Northern Territory election guide

Introducing the Poll Bludger’s seat-by-seat guide to the Northern Territory election, to be held a fortnight from Saturday.

With polling day a fortnight from this Saturday, I finally have a guide to the Northern Territory election in business, consisting of an overview and guides to the 25 electorates. An except from the former:

The changes in the composition of parliament leave Labor in a position where it can lose no more than three of its existing seats without losing a majority, although it is presumably hopeful of recovering Fong Lim from Jeff Collins. Its position has been further weakened by a redistribution which, though generally limited in its effects, has caused the formerly remote electorate of Namatjira to absorb suburbs in largely conservative-voting in Alice Springs, turning it into a notionally CLP-held seat. However, the CLP’s cause has been gravely hampered by the emergence of the Territory Alliance, which demonstrated its potency by outpolling it at the Johnston by-election.

The next milestone on the road to polling day is the closure of nominations at noon today, to be followed by the draw of ballot paper positions.

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.

28 comments on “Northern Territory election guide”

  1. Labor to win with 14-16 seats. CLP 4-6, Indi’s 2-3 (Nelson & Goyder, Mulka?) , & the Territory Alliance 1-2 (Mills & Braitling?)

  2. It’s been a while since I lived in Darwin, but the sorry history of conservative domination of NT governance has bequeathed a bill of $170 million for Hatton’s Haunted House for 25 MPs and their staffs, when, say, 10-or-so members meeting in someone’s backyard over a few beers could do a much better job. To get elected and re-elected all you need do is get your teeth whitened regularly, pat Little Johnny or Jenny on the head for winning the school 100-metres dash and leave the choir boys alone.

    Talent is a sadly-missing ingredient for members on both sides. The CLP of the ’80s and ’90s was a retirement home for failed businessmen and assorted spivs and carpetbaggers and nobody in the ALP dare mention the name ‘Bob Collins’ in polite circles.

    Rural electorates with indigenous majorities were always neglected in favour of maintaining sporting fields and clubhouses in urban areas. Urban prosperity, rural squalor. My daughter informs me nothing much has changed. Yet I often have a yearning to return and savour the ‘lifestyle’.

    As Shakespeare wrote, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy….” Like all of Northern Australia, I love to dream and scheme about the magnificent potential of the Top End. Building the railway was worth the debt and any local equivalent of the Bradfield scheme would tickle my ancient heart. A good start would be to buy back that absurd Chinese-owned harbour lease. Thanks CLP….

  3. Thanks for posting Will! Love your guides as always.

    Need to fix up Blain entry. Either move Terry Mills photo to top, or change reference to (Bottom) in the photos section.

    Also Araluen to change reference for Robyn to ‘Territory Alliance’ as she is no longer an independent.

  4. I suspect a fair amount of analysis will be done on Fong Lim and Jeff (The Fireman) Collins’ chances of retaing. (When I say fair I mean only on PB and very likely only by 2 bloggers)
    But in the unlikely case that anyone is interested this is from The SMH 19 years ago:

    ALP preselection for Lindsay was scheduled for last weekend. The preselection method, an N40 ballot, was itself enough of an indication of how much the party wants Bradbury in the seat. Instead of all rank and file members in the electorate – some 220 – given a vote, an FEC is assembled, where delegates from each of the branches in Lindsay vote on behalf of their fellow members. But the FEC only makes up 50 per cent of the vote. The remainder comes from head office’s administrative committee which is heavily aligned to the right.
    Bradbury’s primary opponent was Jeff Collins, also from the right. A firefighter, solicitor, electrician, family man, the 40-something Collins is a stark contrast to the newly married, youthful and politically privileged Bradbury. Collins’ line is that he is a man with life experience, a rank and file contender with a hard-work background that most Lindsay electors could relate to. Collins was touted by his fellow Kingswood branch members (incidentally the branch accused of stacking the 1998 federal election preselection in favour of Cathy O’Toole) as the candidate with the most rank and file support. Bradbury, they said, didn’t have the numbers on the ground. Whether or not that is true we will never know. As soon as Collins announced his intention to stand for preselection three weeks ago, the N40 ballot, which would seem to favour Bradbury, was called. However, last Thursday, before the ballot could be held, Collins and another candidate, Eleanor Cannings, declared their withdrawal from the the race, leaving Bradbury the winner.

    I have sympathy for Jeff – he was diddled out of a place in the big house twice by some very unpleasant people in the NSW Right and eventually, after 15 years, had to be satisfied with an electorate of 5000 in a tinpot parliament. He than ratted within 18 months – Roozendaal may have been right all along

  5. I feel OC fate has a role to play for the Fireman. NT electorates are so fickle – you cannot discount him ending up with BOP or being speaker to shore up Labors numbers.

    I do think Terry Mills will get re-knifed. Is that an Australian electoral first?

  6. So 4 candidates in Fong Lim. Who is the Indy? Who are they preferencing ? Could decide Fong Lim.

    Do you have to register how to votes in NT? Or is it freestyle ?

  7. Goyder should be fun to watch. There’s the ex-LNP independent MP, the Labor MP she beat in 2008 (now also an independent), the CLP candidate from 2016 as, you guessed it, an independent… oh, and the official Labor and CLP candidates. And Territory Alliance, and the Greens. And “Rubbish Warrior” Trevor Jenkins, who seems to really like running in elections for some reason. (Daly 2012, Casuarina 2014 by-election, Karama 2016, Johnston 2018 by-election, and now here.) Eight candidates all up, more than anywhere else in the NT. It could end up like Morwell last Vic election – vote splattered between half a dozen candidates and somebody won from 19% of the primary vote. Get the popcorn.

    Also, the official Labor candidate (same guy as last time, only nominated at the last minute) is named Mick Taylor. Seriously. In this part of the world, what a name to have.

  8. Well someone has to start the ball rolling, so here are my rough predictions:

    Arafura – Labor Retain
    Araluen – Territory Alliance Retain
    Arnhem – Labor Retain
    Barkley – CLP GAIN
    Blain – Territory Alliance Retain
    Braitling – TOSS UP
    Brennan – TOSS UP
    Casuarina – Labor Retain
    Daly – CLP Retain
    Drysdale – Labor Retain
    Fannie Bay – Labor Retain
    Fong Lim – Territory Alliance Retain
    Goyder – Independent Retain
    Gwoja – Labor Retain
    Johnston – Labor Retain
    Karama – Labor Retain
    Katherine – CLP GAIN
    Mulka – Independent Retain
    Namatjira – CLP GAIN
    Nelson – CLP GAIN
    Nightcliff – Labor Retain
    Port Darwin – Labor Retain
    Sanderson – TOSS UP
    Spillett – CLP Retain
    Wanguri – Labor Retain

    *Braitling is a TOSS UP as it depends on preferences. ALP, AJP and GRN I’d expect to go
    together and CLP with TA. The wild card is Scott McConnell (IND – former ALP).

    *Brennan – Labor could hold this, and normally on
    such a low margin I’d say not… but with the former CLP MLA as an Independent, the endorsed CLP candidate and TA… if those preferences stay together may elect one of them, or completely splinter and let Labor do a Bradbury.

    *Fong Lim – I consider this a retain just with Jeff Collins high profile that should see
    him get over the line, although this could be simialr to Mulgrave, Townsville & Thuringowa
    2012 (QLD) or Prahan 2018 (VIC) vote wise.

    *Katherine – I put as gain as loss of sitting member and traditional CLP Seat.

    *Namatjira – I put as a gain due to favourable distribution and loss of sitting member.

    *Nelson – I put as CLP Gain with a higher CLP vote than Labor usually and with a very
    popular sitting independent member retiring, I see it falling back to the CLP fold.
    Gerry Wood is saying he would prefer the seat to stay in independent hands but he
    hasn’t been as active in campaigning. With no ALP in this seat, TA might have a chance
    but think their peak has passed.

    *Port Darwin – On such a low margin, I’d normally say this would be a gain but think
    the ALP have done enough here to hold on.

    *Sanderson – an article in NT News put this one as unpredictable given it generally
    has fallen in line with the party that forms government and has changed hands many times.
    Depends how people think Gunner has handled COVID and the economy. One to watch to see
    the overall mood of the entire NT Electorate.

    ALP: 11
    CLP: 6
    TA: 3
    IND: 2
    Toss Ups: 3

    I may be too harsh on Labor in Sanderson and Braitling, and too generous in Port Darwin,
    but if those toss-ups stay with Labor, outcome is a LABOR MAJORITY.

    Feel free to discuss, agree/dis-agree 🙂

    [EDIT: After seeing Bird of Paradox’s comment re: Goyder, I agree it’s quite an interesting field and surprisingy an electorate pulled 8 candidates for the NT. I think Kezia will still get it as they seem to love her out there.]

  9. I’ve updated the guide with the full candidates and corrected the error on the Blain page (thanks Politics_Obsessed). You’ll probably need to do a hard refresh to give effect to this if you’ve opened the pages already.

  10. I’d wait to see the HTV cards in Fong Lim. It’ll quite likely end up with the three main parties getting about a third of the vote each, then waiting to see who came third and where their preferences go. The CLP put Labor at #2 at the Johnston by-election, maybe they’ll repeat the favour if they hate Mills’ breakaway faction more than the old enemy. I can’t imagine Labor will have Collins anywhere but last.

    Katherine’s another seat where TA might do well. Over 30% voted for someone other than the big two in 2016, and Labor basically won it from some of those preferences exhausting. Under CPV, the CLP would’ve probably hung on.

    I didn’t notice Brennan. So that’s Peter Chandler, Scott McConnell, the three TA MPs and the whole mess in Goyder on the candidate list. Even for the NT, that’s a lot of (sitting or former) MPs running against their old parties.

  11. Brennan is interesting that the previous CLP MP and former Deputy Premier Peter Chandler is running as an independent.

    Brennan is a four candidate contest with a sitting ALP MP, CLP and TA.

    Chandler’s preferences at least could determine which out of CLP and TA could make the final count and possibly win.

    At best Chandler if elected could be lending support to either non-Labor force.

  12. Other candidate potpourri…

    The CLP aren’t running in Mulka. Just two candidates there, Guyula and Walker.

    TA not running in Mulka, Arnhem, Barkly or Gwoja.

    Greens running in ten seats.

    Something called the Federation Party (micro-right nutbars I think?) is running in Araluen, Braitling, Namatjira and Gwoja.

    Animal Justice is running in Nightcliff, and BFFCPW (hey! cat! off the keyboard!) is running in Drysdale.

  13. Kevin Bonham’s post on recent dodgy-ish polling in the NT:

    The TA-sponsored poll has them getting over 40% in the three seats they hold, and also Sanderson. (Ehh?) Over 30% in the other Palmerston and Alice Springs seats, and Katherine. It also has “others” over 50% in Mulka and Goyder for obvious reasons, about 30% in Nelson (presumably Beverley Ratahi, who would have a decent chance with that), and also weirdly strong in a few Darwin seats. In Johnston and Casuarina that’d be the Greens, elsewhere there’d be some disappointed people who only find three candidates on their ballot people. (Over 20% “others” in Karama, for example – maybe people thought Delia Lawrie was running again?)

    Take with a grain of salt of course, but it’s interesting.

  14. Gerry Wood is saying he would prefer the seat to stay in independent hands but he
    hasn’t been as active in campaigning.

    Wood does have a wife with dementia to care for, which is one of the two reasons he is retiring, the other being his age (70). He has been fairly low profile for a while now, since announcing his retirement 18 months ago.

    Beverley Ratahi is probably in with a decent chance. Wood’s long run and preparedness to work with both sides has established (genuine) independents as a legit non-protest choice in Nelson.

    One possible (unfair) handicap for the CLP candidate (Gerard Maley) is that he is the brother of Peter Maley, whose single-term parliamentary career, mostly as a CLP, then briefly an independent, was not a roaring success. He did not depart under auspicious circumstances, nor has done himself any favours with his post-parliamentary antics.

    Gerard Maley stood in the last election in Nelson, and only got 27% as 2PP, which is not great even considering he was up against a very popular established independent, though the CLP were very much on the nose in that election. He has also been working at his brother’s legal firm, which may not be the best association to have for an aspiring NT pollie in the rural seat adjacent to the one formerly held by his brother. He is, however, a long term local resident who has raised his family in the electorate and is not a blow in, so that may help. He also started his campaign some months back and has put in a lot of leg and phone work, and as far as I know is a clean skin politically and personally.

    I don’t know anything about the TA candidate for Nelson, other than he has a shaved head and a lot of posters around the place.

    Not convinced the TA are going to do well overall. The NT isn’t actually a good fit with that kind of reactionary hard right politics, especially the religiously tinged type, which the TA seem to attract. They also have trouble sticking to their guns on policy, such as the hot potato of fracking, which is never a good look.

    Overall it is likely to be a modest Labor win, with a reduced margin (inevitable given their massive landslide win last time against the truly obnoxious and widely loathed usurper Adam Giles). Labor’s handling of the COVID-19 situation has also been outstanding by any measure, indeed the best in the country, with no local transmission so far, and the serious troubles in other parts of the country in dealing with the virus has probably made the locals more appreciative of that success and rather keen to keep it that way.

  15. Thanks @JM for that informative post about Nelson. In regards to Gerry, it wasn’t a slight against him at all and understand the circumstances. It was more a general comment about when previous independents [eg Indi-Federal] help the next upcoming independent win through active campaigning. However, you are right that he is well respected and by mentioning his support for Beverley will carry some weight, and she does have some profile of her own.

    I’m absolutely happy to be proved wrong with those predictions, it was more just to get the ball rolling as it’s been quiet on the NT front with comments. I am very curious to see how TA do go and going by some of the comments on NT News, the back-flipping is hurting TA quite hard.

    @Bird of Paradox haha I love that description of the former 1 Territory Party (Ban Fracking Fix Crime Protect Water). With Territory Alliance running in 21 seats, that really has sucked the oxygen out of the party harnessing that vote and running in more areas.

    Comparing candidates from last election: (2016 candidates, 2020 candidates, difference)
    ALP 25 – 25 (-)
    CLP 25 – 24 (-1)
    BFFCPW (1 Territory) 13 – 1 (-12)
    GRN 6 – 10 (+4)
    SFF 2 – 0 (-2)
    CEC 4 -0 (-1)
    AJP 0 – 1 (+1)
    AFP 0 – 4 (+4)
    TA 0 – 21 (+21)
    IND 40 – 25 (-15)

    Total 115 – 111 (-4)

    General Comments: The drop in Independents can be attributed to TA running as a high profile third force but also to, as Bird of Paradox and others mentioned, high profile Independents being former MLAs, current MLAs or links to others. The drop in BFFCPW is mentioned above. AFP basically takes CEC spot. GRNs are back at their 2012 candidate level, so not much to see here. CLP not contesting Mulka makes strategic sense and saves precious resources for other seats. I admit I’m surprised SFF isn’t running any candidates despite being registered for this election. They ran in Katherine and Nelson last time, two seats that would have been more conducive to support this time.

    Overall it’s hard for a third party force to crack NT. 2012 had Australia’s First Nations Political Party and Australin Sex Party and GRN. 2005 & 2008 was just GRN. 2001 had Democrats, One Nation, Socialist Alliance and Territory Alliance Party. The NT Nationals I guess could be counted as the only successful third party with a seat in 1987 (although it was a sitting MLA, former CM) and a 1988 by-election but lost them at the next general election.

    The NT Nationals did run a candidate in every seat in 1987 as did Progress in 1977.

    All in all it’s going to be quite an interesting election and will be fun to watch the TA impact on the election, either to do well or completely implode.

  16. In regards to Gerry, it wasn’t a slight against him at all and understand the circumstances.

    I understand. Was just noting that fact for the general PB readership.

    His endorsement of Beverley Ratahi should carry considerable weight.

  17. Barkley I suspect remains alp. Fong Lim….. Labor, Daly….. toss up, Nelson…. independent. but with small electorates and preferences all over the place…… who knows. Small Labor majority or hung parliament.

  18. Collins might be hurting over what allegedly went down against him but to preference the CA above Labor is just inexcusable. A pox on the fireman.

  19. (I haven’t posted links before so will see how this goes. PAYWALLED Article by the way)

    NT News has an article that see where the seats will go based on Sportsbet current odds.
    It has ALP 14 – CLP 4 – TA 4 – IND 3. Further information from the article as follows:

    “Independents will make up the remaining three seats, with Sportsbet of the opinion Kezia Purick, Beverley Ratahi and Yingiya Guyula would take the seats of Goyder, Nelson and Mulka respectively.

    Territory Alliance is favourite to hold Blain, Araluen and Fong Lim while gaining Namatjira via candidate Matt Paterson.

    The CLP would hold Spillett and Daly while gaining Katherine and Port Darwin via Jo Hersey and Toby George.”

    I have to say it would be interesting to see if TA and CLP both end up on the same number of seats and we start the opposition party circus again, to which CLP was lucky to hold onto last time. (Considering that effectively they are a party of 1 going into this election.) Kezia would support a CLP Opposition, Beverly I would have no idea and Yingiya… he did try to join Terry Mill’s original party concept but then voted for a CLP Opposition. I guess as Donald Rumsfeld would say, there are unknown unknowns, and this makes this election all the more fun to watch!

    I have changed Nelson as IND HOLD from my previous predictions and Port Darwin to TOSS UP. I can’t say I have much local knowledge about Namatjira, so I am curious to see the betting markets say a TA gain, although for now I will stick with CLP GAIN. (EDIT: Deputy Mayor of Alice Springs and the redistribution added more of Alice Springs into this electorate. So he’s in with a chance then, but still Alice has a strong CLP history.) That leaves the current tally as follows:
    ALP: 10
    CLP: 5
    TA: 3
    IND: 3
    Toss Ups: 4

    And after those ads from Tracey Hayes in Fannie Bay, I’m expecting a big swing against Gunner but whether this translate to doing a Giles… we’ll have to wait and see.

    @Mick I agree that small electorates make it hard and after the last wild election… anything is possible. (Katherine 2016 I think proved that by itself!)

  20. upsets….. Daly, Namitjara, Katherine braitling (all possible alp….. even though lnp/ta wins more likely)
    ALP….. LOSE 1 or both…. Palmerston seats)

  21. I am quietly confident Labor will hold on in Port Darwin. Paul Kirby seems well liked and has been very active in the electorate. It has seemed pretty positive at the early voting centre I have been at. Speaking of early voting, as of the end of yersterday, 18 percent of eligible voters had voted. When you account for lower turn out up here, probably close to a quarter of all votes have been cast.

  22. Another thing. Of course it is always hard to know how things will play out, but I actually think the Tracey Hayes ad will backfire.

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