Northern Territory election guide

The long and the short of Saturday’s election in the Northern Territory, where Adam Giles’ shambolic Country Liberal Party government is universally being written off.

The campaign for Saturday’s Northern Territory election hasn’t been getting its due here of late, but I can finally offer a detailed seat-by-seat guide and the following quick overview.

Since the Northern Territory’s parliament and government were established in 1974, there have only been two changes of government: when Clare Martin led Labor to victory for the first time in 2001, and with the Country Liberal Party’s return to power in 2012. The odds on this election making it three are very short indeed, with the one published poll so far suggesting a swing to Labor of 20%, and Sportsbet offering $1.01 on Labor forming government. However, independents may yet play a role, being up in number from 13 candidates at the 2012 election to 40, with a number of major party dissidents being among their number. The overall number of candidates is up from 86 to 115. This is particularly significant given that optional preferential voting is to be introduced at the election, as there are likely to be high rates of non-major party voting and exhausted preferences.

Labor’s previous high-water mark in the Northern Territory was 19 seats out of 25 at the 2005 election, leaving two independents and only four CLP members. The CLP’s reconstruction occurred over two stages, with six seats being gained in Darwin with the near-victory of 2008, and four largely indigenous seats outside the capital gained in 2012. Together with a defection from Labor to the CLP and the recovery of a seat held by an independent, this boosted the CLP to 16 seats after the 2012 election. However, the party has been beset by convulsions through its time in office, resulting in Terry Mills being replaced by Adam Giles just seven months after leading the party to victory, and Giles surviving a challenge in February 2015 only through the threat of a party split. Those who have kept score say there have been 15 cabinet reshuffles, and six members have held the title of Deputy Chief Minister.

Four of the 16 CLP members elected in 2012 have since resigned from the party, including three who are seeking re-election as independents, one of whom is Larisa Lee, member for the indigenous majority seat of Arafura. The formidable Alison Anderson is retiring from her seat of Namatjira, and says she supports the Labor candidates both in Namatjira and Stuart, where Bess Price has stayed with theCLP. The CLP must also contend with former Chief Minister Terry Mills running as an independent in his old seat of Blain, which he vacated a year after losing the CLP leadership in March 2013. His successor in the seat, who retained it for the CLP at the by-election, is retiring after a sexting scandal.

A redistribution has abolished a seat in Alice Springs and created one in Darwin, but both the abolished seat and the newly created one are strongly conservative. However, the change is to the advantage for Labor because the creation of Spillett, which spans the outskirts territory between Darwin and Palmerston, has caused the seat of Fong Lim to be pushed into suburban Darwin, wiping out the CLP’s 7% margin. However, Labor is down one on its eight seats in 2012, with Delia Lawrie seeking to go it alone in Karama after losing first the party leadership and then her preselection. A further complication for Labor is in the Tennant Creek region seat of Barkly, where former Labor member Elliot McAdam is running as an independent.

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.

53 comments on “Northern Territory election guide”

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  1. The polling organisation you base this on does not appear to exist and the lead political journalist pushing this poll appears to have disappeared from the pages of the NT NEWS . The Don Dale beat up appears to have helped the CLP as a lot of people know at least one of the crims and think they are where they need to be.

  2. This snippet from today’s NT News refers (I think) to the same polling, but perhaps its fresh

    “CHIEF Minister Adam Giles will spend the remainder of the Northern Territory election campaign in Alice Springs as he tries to claw back waning support for the Country Liberals.

    Mr Giles was elected to his seat of Braitling in 2012 with a huge margin of 19.2 per cent, but recent independent polling commissioned by the NT News showed he was in for a fight to retain his seat.

    His primary vote was at 42 per cent, with Labor polling not far behind at 37 per cent. That result would hand the power to determine the outcome of the seat to undecided and independent voters.

    Mr Giles hit the hustings to inspect hail-damaged buildings yesterday.”

  3. A correction: not one, but two of CLP’s Indigenous MLAs elected in 2012 remain and are running again this time round. Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu is running again for Arafura as well as Bess Price in Stuart (who you mentioned above)

  4. Peter, unfortunately we know where all the CLP members need to be as well. And that’s where they’ll be Sunday week. There’s always a couple of surprises so will it be CLP 4 seats or zero?

  5. Corio you are obviously not in the NT ,we are all aware that most of the videos were taken during Labors reign and Labors captains pick of Barbara McCarthy as a senator for the NT was startling as she was one of the ministers in charge at the time, all the people I know are very happy to have these crims locked away, by the way the author should realise all our chief ministers are card sharps , even the Henderson Labor government had 12 reshuffles.

  6. I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing the utterly shambolic and incompetent CLP Government get the complete thrashing they so deserve this Saturday night.

  7. Peter,

    there are so many things to write about this government it’s hard to know where to begin. What annoys me the most is the complete lack of awareness of just how disgraceful they have been. They have been an insult to good people everywhere, a joke.

  8. Candidate for Daly: Allan Arthur McKay (Independent)

    The good folk of Daly will be sorry if they elect this nasty arrogant clown. Check out his complete wreck job as mayor of the Litchfield Shire council 3-4 years back. So bad that even his natural ideological allies and fellow business cronies, the CLP government, had to sack him in his first term. (They, of course, covered his arse by sacking the entire council, a gross slur on the other councilors, because he was pretty much the sole cause of it all.)

  9. Fulvio: Yep. The Canadian province of New Brunswick in 1987, where the Liberals won all 58 seats. The previous result had been 39 PC, 18 Lib, 1 NDP, so that’s quite a reversal. Canada has a bunch of lopsided results like that.

  10. bird of paradox @ #16 Friday, August 26, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Fulvio: Yep. The Canadian province of New Brunswick in 1987, where the Liberals won all 58 seats. The previous result had been 39 PC, 18 Lib, 1 NDP, so that’s quite a reversal. Canada has a bunch of lopsided results like that.

    That’s what you get with first past the post voting.

  11. Does anyone know why only about a fifth of the seats have Green candidates? Are the NT Greens too small, the electorates too small or is it some kind of strategy?

  12. The NT Greens have always been the smallest branch of the party, and I would imagine they had neither numbers or resources to mount a territory-wide campaign, especially given the geographical challenges of the NT. It’s interesting to note that there are two independents who were formerly fairly prominent NT Greens, though – I dunno any backstory there.

  13. It needs to be said that the ALP campaign is very uninspiring and in fact the CLP are winning the campaign. I can only assume the ALP think it’s a done deal and are saving their dough and keeping a low profile.

  14. It needs to be said that the ALP campaign is very uninspiring

    It is pretty low key and bland.

    and in fact the CLP are winning the campaign.

    Not according to the polls.

    I suspect their expensive propaganda tsunami may actually be having the opposite effect, and turning voters off them even more. Their material is very professional and slick on the surface, and unrelenting, but it is also lacking any real content beyond standard cliches. Doesn’t rise much above Labor = Evil Bad People, Only The CLP Can Deliver On Jobson Groethe, sort of stuff.

    I am very happy for the CLP to be burning such huge amounts on advertising when they appear to have no hope of it paying off.

    I can only assume the ALP think it’s a done deal and are saving their dough and keeping a low profile.

    That is what I figured. It is also fair to say the the Labor leader, Gunner, is only an average media performer. Okay, but nothing flash. So that might factor in too.

    Probably taking lessons from Shorten federal Labor, and standing back to let the CLP incinerate themselves. Maybe they are deliberately encouraging a comparison between the slick spiv sales pitch of Giles, and Labor’s workman like just getting on with the job.

  15. When asked why people should trust either party, Giles sought to criticise Labor for not releasing its costings, despite the full costings having come out earlier that day. In the bizarre exchange Giles repeatedly rejected Gunner’s objections and said there had been nothing released to the public.

    Earlier on Thursday the treasury department released its analysis of both parties’ costings. The release coincided with Labor’s figures and a full media briefing. The media had also sought responses to the costings from Giles’s office. The CLP had released two pages on Tuesday to a select group of media.

  16. If Labor wins, the seat of Fannie Bay will have produced its third Chief Minister, in Michael Gunner, after Labor’s Clare Martin, who won the seat after another Chief Minister, the CLP’s Marshall Perron quit politics after bringing in the voluntary euthanasia legislation.

  17. Let’s hope whoever wins, after a year or so in government there is some improvement of the statistics. One in eight babies born with foetal alcohol syndrome. Completely disadvantaged from in utero. Children under with STDs, we know what that means.

  18. Re: Greens in the NT
    Yeah, it’s lack of funding. They’ve been asking for donations from Greens members in other states which isn’t something that generally happens.

  19. There’s also the fact that, unlike every other Greens branch, the NT Greens have very little prospect of practical success anywhere – they’re not competitive in the Senate and have no proportional house in which to make a territory-level breakthrough. If I were the NT Greens I’d go absolutely all out on one seat in the NTLA – Nightcliff, maybe; whichever one is closest to “winnable” – since if they could show they had some prospect of success one suspects things might change.

    It will be interesting to see if the CLP’s opportunistic introduction of optional preferential voting ends up increasing the size of their defeat. I could definitely see it advantaging Labor at this election.

  20. OPV doesn’t generally help the Coalition parties by exhausting Green votes in the situation currently occuring (ie Greens voters loath them with a passion), its far more effective at points in time where Green voters are disillusioned with Labor but don’t have much of a beef to pick with the CLP. (which is when they tend to vote 1 Green and then exhaust).

    Given the wide field of independents , and that the CLP is most likely losing, it’s pretty much guaranteed that OPV and their Just Vote 1 strategy will actually hurt them.

  21. Sprocket The NT NEWS was wrong again, Giles visited Alice Springs and then returned to Darwin for the debate and returned to his electorate yesterday afternoon. You should check what happened to the NT NEWS main political reporter, much more interesting.

  22. Let’s hope the polls aren’t out like they were with Brexit. I think the NT actually would benefit from a period of unexciting and workmanlike government. Plus they need Labor in power to counteract the inglorious ambitions for Northern Australia of Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan.

  23. @C@Tmomma

    You’d need more than Brexit poll out here assuming the 64% ALP 2PP poll is even vaguely statistically competent. The Brexit polls were out by a couple of percent. Standard margin of error is ~3%. The Shy Conservative effect (where people are more likely to vote against/for things they feel socially pressured to confirm too) is generally held to be somewhere between 2 and 7%. If you combined all those factors, assumed maxium magnitude, and assumed that none of them overlap (unlikely the Brexit vote and Shy Tory effect are probably the same phenomenon) , and none go against the CLP you’re still looking at 52% 2PP ALP (which is likely an ALP government with Independent support in practise).

  24. Computers rather than printouts being used to mark voters off the role.

    The electioneering exclusion zone worked – quiet as a mouse.

    Moil PS Sausage sizzle a significant improvement on Nakara PS in July.

    Three candidates – ALP, Green, CLP.

    Vote 1 – Ken Vowles.

  25. I’ll put my guess at around 4 seats for the CLP, although El Guapo’s on-the-ground conservatism gives me pause. Still, I can’t see this disastrous government getting off that lightly. I’ll go with 4 independents as well – Wood, Purick, Lambley, and one floater (no idea really how the rest will do – it might even be someone new – but I think at least one will get up). All the rest to Labor.

  26. Frickeg,
    7 is certainly my best-case scenario for the CLP. The difference between 25-0 and 15-10 can be as little as 2-3,000 votes territory-wide so it’s hard to call. I’m hoping the CLP get zero. But i think NT voters know the CLP will lose and so will go a little easier on them because the ALP haven’t captured their trust or imagination and they won’t want to send them too big a message of support.

    I also think Bess Price and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu have been reasonable local members and may both get back in. Blain will be interesting – Damian Hale, Terry Mills, and a CLP financial planner in formerly CLP mortgage-belt heartland.

  27. Of course the final result is unlikely to be quite as lopsided as the polls currently predict. But all the evidence still suggests the CLP are in for a serious arse kicking, no small achievement given they are a first term government in a polity notoriously reluctant to change governments.

    They will be doing well to keep 6 seats.

  28. With the Brexit, the polling were around 50-52% on either side, so close to within a margin of error. It seems polling in the NT was very clear cut. The advantage of the Brexit polling though was that there was plentiful of data, while NT have had only what.. 2 polls in the last month?

  29. A correction: not one, but two of CLP’s Indigenous MLAs elected in 2012 remain and are running again this time round. Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu is running again for Arafura as well as Bess Price in Stuart (who you mentioned above)

    Thanks, fixed.

  30. It also needs to be said since neither the NT News or the ABC seem capable of stating it, but Dave Tollner did not resign, stand down or not run – he was dumped in preselection. I’m not sure whether any sitting treasurers have ever lost pre-selection before.

  31. You’re probably right William. After trying to tell residents in Fong Lim that they really needed to have an international standard rugby park developed by pinching land off the local primary school the well-heeled residents were up in arms.

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