Julia Gillard has contributed a rare campaign endorsement for Katy Gallagher – the shadow finance minister – an intervention underscoring Labor’s concern that the high-profile independent David Pocock could split the progressive vote in Canberra.
The former prime minister has written to the residents of the Australian Capital Territory and recorded a video endorsement for Gallagher, a former chief minister, who holds one of the territory’s two Senate spots.
For the past 50 years, the two ACT Senate spots have been held by the Labor and Liberal parties but in 2022, two high-profile progressive independents, Pocock, a former rugby union star player, and constitutional law professor Kim Rubenstein are vying to replace the Liberal incumbent, Zed Seselja.
The independent campaigns have high visibility around the national capital and both Pocock and Rubenstein are well-known locally. Labor strategists believe Pocock now has sufficient momentum to imperil Gallagher’s re-election bid in the event traditional Labor voters choose to mark him No 1 on the Senate ballot paper.
The current Labor ACT chief minister Andrew Barr took to social media last week to tell residents he would be putting his own party at No 1 on the Senate ballot paper and Pocock at No 2 because it would be “great” if the two territory senators would back territory rights in the federal parliament.
Barr noted that Labor was prepared to facilitate a vote in both the House and the Senate to lift the ban on territories legislating on euthanasia and “wouldn’t it be great if both ACT senators voted in favour of territory rights – that’s why I’ll be voting 1 Labor and 2 Pocock”.
Gillard says in the new letter to residents she doesn’t usually “talk about politics” but Gallagher deserves the continuing support of the people of Canberra.
“There’s been a lot of talk about independents recently,” Gillard says. “What our federal parliament needs is more strong, experienced women. And that’s why I believe the choice you face this election matters so much.”
She says the voters of Canberra “have the opportunity to make sure we keep one of our best, brightest and strongest women in the Senate”.
“Katy Gallagher is more than just a good friend to me, she is a strong advocate for the values that matter to Canberrans,” Gillard says.
Gillard notes Gallagher’s positive record on Canberra’s transition to 100% renewable energy and her support for a federal anti-corruption body. The former prime minister notes if Labor wins the coming election, Gallagher will be the finance minister in an Albanese government.
“That’s why I would encourage you to ask yourself this question before you cast your vote – can I really risk losing someone like Katy from the Senate? To me, the answer is clear, and that’s why I’m asking you to put Katy Gallagher number 1 on the Senate ballot paper”.
Pocock, in a recent interview with Guardian Australia, said there was frustration in the city about being ignored because “we are such a safe seat, as a result of that we’ve had a huge underinvestment in infrastructure”.
The high-profile independent, who has received funding from the Climate 200 group, has been the target of a negative advertising campaign run by the rightwing advocacy group, Advance Australia, centring on his record of environmental activism.
A recent Redbridge robo-phone survey of voting intentions which was funded by the Pocock campaign had Labor at 27%, followed by the Liberals at 24% and Pocock at 21%.