Three weeks ago, I once again showed my inestimable worth by thumbing my nose at over-informed local opinion, which was mostly of the view that Paul Henderson’s Labor government would as likely as not be returned in yesterday’s Northern Territory election, and boldly proclaimed that my money was “firmly on the Country Liberal Party”. Now that the CLP has indeed won 14 or possibly 15 of the parliament’s 25 seats, I stand proudly and triumphantly vindicated.

Or so I would like to believe. However, the honest truth is that nearly every seat I identified as vulnerable for a Labor Party that couldn’t afford to lose any of them has been retained, in most cases by fairly handsome margins. The other psephological pundit who tipped a big CLP win well ahead of time, Peter Brent of Mumble, wisely painted his prediction with a broad brush, and would no doubt have been as surprised as the rest of us by the manner of the CLP’s victory. The real story of the election – that Labor did what it needed to do where every past territory election has been decided, but was blindsided by a collapse in support in once rock-solid Aboriginal communities – was heralded by nobody, and those of us who correctly tipped the result got there purely by accident.

Armed with the benefit of hindsight, I can now see clear portents of Labor’s unfolding disaster. Labor’s defeat in three or possibly four of the six remote electorates looks a bit less astonishing if you plot the trajectory of voting in these areas at both federal and state elections over the past decade. Extracting the required results from federal election figures is an inexact science, as many of the votes were cast in mobile booths for the Lingiari electorate which also served pastoral areas. Nonetheless, the figures below tell a compelling story of an already strong Labor vote going through the roof after the Howard government introduced the intervention in 2007, but progressively collapsing thereafter.

2004 federal 74% 18% 79%
2005 territory 67% 26% 72%
2007 federal 84% 10% 88%
2008 territory 61% 31% 67%
2010 federal 47% 24% 60%
2012 territory 42% 44% 50%

The favoured explanations for this snowballing disaffection include a mix of federal and territory issues. Clearly the intervention has ceased entirely to be of electoral benefit to Labor now that the federal government has taken ownership of it. The troubled Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program is also said by some to have dealt a body blow to Labor’s reputation in the bush. At territory level, council amalgamations have proved enormously unpopular, placing greater distance between communities and centres of decision-making. There is also no doubt that the Country Liberals smartly capitalised on the opportunity these issues offered by identifying candidates well placed to take advantage of them and allocating significant resources to their campaigns.

However, it’s interesting to note that the swing in the Aboriginal-majority electorates was not monolithic. There were two seats in particular where Labor suffered only middling swings: Barkly, including Tennant Creek and the territory’s eastern regions, where Gerry McCarthy suffered a 7.0% swing and retained a margin of 8.6%; and Nhulunbuy in the north, where the swing against Lynne Walker was just 5.0%, leaving her with a handsome margin of 19.2%. Owing to barriers of language, distance and communications, a distant observer such as myself can only speculate why this might have been. However, there is one point of distinction between the two better performing Labor candidates and the other four which is immediately obvious to all – they’re white.

If that doesn’t seem an immediately obvious electoral asset in Aboriginal majority electorates, an interesting complexion on the matter was offered shortly before the election by locally well-connected Crikey blogger Bob Gosford. Gosford’s sources spoke of “alleged vicious whispering campaigns aimed at chasing Aboriginal votes in the dozens of small remote mobile polling booths that have been running for the past two weeks”, which revolved around “the use of intra-racial and cultural slurs … used to describe light-skinned Aboriginal people”. I personally have no way of knowing whether such claims are accurate or inaccurate, fair or unfair, complete or partial – and I suggest that a sensibly cynical observer would suspect games of this kind were played by both sides, a point acknowledged by Gosford. But the claims do, as our friends in the press gallery like to say, raise questions. As Gosford notes: “Because these remote polling booths are for the most part out of reach for what passes for the mainstream media here in the NT, these incidents are rarely reported as news. Most often they turn up after polling day following complaints to the NT Electoral Commission.” It will be interesting to see what, if anything, emerges.

A region-by-region run-down of the damage:


Primary 42.9% 48.3%
Swing -5.8% 2.6%
2PP 48.7% 51.3%
Swing -3.4% 3.4%
Seats 6 (-) 6 (-)

The swing to the CLP would have cost Labor one seat if it had been uniform, but as was very widely anticipated, that didn’t happen because the most marginal Labor seat, Fannie Bay, swung substantially in their favour (5.6%). The only other seat to swing to Labor was Sanderson, a CLP seat that some were tipping as a possible gain for them. However, the 3.6% swing fell short of the existing 5.2% margin. Country Liberal sophomores who turned in particularly strong performances were Peter Chandler in Brennan (a swing of 11.7%) and John Elferink in Port Darwin (8.7%). By contrast, Peter Styles in Sanderson would look to have some work to do.

Alice Springs

Primary 19.8% 65.2%
Swing 3.0% 2.6%
2PP 29.3% 70.7%
Swing 0.8% -0.8%
Seats 0 (-) 3 (-)

Labor copped a 17% swing in Alice Springs in 2008, so it stands to reason there was no further slack to be taken up. The result is nonetheless interesting as another example of Alice Springs heading in the opposite direction to the remote areas which surround it.


Primary 23.5% 55.9% 20.6%
Swing -8.8% 13.9% -5.1%
2PP 29.3% 70.7%
Swing -13.1% 13.1%
Seats 0 (-1) 3 (+1) 1 (-)

Presumably the factors which drove the swing in remote areas applied at least in part here as well. Contribuing to the defeat of Labor member Rob Knight in Daly was his failure to carry the booth of Wadeye, where 91% of residents identify as indigenous. Boosting the average was a 15.0% swing to CLP sophomore Willem Westra van Holthe in Katherine.


Primary 41.9% 43.7%
Swing -19.2% 17.2%
2PP 50.3% 49.7%
Swing -16.8% 16.8%
Seats 2 (-4) 4 (+4)

Definite inclusions on Labor’s casualty list are Arnhem, where Malarndirri McCarthy has been unseated after failing to even attract a CLP challenger at the 2008 election; Arafura, which was vacated by the retirement of former Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour; Namatjira, which Alison Anderson has well and truly kept in the CLP column after defecting to the party from Labor; and possibly Stuart, where Labor incumbent Karl Hampton trailed by 44 votes at the close of counting. Much will rightly be made of the triumph of Francis Xavier’s long record of local hard graft over the star power of former AFL player Dean Rioli in Arafura, even if it is wisdom after the event.

Federal implications:

• Coming after the electoral tsunamis which swept all before them in New South Wales and Queensland, Labor can take heart at having turned in a creditable result in Darwin. Since Darwin ranks second only to Canberra for concentration of public servants, it’s very easy to believe that Labor enjoyed a dividend from the Campbell Newman’s job-slashing in Queensland, which both Labor and Unions NT went to great lengths to emphasise in their campaign advertising. Labor will be further encouraged that this might prove of advantage to them federally.

• The Darwin results give Labor reason to hope they might be able to recover Solomon, where they were narrowly defeated in 2010. As Adam Carr notes in comments, Labor now has a locally well-regarded former Chief Minister looking for a new line of work, and whose resume looks pretty well suited for the position of federal election candidate.

• On the other hand, Labor’s member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, has cause to feel very nervous. The 2010 election saw his margin slashed from 11.2% to 3.7% which, as previously noted, was driven by huge swings in remote areas that were counter-balanced by a 8.4% swing in his favour in Alice Springs. The territory election result suggests the former trend might not yet have run its course.

• The result will presumably focus attention on the federal government’s handling of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs and in particular the responsible minister, Jenny Macklin.

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.

47 comments on “Bushwhacked”

  1. Another win for the bookies predictions.

    I’m expecting a lot of “Forgive them for they know not what they do” commentary.

  2. From the “Live” thread;

    >Does the NT really need 25 pollies for a 200,000 population.

    >>The alternative would be to put it back under direct Commonwealth rule, which means taxpayers in the rest of Australia would have to foot the bill for its administration. I’d rather the territories accepted responsibility for their own government.

    It is ridiculous that they should be self governing in the way they currently are. Giving the predominant cabal of nohopers who fetch up in NT politics this privilege leads to ridiculous policies like removal of speed limits (which has a racial overtone in that it is indigenous youth who drive inadequate vehicles who often end up dead and tragically injured in car smashes), the rolling back of liquor reform, the building of palatial parliaments, the massive over remuneration of second rate (at best) NT politicians in relation to their responsibilities and work load (- at one point in the recent past the NT Chief Minister was the highest paid politician in Australia).

    By any measure the NT is a failed state only propped up by the judicious placement of defence jobs, a bloated public service sector (Territory and federal). Despite the billions poured into the place over the years the health and education outcomes to name but two are devastatingly bad. Add to that the high crime rates, environmental degradation, endemic public and private corruption and what do have? Answer: A joke being played on the rest of the country – and a bad one at at that.

    Self-government gives often quite mad politicians the chance to posture on the national stage and participate in the blocking of reform eg. animal welfare, weed and feral animal control. etc. Ridiculously our media often accepts the pandering to their redneck constituency without question giving the ignorance a credibility that it does not deserve.

    Self government also gives us the massive over representation in federal parliament of the 230,000 souls who live there – an indecent warping of the electoral process. The 310,000 residents of Blacktown City have nothing like that level of representation at federal level.

    Given that there is no real community of interest between the “urban areas” and the bush, the best thing that could happen is that the powers of local government in the territory be strengthened and the paraphernalia of self government swept away and replaced with an adminstrator. Territory based revenue sources could remain in place and perhaps be widened. There would be no need for the rest of Australia… to have to foot the bill – at least not have to shovel more dosh into the money pit than we do now.

  3. http://afr.com/p/national/indigenous_voters_oust_labor_in_lbKeDPjtcyONRTLbCqleJL

    [Indigenous voters oust Labor in NT
    Geoff Winestock Darwin

    The political map of outback Australia has been redrawn after seats with high indigenous populations dumped Labour and handed victory to the Country Liberal Party in the Northern Territory elections.

    CLP leader Terry Mills who claimed victory Saturday night with at least 14 of the seats in the 25-seat legislature acknowledged his debt to indigenous voters who have traditionally voted Labour.]

  4. Surprisingly, I agree with most of what Albert Ross says, although obviously I’m feeling a bit anti-NT today.

    As for the CLP, they now have to deliver to the Indigenous areas what they voted for, whatever that might be. Given their record they won’t find that easy. Plus, no doubt, they’ll find their Indigenous MPs just as flaky, demanding and unreliable as Labor found its to be.

  5. @ Diogenes : The bookies didnt get it completely right. The CLP were $.190 vs AL $1.85 in Arafura; $4.75 CLP v $1.15 ALP in Arnhem; CLP $3.40 v $1.30 in Daly and if Sturat goes the CLP CLP $2.60 v $1.50 ALP. All other seats were won by the bookies favourite though and the overall trend in betting saw much more money for the CLP than the ALP. Long term fluctuations 3 months ago CLP $1.20, 2 weeks ago $1.60 CLP Close of betting (when the majority of turnover mostly was placed) CLP $1.40.

    @ Albert Ross : Then dont live in the NT! Your same argument could equally be levelled at State Governments, Local councils and any bi cameral parliament – whingers *sigh*

  6. @ Psephos NT Labor has to seriously distance itself from Gillard’s much loathed extension of the intervention if they are ever to reclaim those seats. The traditional indigenous vote for Labor in those seats only needed a viable alternative to dilute the ALP vote, some went CLP directly, others voted FNPP but the measure of deep and raw hatred for this policy still hasnt been realised by Federal Labor and I believe that Lingiari federally is seriously in doubt despite that seats long standing safe Labor status. It reeks of apartheid, Uncle Tom-ism, is patronising, removes autonomy and dictates even what weekly money has to be spent on. It’s seriously backward and arrogant and really has nothing at all going for it! What it was designed to do was break the wastage of federal money on the few chosen to sit on autonomous councils and a lot of money went astray into the wrong hands, but this policy is not the answer! It damages people, robs them of self esteem and labels them third class citizens and they know it!

  7. Well, if people at Wadeye want to live in permanent poverty and squalor and hopelessness while their kids sniff petrol, I guess that’s their prerogative.

  8. Re “super councils” and election defeats
    The public hostility to the “super councils” seems like the reaction to the “reform” of councils in Qland which cost Labor dearly
    It is like an earlier reaction to Kennett in Vic…who had when LOTO opposed the Cain proposals for council “reforms ” and then later introduced them without any community consultation…typical of Kennett …..but it was most unpopular in the small towns..which helped to defeat the Libs in the country seats in 1999

    The Lesson for State Leaders.!

    If you want to lose lots of support( and elections ) support “reform”of councils
    The voters hate it
    Your clever advisors and the”experts” will support you…they are almost always divorced from reality and it will be your political doom

  9. Re A Ross and the NT
    “failed state ” is a clever description !!
    The NT makes Tasmania look like Switzerland

  10. AJ

    [The bookies didnt get it completely right.]

    They certainly didn’t get it completely right but they were pretty reliable again.

    Much better than the boosters from either party.

  11. [I’m expecting a lot of “Forgive them for they know not what they do” commentary.]

    You mean like belittling Indigenous voters for voting CLP or praying that the new government are really bad and bring the same amount of angst as the Newman government? Never!

  12. Carey

    Yep, that kind of thing. The overwhelming arrogance and political naivety of people who blame the voters when they lose.

  13. Dio, I know supporters of all parties do it when they lose (a part of coping I guess) but last night there were some really arrogant (and slightly racist) things said.

    Don’t blame the voter for giving you the vote, blame yourself for not earning that vote.

  14. [The overwhelming arrogance and political naivety of people who blame the voters when they lose.]

    Do you seriously expect Labor supporters to agree that the voters are right to elect a Liberal government, or vice versa? If you have a party loyalty based on strongly held principles, then you must feel that the voters have made a mistake when they elect the other party. Whether it is wise to say so in public is another matter. I am sometimes willing to agree that Labor governments deserve to be defeated: I felt that about NSW, and to some extent about Qld. I don’t think that’s true in this case. But even if I do think that, I still think a conservative government is in general worse than a Labor government.

    If it’s true that Labor has lost in the NT because of Stronger Futures, I think that is to the long-term detriment of the Indigenous people of the NT, and that they have voted against their own interests by electing the CLP. You can call that arrogant if you like. I’m willing to be called arrogant for sticking to my principles. If you, Diogenes, have strong political principles, I’ve yet to discover what they are.

  15. In the lead up to 2013 I think Federal labor will be well done by this result.

    I know that sounds strange but two things stick out for me.

    Firstly, fertile ground to pursue the Can do PS cuts contagion at a Federal level especially if it is tried in NT. PS strong electorates gave solid votes to the ALP.

    Secondly, I do not live in NT and have no idea as to the level of angst in indigenous areas but it seems to me there is a problem for the ALP. What extent territory and or Federal issues are to blame is now for labor to work out with time on their hands.

    If it means less control and a overall rethink, so be it. Let the people decide their future if that is what they want.

    The libs must now deliver on these issues to the people who have elected them. If they do not ( which I believe will be the case ) it can only be good for labor.

    Much better to get a kick at territory level now than a big blindsider in 12 months time.

  16. Psephos

    Vox populi, vox dei.

    [I’m willing to be called arrogant for sticking to my principles.]

    You are a moral vacuum; you aren’t sticking to any principles.

  17. [You are a moral vacuum; you aren’t sticking to any principles.]

    I don’t know about that person, couldn’t are for the irrelevant, I have seen the actions know what I think and will keep it to myself.

    But your statement I think this applies to the entire ALP right faction. They continue to be the lowest form of scum on the political landscape, and continue to prove it year after year.

    How many electoral obliterations must we enforce in order to rid the party of this vermin?

  18. [endemic public and private corruption ]

    I wont contest the other stuff you wrote except you could write a lot of it about everywhere in Australia, it is just emotional tirade. But the comment on corruption is just total utter bullshit, inserted into your tirade bought about no doubt by Labor losing.

    If you went back to the second half of the first CLP government then it might have some decent foundations. But since those days the NT has been relatively benign in comparison to southern places.

  19. well done to the Indigenous population on showing they can’t be taken for granted – I hope it pays off for them – it could however be a case of going from the fry pan into the fire 🙁

    did they really have a choice? if they wanted to send a message, and they have, they had to vote for someone – I hope Jenny Macklin pays attention

  20. Someone was asking if i was out training… Yes. 4km run yesterday, 3km walk today and fire brigade training.

    3km x 4 runs this week before work.

    7km run this coming saturday.

    I had all my fire gear on today looking for painful spots that may come up during the 10km run as its not designed for such tasks. My mates and i have decided i need bike pants underneath the fire pants to stop chafing or 5kg of vasso :). I also need to veet my chest hair around my nipples so the bandaids will stick for the 10km to protect from chafing as well.

    Overall my mates think im crazy and have been very helpful in pointing out my future problems much to there delight.

  21. If you went back to the second half of the first CLP government then it might have some decent foundations. But since those days the NT has been relatively benign in comparison to southern places.

    Mr Paine I am prepared to concede that there will have been some improvements but my comment is based on what NT businessmen have told me recently about the palms that need to be crossed with silver at various stages of any development. There is so far as I know no ICAC or its equivalent. I am not sure that the Commissioner for Public Interest Disclosures has very wide powers.

    I agree that much of what i wrote could be written about other states. But the situation in the NT is so much worse given its remoteness, climate and very small population. It attracts the second rate and chancers who see an opportunity to flourish. For example in the last 25 years mental health in the NT was for some time in the charge of a former mental health nurse who had only avoided being charged for exploiting patients at a state hospital for the criminally insane by professing a mental breakdown and resigning somewhat sharpish.

    >.The libs must now deliver on these issues to the people who have elected them

    But how can they? Their core constituency in hostile to any apparent preferment being given to those they perceive as unworthy. I mean how will the National’s backbench and candidates tune their dog whistles now?

  22. Carey and Diiog – there may well be chagrin amongst ALP supporters about the fact that voters they thought were in their back pockets have jumped out via the moth holes in the daks.

    The truth is that no political party (or any one else for that matter) has come up with is a workable policy for remediating the ills that afflict so many indigenous people (and other disadvantaged groups).

  23. There are huge lessons for NT Labor and my old mate Warren Snowdon, in this election if you look at the booth results as well as the electorates.

    Let’s take Stuart. The very high profile Warlpiri CLP woman Beth Price is 40 votes in front of Labor on the night. She badly lost her home town Warlpiri booth of Yuendumu, and the other major fixed Warlpiri booth of Lajumanu. No fans of the Intervention/Stronger Futures there. Her only “wins” came in the predominantly white booth of Pine Ck, and the somewhat elusive “Mobile Booth 17”. She lost all other fixed and mobile booths. (I’m still trying to work out which communities MB17 covered , but my bet is that it was Lutheran Mission communities, and white pastoralists).

    Even the CLP commentator on ABC News24 last night (as well as the ALP’s own commentators) saw ALP loss of Aboriginal votes in this electorate as down to the ALP determination to continue the “Intervention” under the new “Stronger Futures” new name, and the unbelievably stupid “mega council” amalgamations that utterly destroyed local control in most major Indigenous communities. He was certainly pretty close to the mark on this, even though his own party is extremely unlikely to really change either.

    Despite this, though, if the ALP had managed to “get out the vote” in Stuart they would have won easily, handsomely, overwhelmingly. When only 51% of voters turn up in a “compulsory” election it is pretty clear that those who would normally support Labor aren’t exactly inspired by what they see! Hey! Labor got better turnout figures in these electorates in the late 70’s & 80’s, when the idea of a Labor government in the NT was simply pie in the sky. Back then, of course, Labor gave Aboriginal people something to vote for. Pretty hard to see why they would bother at present.

    Warren Snowdon should be reading the writing on the wall. Unless he can convince Labor to dramatically change tack, and give up on the “assimilation uber ales” line, it is time he jumped before he gets pushed by the voters. I know his own personal philosophy has little truck with the current Brough/Macklin line. If he wants to fight the next election he has to make his own views much clearer. If not, then it is time he handed over the seat to someone who is prepared to challenge it. Changing tack may not be enough, of course, but it is the absolute minimum necessary to get enough Aboriginal voters turning out on polling day for Labor to have a chance to retain Lingiari.

    But far more importantly, it is critical that Labor reconnects with Indigenous voters, both in the NT and elsewhere. I’m sure it is easy for some in Labor to imagine that they don’t matter, compared to scoring votes from the regular run of Aussie rednecks, but , as in the NT election, a failure to do so may well cost Labor government in 2013.

    Even a 5 to 10% increase in Aboriginal voter turnout in the NT would guarantee Labor Lingiari. It would probably have returned Labor in the NT Assembly election, too. Time Labor thought seriously about just how badly it is getting things wrong in this area.

  24. Well, if people at Wadeye want to live in permanent poverty and squalor and hopelessness while their kids sniff petrol, I guess that’s their prerogative.

    Pseph, if that is the way that Labor people read the very clear Indigenous response to the “Intervention/ Stronger Futures” then I’m afraid the party deserves all that it gets, and more.

  25. Sorry that should have been:

    Psephos said:

    “Well, if people at Wadeye want to live in permanent poverty and squalor and hopelessness while their kids sniff petrol, I guess that’s their prerogative.”

    Pseph, if that is the way that Labor people read the very clear Indigenous response to the “Intervention/ Stronger Futures” then I’m afraid the party deserves all that it gets, and more.

  26. Rod

    He’s a jilted lover at the moment. He needs time to get over it.

    Are there any non-NT seats where the indigenous vote could affect a marginal?

  27. But further on the last. A huge problem for Labor in many remote seats is that large numbers of Indigenous voters aren’t even registered to vote. There were major pushes to change such things 20 – 30 years ago, but this now seems to have lapsed. Looking at the figures for Yuendumu, in Stuart, in the 2011 census, for example, you would expect a far larger number of voters at that booth than turned up on Saturday, or than appear on the electoral role there. Those who DID vote, overwhelmingly voted for Labor. If all that the Census suggests were eligible had done so, in the same proportions, then Stuart would not be in doubt, but a clear Labor “hold”, just on the basis of this single community booth.

  28. looking like 16-9….a pretty amazing result, although widely predicted (outside ALP central control posters that is).

    I wonder what message this sends to the “Doesn’t matter how unpopular the ALP is as long as the Opposition leader is unpopular people won’t vote them in” line of thinking.

    The same message sent very clearly in

    What comes next?

  29. [Psephos said:

    “Well, if people at Wadeye want to live in permanent poverty and squalor and hopelessness while their kids sniff petrol, I guess that’s their prerogative.”

    Pseph, if that is the way that Labor people read the very clear Indigenous response to the “Intervention/ Stronger Futures” then I’m afraid the party deserves all that it gets, and more.]

    You have a third alternative, Rod?

  30. [I wonder what message this sends to the “Doesn’t matter how unpopular the ALP is as long as the Opposition leader is unpopular people won’t vote them in” line of thinking.]

    I don’t think anyone has said that. Of course unpopular opposition leaders can win elections if voters are determined to put governments out. Thatcher, Fraser and Kennett are obvious examples.

    So what exactly happened in the NT? We had an 11-year-old minority government, so the default expectation was always that it would lose. That was my expectation until the last week or so when there was polling in Darwin suggesting that Labor might hang on. And that was soundly based, because Labor did indeed hang on to its Darwin seats, and got a swing towards it in some. I suspect that was a “Campbell Newman effect”. But the swing against Labor in the Indigenous-majority seats was not picked up. It had several causes: opposition to the intervention, opposition to council mergers, and under-the-radar racial campaigning by the CLP. Only council mergers was the fault (if it was a fault) of the NT government. The intervention, let me remind Mod Lib, was a Coalition program which Labor continued. It was pretty cheeky of the CLP to blame Labor for it.

  31. Must say I find it extremely funny that there was no call for the abolition of the NT before the election, or for the last 12 years, but after the election everyone in here thinks the NT should be disbanded

    I am still waiting for similar calls for the Tasmanian government (I am thinking in about 1 year time) and the ACT government to be disbanded, since they are barely bigger then then NT government, or the 100s of local governments in Australia, who really does nothing apart from sending its member to overseas trips.

    As for the most unfair part of Australian politics, it is probably either the NT having 2 seats, Tasmania returning 12 senators (my vote) or Tasmania having 4 seats. But I am not holding my breath for those either

  32. [but after the election everyone in here thinks the NT should be disbanded]

    I think one person said that.

    [As for the most unfair part of Australian politics, it is probably either the NT having 2 seats, Tasmania returning 12 senators (my vote) or Tasmania having 4 seats. But I am not holding my breath for those either.]

    * The NT currently has 1.52 quotas and is thus entitled to two seats under the proportional formula in the Act.
    * Equal state representation in the Senate was the condition on which the smaller colonies agreed to Federation. Take it up with your fellow conservatives Sir John Forrest and Sir Edward Braddon.
    * Tasmania has 5 seats, not 4. That was also part of the Federation deal with the smaller colonies.
    * Neither equal Senate representation nor Tasmania’s 5 seats is “unfair” in a partisan sense, because all the states follow approximately the same partisan voting pattern.

  33. [I wonder what message this sends to the “Doesn’t matter how unpopular the ALP is as long as the Opposition leader is unpopular people won’t vote them in” line of thinking.

    The same message sent very clearly in

    What comes next?]

    Something I’ll point out on this is that state/territory governments that are the same party as the incumbent party in Canberra are at a hefty disadvantage. Antony Green’s graphs in his blog a few months ago illustrate this pattern – when a party wins government in Canberra it starts shedding seats at state level, and with rare exceptions just keeps doing so until there is finally a change at federal level.

    Indeed all the very few known cases where unpopular Opposition Leaders have won at state level have occurred with the benefit of the Canberra factor. Kennett and Court’s trouncing of tired state Labor governments (despite their bad personal ratings) might have been taken as a sign of what would happen to Keating’s shortly afterwards, but that didn’t actually play out that way.

    Since that factor doesn’t apply it’s hard to extend the same thing to the federal sphere – where lastingly unpopular Opposition Leaders have so far never won in that phase as Leader. (That’s not to say it can’t be done, just saying that it hasn’t happened yet.)

    Also, Newman, O’Farrell were not unpopular as LOpps and we have no idea whether Mills was popular or not as there wasn’t any polling.

  34. 34

    For the 2004 and I think 2007 election the NT was under 1.5 quotas but had first a straight legislated exemption (because both parties thought both NT seats winnable) then the Coalition decided to give the NT an exemption in the formula to allow the NT to keep 2 seats without giving the ACT back its 3rd seat and worked out that giving the NT 2 standard deviations leeway with the quota did this. It would have been better to adjust the method of calculating the minimum number of seats for territories to the 10% system where the quotas go from 1.5, 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 to 1.1, 2.2, 3.3 and 4.4. This would provide the same upper limit on population per seat that applies to the states.

    Decreasing any states proportionate representation in the Senate and/or HoR would require it to get a majority of votes in not only nationwide and in a majority of sates but also in the states having their representation altered and thus will not happen.

  35. Greg, that’s a good point which I hadn’t realised, although I assumed that the rogue Green booth was because of a local candidate.

    What I want an answer to, however, is my question above: if Indigenous communities have rejected the intervention, what do they want to put in its place? The intervention, whatever you think of it, was a response to 30 years of failed Indigenous policy and steadily worsening social indicators in the remote communities. If it was the wrong response, what is the correct response? Please don’t tell me “spend more money.” We are already spending well over $20bn a year on servicing about 600,000 people, with a disproportionate amount going to the fewer than 100,000 who live in remote communities. By one estimate we are spending $100,000 per capita per year on remote communities – enough for all the residents to move to Toorak and send their kids to Melbourne Grammar. Why has that money not produced better outcomes?

  36. 38

    One policy suggestion I have for alcohol problems in the NT is to raise the alcohol excise because the NT has about double the rate of alcohol consumption as Australia in general.

  37. I do not think intervention was a big issue

    1. The Liberal started it, so both party is blamed (unless the ALP promised to stop it, which I have not heard)
    2. The Liberals has 2 member who had big swings to them, who were pro-intervention

    I think the councils amalgamation was a good idea, but did hurt Aborigines communities, and was badly managed by one of the Labor MP who lost her seat, that might have been the reason for a lot of the swing.

    I think Snowden is going to be in big trouble hanging onto his seat and the CLP look well poise to get both seats in the NT, which will be really bad news for the ALP federally, since they will start the election behind, since Windsor and Oakeshoot almost have 0 chance of hanging onto their seats, so the ALP will need to win at least 2 seats to win the next election

  38. @Psephos

    My contention isn’t that the election results show remote voters rejecting the Intervention per se, but they are objecting to losing their voice, power and control, which is something that the Intervention and Stronger Futures legislation has done. They are too “top-down” and they have ignored some important and clear messages and desires coming from remote communities. But the Intervention is just one aspect of this disempowerment, along with the shire amalgamations, removal of the permit system, removal of discretionary funding for school committees (ASSPA) etc.

    There is no magic answer, but I think it’s clear that remote Aboriginal people feel they have lost their voice and lost a significant degree of control over their communities and the elections results show that they aren’t happy about it. It’s not so much what do they want put in its place, I think they just want the government to stop dumping policies on them against their wishes. The list of policies/actions that NT and Federal Governments have done in the past 10 years against their wishes is quite considerable:

    – linking welfare payments to school attendance
    – introducing fines for non-attendance
    – removing the permit system
    – stripping school councils of discretionary funding
    – dismantling ATSIC
    – restricting the use of Aboriginal languages in education / abolishing bilingual education
    – getting rid of local government councils
    – removing CDEP programs from communities
    – reducing funding for outstations
    – limiting funding for smaller communities (non-“Growth Towns”)
    – allowing a nuclear waste dump to be put on Aboriginal land

    and that list doesn’t even mention the Intervention.

  39. Well, we’ve had 30 years of “empowerment” and “self-management”, and things have got steadily worse. All it did was make a handful of corrupt Indigenous leaders rich and provide nice jobs for their white advisers. I look at that list and I have to say I agree with all of the measures on it. ATSIC was a failure which Labor should have junked instead of leaving it to Howard to do so. CDEP is just sit-down money. Outstations are economically unviable. Indigenous kids need to go to school and learn English, not stay trapped in linguistic ghettos. The only way Indigenous people can escape poverty and squalor is to stop being wards of the state and join mainstream Australian society, and all those measures serve to help them (or if need be compel them) to do so.

  40. Hmmm. You do raise interesting well-thought out points that I don’t believe have ever been heard before. It is clear that you have vast amounts of knowledge, qualifications and life experience of working in community development, governance, education, economics and sociology. Why isn’t the government listening to you? And Aboriginal people too!? They would be so much better off! Vote 1 Psephos as the saviour of Australia’s Indigenous people!!!

  41. [And Aboriginal people too!? They would be so much better off! ]

    Yes they would. Fortunately both the previous and current governments are listening to me, not you: hence the intervention and Stronger Futures. If governments stay the course, this will in time rescue the Indigenous communities from the ghettoes of poverty and hopelessness where well-intentioned but misguided people like you have kept them for the last 30 years, and bring them into the mainstream of Australian economic and social life where they deserve to be.

  42. When you have something remotely sensible to say, I’m happy to debate this issue. As I said, I really do want to hear what the suggested alternatives to the Intervention might be, other than just returning to the failed policies of the past. I have no partisan axe to grind here: this is an issue on which all recent governments have a record of failure. You keep telling me how bad the Intervention is. OK, so what’s your alternative strategy? I really want to know.

  43. Psephos I did not at any stage state that I have a negative opinion towards the intervention. As I stated already, my contention is simply that the recent NT election shows that remote Aboriginal people feel they have lost their voice and that the Intervention is highly likely to be one of those contributing factors.

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