With the Northern Territory election now a little under four weeks away, the Northern Territory News has published results from an automated phone poll of 887 respondents conducted by MediaReach, which credits Labor with a 64-36 lead (hat tip to Leroy Lynch). This amounts to a 20% swing since the 2012 election that brought the Country Liberal Party government to power, which if uniform would leave the CLP competitive only in Katherine and the Alice Springs seats of Araluen and Braitling. Several points to be made here:
• MediaReach is a largely untested pollster, but its name was mentioned a few times in relation to private polling ahead of the federal election. One of these credited Labor with a 12% swing in the Darwin seat of Solomon, compared with an actual result of 7.4%.
• The Northern Territory’s substantial remote communities are practically impossible to poll, and the report provides no indication of how this difficulty was dealt with. Others have limit their endeavours to just polling Darwin in the past. The report suggests that may have been what this poll has done, as breakdowns are provided for the northern suburbs, Palmerston, the rural Darwin area and the inner suburbs, with no results indicated for anywhere outside Darwin.
• Candidate factors are uniquely important in the Northern Territory given the tiny size of the electorates, and particularly so in those impossible-to-poll remote areas.
Nonetheless, if the poll is to be interpreted conservatively as indicating a 15% swing to Labor in the Darwin area, it would be hard to see the CLP retaining any seat there. Labor actually held up quite well in Darwin when it was voted out in 2012, instead losing office on the back of an unanticipated rout in remote electorates. The poll suggests the CLP might be able to hang on in the three Palmerston seats, particularly the two being defended by sitting members, and I presume Gerry Wood and Kezia Purick will presumably retain their seats of Nelson and Goyder as independents. But it would be very hard to see Labor winning fewer than 10 of the 15 Darwin-region seats. Labor holds a further two seats outside Darwin; is presumably well placed to win the semi-rural, semi-remote seat of Daly, which has a post-redistribution margin of 5.2%; and might even be a show in Alice Springs for once (Adam Giles’ margin in Braitling is 19.6%).
The remaining question is whether they will win back any of the largely indigenous remote electorates. Two of these, Arafura and Stuart, are being defended by the winners from 2012 as Country Liberal Party members; in a third case, Larisa Lee in Arnhem, the member is now an independent. Alison Anderson has held Namatjira in various party guises since 2005, was a CLP member at the time of the 2012 election, and is now an independent, and will presumably retain the seat as such.