Former Australian rugby union star David Pocock has made history, becoming the first independent senator for a territory.
This morning, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) confirmed he had unseated former ACT Liberal senator and Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Zed Seselja.
Pocock, a conservationist and former Wallabies captain, had been predicted to take the seat since the night of the federal election, but he had not officially declared victory, nor had Seselja declared defeat.
Since the ACT and Northern Territory first elected senators in 1975, every election has produced the same pairing, one Labor senator and one Liberal senator in each jurisdiction.
Pocock will be the first territory senator not from one of the two major parties.
Pocock announced his run for the seat in December last year, putting climate action policy and territory rights at the heart of his campaign.
Before joining politics, Pocock played professional football for 15 years, taking the field for the Brumbies and Western Force in the Super Rugby from 2006 to 2019, and also representing Australia with the Wallabies.
Pocock has a long history of environmental activism. In 2014 he was arrested for chaining himself to a digger in protest of a coal mine in New South Wales.
In addition to climate action, Pocock also campaigned on territory rights, which would allow the ACT the ability to debate and legislate voluntary assisted dying.
He said Seselja’s firm position against voluntary assisted dying was outdated and did not serve Canberrans.
“Canberra’s changed a lot over the last few decades and we need to be able to make more decisions about what affects us,” he said.
“And we can no longer have a senator who argues against territory rights.”
When announcing his candidacy, he said the choice to run as an independent rather than join an established party was an easy one.
Just after the AEC confirmed Pocock’s election, Seselja issued a statement, saying it was an “immense honour” to serve the people of the ACT for the past nine years.
“I am grateful to the women and men of the ACT for giving me the honour to be their senator for three terms,” he said.
“I extend my congratulations to Katy Gallagher and David Pocock on the honour of being elected to represent the ACT in the Australian Senate, and to Senator Gallagher on her appointment as Australia’s Finance Minister.
Seselja said for Liberal supporters, the election of a federal Labor government and the loss of an ACT Liberal Senate seat was “a bitter blow”, but he said it did not mark the end of the party’s presence in the territory.
“People will write off the Liberal Party as they did in 2007, but we will be back, here in the ACT and nationally,” he said.
“I thank sincerely those who have supported the Liberal Party and myself during my time in political life… While it is difficult now I’m convinced that better times lie ahead.
“Finally, I thank my family. They are the most important people in my life and I’m pleased that as we end our journey in politics our adventure together as a family will continue. I look forward to continuing to find new ways to serve my community and support those closest to me,” he said.