Highlights of week one

The Poll Bludger has not had much to say during the first week of campaign action for the June 18 Northern Territory election, and has little to add to this thorough review of the issues by Ken Parish at Troppo Armadillo. Also worth noting is the tracking of Centrebet odds at Palmer’s Oz Politics – it appears some serious money has gone Labor’s way in the last day or two. The Northern Territory Electoral Commission has published its list of candidates and the Poll Bludger’s election guide has been updated accordingly.

The biggest news to emerge is that Litchfield shire president Mary Walshe, who had earlier been approached by both Labor and the CLP, is listed as an independent candidate for Goyder. Despite its healthy CLP margin, the seat was already looking interesting given the circumstances surrounding the departure of sitting member Peter Maley, who was dumped first from the front bench and then from the parliamentary party. When speculation emerged in January that Walshe was planning to nominate, an unidentified CLP member told the Northern Territory News that Walshe would win the seat "comfortably". The News later reported on March 25 that she had decided not to run, but she has evidently had a change of heart.

Psephologist Charles Richardson has this to say in today’s Crikey newsletter:

As far as election watching goes, a Territory election is a good one for beginners because everything happens in miniature: smaller seats than anywhere else (4,000-5,000 voters in each), fewer of them (25), fewer candidates (only two or three in most seats), and less than three weeks of campaigning. But if the Northern Territory is a more exotic place, the fundamental truth is that it’s the same as the rest of the country: most elections are won or lost in the mortgage belt. It may be a land of wide open spaces, but wide open spaces don’t return many MPs: two-thirds of the seats are in suburban Darwin and Alice Springs. Labor’s safest seats are in the outback, but it won in 2001 because it swept the seven seats in Darwin’s northern suburbs. Those seven seats will be the battleground again, and it looks to be a pretty one-sided affair. Although some are very marginal – Millner the closest on 1.2% – all but one of the Labor members are contesting their first election as incumbents, a powerful advantage in such small electorates. Add the electorate’s indulgence towards first-term governments, and the disarray in the Country Liberal Party opposition, and it’s hard to see Labor being seriously troubled.

Centrebet confirms this view: its latest odds have Labor almost unbackable at 9-2 on, with the CLP about 11-4 against. With such favourable conditions, the Martin government will be aiming to increase its one-seat majority. (There are also two independents, but Labor would not like to have to rely on them.) It has hopes of finally breaking through in Alice Springs (either Araluen or Greatorex), and of picking off one of the two remaining rural CLP seats, MacDonnell and Daly. It must also be given a rough chance in Goyder, on the southern fringe of metropolitan Darwin, where the CLP lost its sitting member in controversial circumstances.

For his part, the Poll Bludger has shifted Goyder from "Country Liberal retain" to "Independent gain". Anyone else wishing to put their public reputation on the line can do so on this thread at the Inside Politics site. Among the contributors is Antony Green, who reiterates the following comment he posted at Palmer’s Oz Politics:

If you look at the 2004 Federal election results, with the exception of four booths, the federal results in Darwin and Palmerston booths are very similar to those recorded at the 2001 Territory election. In other words, a repeat of the 2004 Federal election results would go close to leaving the status quo at the Territory election. Solomon is CLP held because of the CLP majority in Palmerston, not because the CLP polled well in the northern suburbs. The four booths that differred were the two in Fannie Bay and the two in Wanguri. What was different there? They were the only two seats with sitting Labor MPs at the 2001 Territory election, which meant Labor’s vote was much higher in those four booths in 2001 than at the 2004 Federal poll. Labor’s Federal vote in 2004 was high enough to hold all its northern suburbs seats at the Territory election. That is, unless the sitting members are hopeless and actually manage to depress Labor’s underlying vote. I’ll leave it for people who live in these electorates to reflect on the merits and demerits of the sitting MPs.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.