By-election alert

The Northern Territory Health and Justice Minister, Peter Toyne, has announced he is retiring from parliament due to ill health. This means a by-election will be held in his electorate of Stuart, assuming more than one candidate nominates. This is not a foregone conclusion – Stuart is a remote electorate in the west of the territory with an 84.3 per cent indigenous population, and has always been extremely safe for Labor. The electorate includes the troubled Yuendumu community, which has been in the news recently due to an outbreak of gang violence. The CLP could well be forgiven for sitting the contest out, but recent anger at the Martin government’s indigenous policies could make life interesting if a suitable independent comes forward.

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.

4 comments on “By-election alert”

  1. If I remember right, this seat was actually a pretty close call a few elections back when Peter Toyne first contested it. It had been safe for the previous ALP member but they must have lost his personal vote on retirement.

    We also shouldn’t forget that the CLP was able to win the indigenous seats of MacDonnell & Victoria River in the past..I think candidate selection could play a big role here.

  2. I think this by-election could be an interesting one. On one hand, history would suggest that Labor would hold this seat, as it has been held by Labor ever since 1983, and would have been held by them all along had it not been for the incumbency factor after Roger Vale got up in the bizarre CLP landslide of 1974.

    On the other hand, as Peter notes, the margin slipped as low as 200 votes when Toyne was initially elected in a 1996 by-election. If the CLP is smart and put up a decent, high-profile indigenous candidate (or if such an independent arises), and a backlash against the Martin government over its handling of indigenous issues eventuates, we could be looking at a really close race.

  3. Labor will hold comfortably, the CLP have just rolled their Alice Springs based President this weekend for a realativly disliked former MLA in Rick Setter, the ALP would of know that this is coming and would no doubt be ready for a quick by-election.
    The Labor party have shown over the past federal and territory state elections how good they are in mobile polling wich plays a huge part in Stuart.

  4. Well I never thought it was going to be a one candidate affair…looks like the CLP are going to give it a go.

    Minus small exceptions in 2005 and 2001 its been awhile since the CLP recorded a positive swing. The overall theme of 2005 and 2001 was large swings against the CLP, not to mention the swings against the CLP in the 2003 and 1999(?) by-elections, you really have to go back to 1997 to get a positive CLP swing. Will be most interesting if they’ve turned a corner and can get a positive swing in 2006, even if it is Stuart.

    Stuart is a long way from the crucial Darwin seats where the CLP really needs gains in 2009, but that said, a positive swing would be a significant achievement considering recent history for the CLP.

    I’d be shocked if the CLP actually won it or even came close, its unlikely, but Territory politics isn’t as predictable these days….

    The CLP needed to run in this, they need to see which way that swing is going. Not to mention there’s not much left to lose, who know’s if there is a political accident waiting to derail Labor. It’s not like the CLP would mind an extra seat I imagine. The more I think about it the more that any notion that they may not run just does not add up. It also gives the CLP machine, and Carney, campaign experience. Once again something that might prove useful.

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