their supporters to preference Mr Pocock over Senator Seselja, making the prospect of a Liberal victory highly unlikely.

Pre-poll and postal votes are being counted today, with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) still focusing on first preferences. 

"If it stays really tight on first preferences, we might have to go all the way in this Senate contest, which will be some weeks," AEC spokesperson Evan Ekin-Smyth said.

Liberals need to 'better represent the people of Canberra': Carnell

Labor's Katy Gallagher has already secured the first ACT Senate seat, and all three lower house seats within the territory remain in the hands of Labor. 

The ACT government has also been led by Labor for two decades, so the Liberals losing their ACT voice in the Senate will shift the balance of power significantly.

Former chief minister Kate Carnell said the situation was not good for democracy, but said Canberrans had been clear that Senator Seselja was not the right man for the job.

"Canberra is a centre to the centre-left electorate, it always has been, and the positions Zed has taken on a range of issues have really been conservative-right."

Kate Carnell says the Liberal Party needs to support female candidates in Canberra and promote more moderate policies. (ABC News: Simon Beardsell)

The Liberals polled so poorly in the ACT's lower-house seats, that the AEC is even recounting the seat of Canberra on a two-party preferred basis between the Greens and Labor.

Ms Carnell said the Liberal Party needed to change its image in Canberra.

“The thing the Liberal Party needs to do is realise they have got to support women,” she said.

“[ACT Opposition Leader] Elizabeth Lee is doing a great job in the Legislative Assembly but we have got to get more women into winnable positions.”

Ms Carnell also said it was essential for whoever ran in the ACT to represent the values of Canberrans.

Mr Pocock has vowed to hit the ground running in the Senate, saying one of his first acts would be to introduce a private senator’s bill to overturn the federal ban on the ACT introducing or debating voluntary assisted dying.

"It makes no sense that in 2022 we don't have the same rights as states to actually debate and legislate on issues that affect us," he said.

Ms Carnell agrees, saying Senator Seselja lost Canberrans' support for not backing territory rights, saying it was "at odds with representing the ACT".

"With regard to assisted dying, which the majority of Canberrans have supported for a really long time, Zed just wasn't supporting the view of Canberrans," she said.

Territory rights, climate policies caused Liberals to lose votes: Katy Gallagher

Despite Labor’s Senate vote falling, Katy Gallagher’s position in the upper house is secure.

Senator Gallagher will also form a key part of Anthony Albanese’s cabinet and she will be sworn in alongside Mr Albanese later today.

She said the Liberals had paid for not representing Canberrans.

“Canberrans will vote for the people who represent them on issues like territory rights, climate, integrity, anti-corruption,” she said.

“That is reflected in the vote.”

In the ACT, Labor hold all three lower house seats, a Senate seat and lead the territory government.  (ABC News: Antoinette Radford)

Senator Gallagher said the ACT would be in a better position to be represented with Mr Pocock in the second ACT Senate seat.

During the campaign, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr urged Canberrans to put Mr Pocock as their second preference after Labor – ahead of the Greens.

"The tide is turning with every state and territory now being able to debate its matters around euthanasia and past laws," Senator Gallagher said.

"I think the rest of the country is also wondering why the territories are not allowed to do that."

Re-elected Member for Fenner Andrew Leigh believes the new Labor government will be able to move swiftly to restore territory rights.

Dr Leigh said he would like to be one to introduce the bill that would repeal the 1997 Andrews Bill.

"I hope that it will be backed by opponents and supporters of euthanasia, that we can see this fundamentally as a territory rights issue," he said. 

"That people in the federal parliament will say, 'well, let's leave it to the legislators of the territories to figure it out, whatever my personal views on voluntary assisted dying'."  

Anthony Albanese on what he'll do first as the new PM.