It’s August 9

The Northern Territory election, that is. One day after the thought of a poll entered my consciousness, courtesy of Antony Green, Chief Minister Paul Henderson has sprung it on even earlier than expected – in less than three weeks’ time. The previous election was on 18 June 2005, and the latest possible date for the next one was 27 June 2009. My election guide is, er, not quite ready yet, but hopefully will be in good-ish time before polling day.

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.

56 comments on “It’s August 9”

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  1. I’ve put some basic info on the Nt up at Should have the rest of the site up tomorrow. I could probably put it up today, but that would make life too easy for journalists in rival media organisations.

    There are links to a home page for the Lyne by-election as well.

  2. A trivial question… just how many state and territory election campaigns has Labor won on the trot? My off-the-cuff, back-of-the-envelope calculations puts it somewhere around 25; but I could be way off.

    AFAIK the last time the Coalition was in govt at state/territory level was in Qld (2/96-6/98), when Borbidge snuck back into power after a byelection tipped Goss Labor out. But the Coalition lost the statewide election of mid-95, so the Qld Coalition were in govt for 2 years without winning any statewide elections.

  3. What are the prospects for each party at this election? Is there a mood for change up there?

    Nothing serious. The opposition (formerly the CLP, now the CLs, Country Liberals) have essentially zero chance of winning this time around. Most likely outcome is the government lose 2-3 seats, but still retains a working majority.

    Basic reasons are that the government has not stuffed up in any serious way, hasn’t been in long enough to wear out their welcome, have made an extremely smooth leadership transition, and the economy is going very well, especially if this new gas plant deal is secured, which is looking increasingly likely.

  4. Kahuru – I make it 21 ALP state / territory election wins in a row: since Feb 1998, they’ve won 2 in WA, SA, NT and ACT, 3 in Vic, Tas and NSW, and 4 in Qld. Last time the Liberals were in power anywhere was in 2002 in SA (when the Rann govt came in); last time they actually won an election was in Feb 1998, in the ACT.

    For the NT election… I can see the Liberals winning a few seats. They got absolutely smashed last time, surely they’ve got to swing back a little bit. Then again, I know nothing about NT politics so maybe they’ll stay down.

  5. Current breakup is 25 seats, ALP 19, CLP 4, Ind 2.

    One Independant has retired and ALP could lose six seats, but still retain govt.

    Probables to change to CLP are to be found amongst:

    Braitling (retiring Ind)
    Fong Lim
    Fannie Bay
    Port Darwin

    To lose the ALP would also have to drop two of:


    the rest are probably safe.

  6. “For the NT election… I can see the Liberals winning a few seats. ”

    The CLP only have to win 1 extra seat to see a 25% increase in representation, such a huge increase would be loudly trumpeted as a massive slap in the face for Rudd.

    Of course if they win 4 extra seats,a 100% increase, we may see the non-labor friendly ( or non-friendly non-labor) commentators burst a few blodd vessels in their reports.

  7. Rod;

    Quite likely. But Territorians, like Western Australians, tend not to give a damn about national politics. Mostly because they know the feeling is mutual. Reading a Rudd v Nelson angle in Henderson v Mills would be a pretty silly mistake.

  8. JC

    “Reading a Rudd v Nelson angle in Henderson v Mills would be a pretty silly mistake.”

    But I wouldn’t put it past Milne to make that mistake.

  9. So following the redistribution the CLP increases from 4 seats to 6 seats. On top of that, the independent member for Nelson is retiring, which should return the seat to the CLP. So without any swing away from the Government the split goes from 19-4-2 to 17-7-1.

    But I can’t see them winning.

    I have made a Google Earth map of NT electoral boundaries. You can access it at

  10. I think dartboard is probably leaning on the optimistic side for the CLP. Three of those, I think, are very likely to fall: Braitling because it’s a safe CLP seat vacated by an independent, Brennan because Labor’s 2005 win was a fluke once-in-a-million-years event, and Port Darwin, which Labor barely won last time and which has a former MP and CLP president who’s been campaigning hard. I’d probably also throw Goyder in there: low-profile first-term Labor MP who was a bit lucky to win last time up against a high-profile CLP candidate.

    Then there’s a couple of interesting contests: Drysdale, on the new boundaries, that should go back to the CLP, but it’s held by a government minister. Fannie Bay should’ve been an ALP hold without too much worry, but they’ve run a political hack, and the CLP are running the former Lord Mayor.

    I think the CLP is dreaming about Fong Lim though; they may have Dave Tollner as their candidate, but he’s a recently defeated federal MP running against a senior government minister. Good luck with that one.

  11. On the other hand, I’d probably throw Sanderson in there as a too-close-to-call: it’s crappy candidate deathmatch. The dud thrice-failed candidate versus the badly behaved git who should’ve lost preselection: Kiely would probably be favourite to hold it for Labor, but it’ll still be pretty damn close.

  12. Paul, nobody polls in the NT. The electorates only have 4,700 enrolled voters. You door knock and phone canvass. If a sitting MP doesn’t know the names of every first born in the electorate they aren’t working hard enough.

    Newspoll did a poll of Darwin in 1994 and another in 2005, but whether they do another this year will depend on whether the Australian wants to pay for it. The Australian is air-freighted into Darwin from down south and doesn’t arrive till early afternoon, so it doesn’t actually help sales much.

  13. If the retiring member for Braitling supports an independent candidate (which is the rumor) – it is highly likely the seat will stay with the independents.

    As for Brennan – although its an extremely marginal seat, the current member has been an extremely hard-working backbencher, and very active in his electorate.

    Port Darwin (CBD)-is hard to call, but in the ALP’s favour is the fact that the current member was a respected business woman prior to winning the seat, whilst her opponent John Elferink has very little profile as he was based in Central Australia until he lost McDonnell in the last election.

    The fact that the economy is booming is also a positive for Port Darwin.

  14. I think that’s probably a bit unlikely that an independent will win Braitling. Braham probably would have been re-elected had she run again, but she’s nowhere near as popular as Wood, and was pretty lucky to get over the line in 2005. Her strong backing of independent Paul Herrick in the Greatorex by-election last year didn’t seem to do him wonders, as he only barely made it into second on preferences, and lost soundly to a fairly controversial CLP candidate.

    I’d like to see James Burke hold Brennan, but I think it’s just too safe conservative territory to stand any chance; it was such a fluke victory last time, and the swing back to the CLP I think will blow him away.

  15. I’d like to see James Burke hold Brennan, but I think it’s just too safe conservative territory to stand any chance; it was such a fluke victory last time, and the swing back to the CLP I think will blow him away.

    Maybe. Brennan had a redistribution before the last election with the army barracks being placed inside Nelson (Gerry Woods’ electorate), which I would expect reduces the conservative vote by a small but significant amount (especially given the small electorates in the NT).

    I am not convinced that James Burke’s win last time was a fluke. I think it was more likely a shift in political winds in that area.

  16. They may well have a shot at getting it back, I do not think you can call it an inherently CL seat any longer, at most it is marginal and can go either way.

    But we shall see soon.

  17. I think you’d have to give the points for the first full day of campaigning to The Country Liberals (aka CLP)..some wonderful manourvering today, excellent announcement on the teachers pay negotiations- a master stroke you’d think, but the issue that resonated with Territorians was the annoucement that Terry Mills would honor former leader Jodeen’s announcement that she would overturn as a matter of urgency the much debated speed limit laws. Talkback radio buzzed on the national broadcaster after an unlikely ally HAROLD SCRUBY of the Pedestrian Council said if Terry Mills was elected and repealed the legislation he would go to Canberra and lobby to have the NT decision overturned. Thanks Harold one thing Territorians won’t cop is bit of outside arrogance and interference, Harold went on to say the whole discussion was Hillbilly Nonsense,WOW, didn’t talkback go off after that The radio question was posed “would you support a return to open speed limits or do you agre with Harold that its Hillbilly Nonsense” certainly provide a thick smokescreen on the issue of the late withdrawal of the Katherine candidate. What happened there anyway??

  18. The speed laws are a non-issue, manufactured outrage talk-back beat-ups notwithstanding. It will not influence the outcome of the election one bit. Those who whinge about speed limits (which are the most generous in Australia) are not going to vote Labor anyway, so nothing lost to the government there.

    By far the overriding issue in this election, as in almost all NT elections, is the economy, which is doing very nicely at the moment.

    The problem for the CL opposition is they have no real issue to campaign on. Although the government has its problems, none are ongoing or serious, and any other problems the NT may have are certainly not going to be magically resolved by electing a CL government. Their main attack seems to be about crime. But according to long time Darwin resident and lawyer, Ken Parish over at Club Troppo, there is no crime wave. All classes of crime, except non-sexual assault (and even that is debatable), have fallen over the last 6 years or so. The opposition are just indulging in the standard self-righteous Laura Norder election beat-up.

    The Katherine candidate had some, umm, personal issues to sort out about the way she relates to other people (allegedly).

  19. Statistics may say anything, but headline news about a spate of glassings, anti-social behaviour, substance abuse, eg the petrol sniffer, and brazen robberies have made law and order a main topic.

    Nothing about gas though…

    We told the Japanese about the election first.. thats not going to go down well.

  20. Just saw Terry Mills on the news break claiming there has been a “breakdown of law and order” in the NT. Hysterical nonsense like that will not stand up to scrutiny for long. The fact remains that people in the NT can safely go about their lives, as usual.

    Elections are not just about the headlines. People do not vote on superficial perceptions alone.

  21. I still stick with the opinion that Terry’s mob won the day – Hendo’s announcment of ten million for apprenticeships and skilled labour is nowhere nearly as captivating for the electorate as a good healthy dose of ” I want the unique NT lifestyle ” the perceptions of which, are that it has been taken away under Labor. Good ol Porky would run on the theme of “Territorian’s have a one track mind” (referring to the railway battle)plus a dollop of wedge politics, it seemed to work back then why not now? How many votes is it between government and opposition anyway?? seems the anti speed laws people have a petition up their sleeves with nearly 12,000 signatures on it, that is pretty significant if correct.

  22. Running the Palmerston dog catcher against James Burke in Brennan was hardly a good choice by the CLP. Same as relying on candidates who only recently (in the last 2 months) ran for Darwin City Council elections (Jo Sangster and Garry Lambert) meaning there woud have to be council by-elections won’t bode well with the electorate.

    Effernink is remembered as the person who destabilised the CLP when in parliament and will have hard time trying to live down the baggage that he will bring.

    Running Tollner anywhere is ridiculous as he at least could be hidden on the back bench in Canberra, if by some miracle he is elected then his stupidity would be seen everyday!!

    Should be good to watch.

  23. ” I want the unique NT lifestyle ” the perceptions of which, are that it has been taken away under Labor.

    That is not what I hear in my daily conversations with all sorts of people. The old CLP boogeyman scare tactic of ‘Labor not governing in the interest of the Territorians’ lost its power a long time ago. Politics in the NT has moved on from that era.

    I can discern no strong move against the government, some dissatisfaction with individual policies and decisions, yes, as is normal for all governments up for re-election, but nowhere near sufficient to remove them.

    And I repeat, those who whinge about the speed limits are not Labor voters to start with, and the government has nothing to gain by pandering to them. If it isn’t speed limits, they will just find something else to criticise the government about, they will not vote Labor anyway. Their views are already factored into the voting patterns, and simply making more noise, especially about trivial stuff like 130 km/h speed limits, will not alter the outcome.

  24. Fong Lim – nope, she’s an Inner Darwin seat next to Fannie Bay

    Karama – as much as many would like it to be in the Outback… its actually crime central in the Northern Suburbs.

    The CLP candidate for Barkly is Mick Adams, a local identity of some sorts related to pubs and horse racing.

    Brennan – Peter Chandlers other claim to fame is Chairman of the Bakewell School Council home to nearly 800 kids.

    Karama – the CLP candidate for Karama is Tony Bacus, owner of a local driving school.

    Nhulunbuy – Djuwalpi Marika is the recycled 2005 CLP candidate for Arnhem

    Sanderson – controversy has surrounded Peter Styles, particularly with regard to the non-selection of Jo Sangster in Sanderson, who is now standing in Johnston.

  25. Couple of nitpicks:

    The Labor candidate for Braitling is Aaron Dick.

    The Labor candidate for Nelson is Justine Lunders-Searle, not Luders-Searle.

    John Elferink served two terms as the member for MacDonnell, not one.

  26. Entertaining read, William.

    Interesting what MPs can get away with up there; drunken brawls, urinating in public. And “burying guns in the desert in case the Fabian Socialist Conspiracy was really true”?? They sure do things differently in the Territory.

  27. William,
    Under Araluen you have John Gaynor working for FACs – since the 2005 Election he has headed up the Office for Central Australia.

  28. Antony,

    Just curious to know a little about the political demographics of Darwin, since the existing seats all have inflated Labor margins from 2005. It seems like Central Darwin is generally fairly mixed and politically marginal, but why is Palmerston such a good CLP area (affluent? very WASP-ish? mortgage belt?). And are the northern suburbs traditionally Labor’s best areas (more working class? ethnically mixed?).

  29. MDM, when you’re talking about Darwin, the demography categories are turned upside down.

    The Territory has a huge pass-through population, defence personal, commonwealth public servants, who all spend several years in Darwin. It’s why sitting MPs chase up new enrolments, and another reason why the sitting MP factor is important. There’s also the perennial collection of people who end up in Darwin to start a new life, fleeing dud jobs, former partners, etc. If Ernest Hemingway had written a book about Australia, it would have been about some of the characters that wash up in Darwin trying to start a new life.

    Inner Darwin is affluent and more conservative voting. It has seen a huge growth in apartment living. It is the old pre-Tracey parts of Darwin and where a lot of lifetime residents live. It’s also where all the tourists are and where tourist related businesses and bars are located. The rest of Darwin is s weep of suburbia segregated from the tourists. The northern suburbs have a few older areas, like the suburbs on the headland at Nightcliff, but the rest was developed in the 60s to the 80 and is older and more established, but not as long established as inner-Darwin.

    Palmerston is much newer, and being further inland, misses the slight sea breeze that the coastal parts of Darwin experience. Property prices are cheaper, and it is one area where you can get a vacant block. It is more blue collar, and in any other city in Australia, you’d mark Palmerston down as Labor heartland.

    Also dotted around some areas all across Darwin are indigenous town camps and public housing estates, and these tend to be pockets of strong Labor voting.

    That’s a set of generalisations, but the overall answer is don’t apply southern classifications of voter types to Darwin and expect them to make sense.

  30. By the way, if you search the web for maps of NT town camps, you can find maps of all the camps gazetted under the Federal intervention regulations. This has been a revelation to me, because the commercially available street directories don’t show the town camps, except for the more established (and very different) Bagot community in Darwin. But the Bureau of Statistics draws census collector districts specifically for the town camps, so everyone knows they are there.

    As part of the local government reforms in the NT, as well as the federal intervention, some attempt is being made to have the town camps brought under local government so that proper public services can be provided. But the whole area is a byzantine mess which I can only just understand, and I thought I knew a bit about the Territory.

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