A by-election called Alice

Richard Lim, one of four remaining Country Liberal Party MPs after the party’s debacle at the 2005 Northern Territory election, has announced he will retire as of next week. This means a by-election looms for his Alice Springs seat of Greatorex, possibly within weeks. Alice Springs was the only part of the territory that remained impervious to Clare Martin’s charms in 2005, and it seems unlikely voters will further swell her bloated majority by handing the seat to Labor. However, the Territory’s pocket-sized electorates mean there is always a chance an independent might do some damage.

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.

31 comments on “A by-election called Alice”

  1. “Check out the punctuation howler in the ABC story!”

    What, “it’s” instead of the correct “its” for the possessive?

    A mistake, sure, but hardly a howler.

    I was more annoyed with a NewsRadio presenter talking about a ‘communeek’ for ‘communique’ a few weeks ago.

  2. Edward O, I am curious as to how Clare Martin could possibly have spoken a misplaced apostrophe. I cannot understand how the error could reflect poorly on her.

  3. IIRC, Lim was the only one of the four remaining CLP parliamentarians to have been a government minister, and only a junior one at that.

  4. If memory serves this is the seat that Labor came a lot closer to taking when it stood the Alice Springs Mayor in the last election, so the margin I don’t think is very big.

    On the other hand, my initial thoughts are that Howard’s recent intervention would be going down well in Alice Springs. But I’m not sure, haven’t had my normal NT focus as much in the last year.

    Will be an interesting one to watch.

  5. Charlie Says:

    July 3rd, 2007 at 3:25 pm
    What effect, if any, might Howard’s outback intervention have here?

    Why is Lim retiring?

    One could speculate a range of reasons including having the prospect of waiting for at least 2 elections to win Government in the NT. At the 2005 NT election, Labor picked up 6 seats for a net 19 of the 25 seats. L

    im was one of only four CLP survivors of the 2005 Election (Katherine,Blain and Araluen were the others), leaving Lim with not much hope of winning Government in the near future. Clawing back a 51.9-35.7 primary vote gap, even in “pocket sized electorates” as William points out, is not a joyous prospect.

    Charlie Says:

    July 3rd, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    What effect, if any, might Howard’s outback intervention have here?

    Lim won the seat in 1994 and held it in 2005 against a high credential Labor candidate (Pollbludger tells us she was then Mayor Of Alice Springs and daughter of CLP founding father, Bernie Kilgariff).

    They say when a sitting member of 2 + elections retires it puts some vulnerability into that seat, particularly if they are ‘high profile’ enough- Lim was deputy leader in 2003, etc.

    Against this Clare Martin grabbed the ‘underdog’ tag in the local rag, reminding people Labor has never won a seat in the Alice.

    In the context of the above history, the effect of “Howards outback interventions” should be interesting; good question.

    I just hope no-one gets sucked into extrapolating from the by-election result to what is happening amongst the punters on a Territory wide scale regarding Howards intervention (I am being polite in using the word) and/or what is going to happen in Solomon (NT) at the Federal election.

    This kind of extrapolation would have to overlook a whole bunch of things including the history above and (a) the insignificant electorate size in Greatorex (4952 voters in 2005) (b) the fact there were only three candidates/options in 2005 [Labor, CLP and Greens] and (c) the unknown factor of whether or not the punters are ready/wanting to back Labor at a Federal level despite their opposition in most States/Territories being complete dissaray {NT, QLD, NSW, etc} and Labor dominating State/Territory politics for some time now.

    I would love to dupe myself into thinking that communities in the Alice will give JWH a massive protest ‘message’ and their votes could be read on a ‘Federal’ scale with ease- but even I am not that naive, or am I ? Hmm.

  6. Oh and the fact that Solomon is at the other end of the Territory… (being a Darwin seat).

    I’d suggest Alice Springs wouldn’t indicate too much.

  7. normally you would expect a correction back from the high point of the
    NT election , however given the tiny size of the electorates 400 votes is 10%
    which magnifies personal votes I do not know
    could be a Labor win or an independent win who knows?
    I’d say there were no federal implications from the vote
    unless there is a Labor Landslide

  8. The federal implications would come if there was a very high, or very low, vote for candidates clearly opposed to Howard’s Intervention. That wouldn’t be the ALP, given Rudd’s general support. It would be a question of looking at the combined vote of the Greens and opposed independents, if there are any.

    However, I don’t really expect to see much of this. The 10% achieved by the Greens last time was pretty good – 3rd highest in the territory. For there to be anything much you can read into it I think we’d need either to score around 20% or below 5% if there are no independents. The presence of an independent would complicate the calculations a bit.

  9. 8HA radio king Matt Conlon is a great candidate for the CLP. Bright, fesity and articulate, he is in touch with the people of Alice Springs. He is a vocal critic of Labor’s soft touch when it comes to out of control Aboriginal crime in the town.

    Conlon to win in a landslide.

  10. Yes, Conlon is a good choice, but if Labor select Fran Kilgariff he will have a serious fight on his hands. Conlon has the advantage of Labor’s massive electoral dominance, which could bring him quite a few votes from those uncomfortable with the imbalance.

  11. ‘Why has he resigned ?’
    well, if Lim’s ineptitude in parliament is anything to go by,
    hopefully not because he plans to return to medicine.

    (aside from mayor fran, there’s another alder-person (!) who may preselect :
    jane clark’s blog today attacked matt conlon for using his radio show to announce his candidacy …)

  12. The fact that he got punched by Chris Tarrant alone is enough to suggest Damien Hale is better than Tollner.

  13. There is a large Defence vote in Darwin that will give Tollner a buffer that will be hard to crack.

    Tollners fate will largely be tied to Howards, he doesnt have a trong personal affiliation with the Electorate.

    Hale is a stong “Community Champion” candidate with extensive networks thoughout Darwin and Palmerston and if anything Positive came out of the Tarrent Incident it was a profile boost.

    There is a double edged sword for Tollner if he runs to close with howard he will be just seen as a lap dog to canberra (we dont like that) and if he puts to much distnce he will lose those want to support the government .

    Locally the CLP holds only 1 seat in solomon compared to the 11 the ALP hold, which will make it hard to generate the branch support at Crunch time.

    This one will come down to the Wire.

  14. CLP shoudl be very safe in Greatorex as well, the Alice Community was very vocal in their disaproval of the Martin Government at the Regional Sittings a few months ago.

    Though the people of greatorex can go to the Ballet box knowing if the Vote ALP they will get a member in the government.

    I expect a 2-3% swint to the CLP when it happens.

  15. kd says tollner has little personal affiliation with the electorate,
    but I reckon many warm to his wide grin and pig shooting blokey manner.

    I am convinced mr tollner’s days are numbered,
    ever since damien hale appeared on the front of the paper with a black eye,
    which he earned defending the honour of a young woman who suffered the indignity of being flashed at by a drunk visiting AFL performer.

    Any fool can see, that if the glove was on the other fist (so to speak) the CLP’s david tollner would surely be cast as the feckless perpetrator, rather than the noble victim.

    so I was really surprised -disappointed even- when the large glossy mailout the other day had a foto of damien with k-rudd, but no black eye.

    my advice to the (small) local alp team :
    regular touch ups to that bruise throughout the campaign.

  16. I was very disappointed to hear the Chief Minister on ABC TV last night come across as so negative about Labor’s chances in this electorate. I was annoyed to hear her say, ‘I understand the people of Alice Springs are angry’. She needs to see that a small vocal group is not necessarily the voice of the majority (even if they did boo her). She needs to pull up her socks, come to Alice Springs and convince the electorate that labor can do the job.

    CLP was a terrible arrogant party to live under when they were in power. You can see their candidate is another puppet for a group of boozy old codgers ‘giving the lad a leg up’.

    Wake up Labor and act like you can win because you do offer better quality of life than CLP ever did. Stand up for the issues. Come up with a plan and sell it.

  17. I think this is an interesting development in the campaign. Nixon (an audiologist by profession) doesn’t seem to be a particularly high-profile candidate. The NT News says that she’s known for organising the Beanie Festival, something that I (as a southerner) have never heard of.

    The more interesting development today, though, was independent MLA Loraine Braham’s announcement that she’s organised a high-profile independent candidate to run in Greatorex, but is waiting until he resigns from his position to put his name forward. If Braham has actually organised a strong independent candidate (and considering Nixon’s selection), I would not be surprised if Labor considers running dead (or near it) in the by-election. I don’t see how Nixon can win, but if Conlan is divisive as he seems, a good independent could be in with a real chance.

  18. Update: The independent candidate Braham was referring to was Paul Herrick, the Northern Territory’s deputy chief fire officer. I’m not sure how this affects the by-election race.

  19. Paul Herrick, Is the real deal i think, Local Fire Chief, Patron of the Alice Springs Golf club (and just about everything else i think) and by the sounds of the reports has alot of the Old Guard Alice people behind him.

    I wouldn’t want to be Conolon’s undies right now.

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