Johnston by-election live

Live coverage of counting for the Northern Territory’s Johnston by-election.

Click here for full display of results.


Labor’s Joel Bowden finished the evening with a lead of 170 votes (2.6%) over Steven Klose of the Territory Alliance on the preference count, with probably only a few dozen votes outstanding. The Country Liberal Party humiliatingly finished in fourth place, with the Greens doing well to maintain their 17% share of the vote despite the expansion of the field from three candidates to seven. Together with the 21.4% slump in the Labor primary vote, the result is another illustration of the pronounced appetite voters have developed for minor parties when given a sufficient range of options. Another candidate, Braedon Earley, polled 10.4% on an anti-fracking platform, presumably benefiting from a considerable constituency hostile to both fracking and the Greens.

Labor was clearly buoyed by the strength of its candidate, a former Richmond AFL player and general secretary of Unions NT. While the Greens’ preference recommendation may have cut as much as 4% from the Labor margin, this was negated by the CLP’s equally curious decision to put Labor second, reflected in a near 50-50 split of their preferences (going off scrutineering figures obtained by Antony Green). A more normal CLP preference split would almost certainly have delivered the seat to the Territory Alliance — a result that perhaps scared the CLP more than a Labor win, potentially threatening their status as the main conservative party.

The result makes it very hard to determine how the August election might look. For all the strength of the Territory Alliance’s performance, its challenge in actually winning seats remains formidable — though perhaps not insurmountable if their near-success at the by-election inspires a bandwagon effect. The other notably strong performer, the Greens, do not enjoy the localised critical mass of support needed to win seats. However, it is clear both that voters are willing to turn away from the government, and that a CLP that can boast only two members of parliament is not seen as a credible alternative. The likeliest possibilities are either a bare Labor majority or a hung parliament with the Territory Alliance and independents as kingmakers or perhaps even coalition partners.

Live commentary

8.14pm. Eighty postal votes have been added — a bit more than Antony figured — on both the primary and two-party vote, breaking 47-33 to Labor.

8.11pm. My probability estimate assumes 304 outstanding votes, which is somewhat arbitrary. To the extent that that’s an overstatement, the remaining 1.9% probability of a Labor defeat disappears.

8.05pm. Rapid Creek EVC now in on two-party preferred, paring back my projection of Labor’s winning margin to 2.0%. They have a raw lead of 156 votes, with only 50 votes outstanding plus whatever the Darwin area mobile team will amount to, which probably isn’t much (and which I don’t expect will be favourable to conservatives).

7.57pm. Possible wild card: anti-fracking independent Braedon Earley’s preferences flowing heavily to the Greens, putting them ahead of the Territory Alliance, and after that who knows. But a long shot on both counts.

7.53pm. On Twitter, Antony relates there will only be about 50 postals, and a Northern Territory News reports Labor is about to claim victory.

7.47pm. Antony Green and I are of one mind: “I have three different methods for predicting the Johnston by-election result, and all three are predicting Labor to win with 52.6% after preferences.”

7.46pm. Rapid Creek EVC primary vote in, resulting in little change to the overall picture.

7.39pm. Moil booth has reported on two-party, behaving as my model expected to, leaving the Labor winning margin all but unchanged on 2.3%. Labor win probability now up to 98%, with the Rapid Creek EVC the only substantial unreported booth. However, this is a new booth that I’ve dealt with by dividing the results of the Casuarina EVC between the two, and it can’t be ruled out that its behaviour won’t quite be the same.

7.25pm. Millner two-party result in, with a slightly weaker preference flow from elsewhere bringing the projected Labor margin back from 3.0% to 2.4%. But because there are fewer votes outstanding now, this hasn’t changed my model’s estimation of a Labor win probability around 95%.

7.19pm. Moil booth added on the primary vote, and while it has the biggest primary vote swing against Labor so far, it hasn’t fundamentally changed the situation, projecting a 3.0% Labor winning margin. But for what it’s worth, the Labor win probability is back inside 95%.

7.00pm. The Casuarina pre-poll booth is in, on primary and two-party, and it’s firming up as a Labor-versus-Territory Alliance contest with the CLP still in fourth place. These numbers haven’t rocked my preference projection too hard, which is to say that Labor looks to be retaining a solid flow of Greens preferences despite the how-to-vote card. My model says Labor are very likely to win, with a projected 3.5% winning margin, but I’d still be conservative about interpreting it.

6.55pm. With that said, the Greens are doing well — their vote is up despite the fact they were the only minor party option in the field in 2016, compared with five this time, and they’re actually ahead of the CLP. So that slump in the Labor primary vote could partly be votes going to the Greens and coming back to them on preferences.

6.52pm. The Millner booth is now in — Territory Alliance continues to outpoll the CLP, while Labor’s primary vote has slumped by 20.7%. My projections remain rosy for Labor, but that assumes they will get 56% of preferences which I’m pretty sure won’t happen, because that’s calculated off a Darwin EVC result that had the CLP on 7.6%, whereas the Millner result is twice as much. So treat it with a grain of salt until we get the Millner two-party count.

6.49pm. Sorry, I had that the wrong way around — it’s Labor leading 40-26. And I think by results display is working now, and while it’s almost giving it to Labor, obviously you would want more numbers. Part of the equation here is that Labor got 16 minor party and independent preferences and the Territory Alliance got 11, which needless to say isn’t much to go on.

6.40pm. The two-party count for Darwin ECV bodes well for the Territory Alliance, who lead 40-26 — but not for my results display, which has tanked under the pressure of having the parties other than I expected them to be. Will see if I can fix.

6.28pm. The NTEC’s results are on display now here, and we have 66 votes from the Darwin pre-poll centre. Obviously that’s not much to go on, but it’s interesting that the Territory Alliance has 15 votes to the CLP’s five. So far so good for my own results display — I’m projecting a 36.6% primary vote for Labor, which suggests they’re in trouble in less preferences behave in an unanticipated fashion.

6.20pm. Hopefully the plan is for the NTEC results display to come to life when there is actually a result to report. I will try to just swap Territory Alliance for CLP in my two-party calculations, so the latter’s historic results are used to calculate the swing for the former, but I don’t know how smoothly that’s going to run. That’s assuming that the NTEC is planning on publishing anything …

6.16pm. Still no sign of any results facility on the NTEC site, and no media feed in operation. I asked Antony Green on Twitter where he would be getting his results from, and his answer was “I don’t know yet”.

6pm. And they’re off. Antony Green relates on Twitter that the Northern Territory Electoral Commission have surprisingly decided to make their indicative count between Labor and the Territory Alliance, which means I won’t be able to calculate two-party swings. There’s also no sign of any results display on their website.


Today is the day of the Northern Territory’s Johnston by-election, which also happens to the first election of any kind in Australia above local government level since the federal election last May. Labor holds the northern Darwin seat by a margin of 14.7%, but the seat is less secure for them than this makes it appear owing to the scale of the Labor landslide in 2016 and the importance of local and candidate factors in the territory’s boutique electorates, which have only around 5000 voters.

A very substantial swing against Labor can be anticipated due to the departure of sitting member of Ken Vowles and his estrangement from the party, together with the general difficulties that have beset Michael Gunner’s Labor government since it came to power in 2016. There is also the fact that the Greens are instructing voters to put Labor last in protest over the government’s lifting of a moratorium on gas fracking exploration, although the effect of this is limited by a prohibition on disseminating how-to-vote cards near polling places.

All of this bodes well for the opposition Country Liberal Party, although they face opposition for the conservative vote from Territory Alliance, a new party founded by former CLP Chief Minister and now independent MP Terry Mills which is making its electoral debut. For what’s it’s worth, the latter’s candidate is the $1.70 favourite at Sportsbet, which is offering $1.90 for Labor and $2.75 for the CLP.

Live coverage will follow here upon the closure of polling at 6pm, encompassing analysis on this post and a detailed display of results that is ready to go here. Naturally though, in an electorate this small there are only so many results to follow – two election day polling booths plus two pre-poll booths, with the latter accounting for an ever increasing share of the action.


A second by-election now looms in Queensland, in which One Nation may cause trouble in a traditionally Labor-voting working class seat. Elsewhere, Josh Frydenberg faces a contentious Section 44 challenge, and a Victorian Liberal aspirant regrets not paying his train fare.

At the top of the sidebar are links to guides I have up for three by-election campaigns currently in progress, including yesterday’s new addition:

• Queensland’s festival of democracy on March 28 looks set to receive a new attraction after Jo-Ann Miller’s announcement to parliament yesterday that she is resigning as member of the eastern Ipswich seat of Bundamba, effective immediately. After two decades as Labor member, Miller has grown increasingly estranged from her party over time, a particularly interesting manifestation of which was an appearance alongside Pauline Hanson on the campaign trail two days before the December 2017 state election. One Nation did not field a candidate against Miller in 2017, but has been quick to announce it has a candidate ready to go for the by-election, who will be announced on the weekend. Since Ipswich was the birthplace of the Hanson phenomenon, this could yet make the by-election more interesting than the 21.6% two-party margin suggests. Tony Moore of the Brisbane Times reports Steve Axe, Miller’s electorate officer, will contest the preselection, but Sarah Elks of The Australian reports the front runners are two candidates of the Left: Nick Thompson and Lance McCallum, who are respectively aligned with the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and the Electrical Trades Union. I have a provisional by-election guide up and running which takes it for granted it will be held on March 28, though this is yet to be officially confirmed. Also on that day will be the Currumbin by-election and council elections, including for the big prizes of the Brisbane city council and lord mayoralty.

• Further on the by-election front, I had a paywalled piece in Crikey yesterday on the Greens preferences imbroglio in Johnston.

Legal matters:

• The Federal Court is hearing a Section 44 challenge against Josh Frydenberg relating to his Hungarian-born mother, which complainant Michael Staindl argues makes him a dual citizen. Frydenberg’s mother and her family fled the country in 1949 as its post-war communist regime tightened its grip on power, describing themselves as stateless on arrival in Australia. Staindl maintains that the whole family’s Hungarian citizenship rights were restored with the collapse of communism in 1949. Staindl is also pursuing defamation action against Scott Morrison over the latter’s claim that his action was motivated by anti-Semitism. The Australian ($) reports a decision is expected “within weeks”.

• In further legal obscurantism news, Emanuele Cicchiello has withdrawn from the race to fill Mary Wooldridge’s vacancy in the Victorian Legislative Council on the grounds that he once pleaded guilty to an offence carrying a prison term of more than five years – for improperly claiming a concessional train fare when he was 19. The Australian ($) reports that those remaining in the field are Asher Judah, former Property Council deputy director and Master Builders policy manager, and Matthew Bach, deputy director of Ivanhoe Girls Grammar.

Return of the frack

A contentious preference recommendation by the Greens brings a Northern Territory by-election to life, while the closure of nominations yields only a small field of candidates for the Queensland seat of Currumbin.

No Newspoll this week, owing to The Australian’s enthusiasm for unleashing them at the start of parliamentary sitting weeks, requiring a three week break rather than the usual two. However, we do have a extensive new poll on the bushfire crisis from the Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods and the Social Research Centre. It finds that fully 78.6% of the population reports being affected by the fires in one way or another, 14.4% severely or directly. Half the sample of 3000 respondents was asked how Scott Morrison had handled the bushfires, of whom 64.5% disapproved; for the other half the question was framed in terms of the government, with 59.4% disapproving.

Beyond that, there’s the two state/territory by-election campaigns currently in progress:

• I have posted a guide to next Saturday’s by-election in the Northern Territory seat of Johnston, which has suddenly became of more than marginal interest owing to the Greens decision to put Labor last on their how-to-vote cards (albeit that local electoral laws prevent these being distributed within close proximity of polling booths). This has been done to protest the decision by Michael Gunner’s Labor government to lift a moratorium on gas fracking exploration. The party has not taken such a step in any jurisdiction since the Queensland state election of July 1995, when it sought to punish Wayne Goss’s government in the seat of Springwood over a planned motorway through a koala habitat. This made a minor contribution to its loss of the seat, and hence to its eventual removal from office after a by-election defeat the following February. There’s acres of useful information on all this on Antony Green’s new blog, which he is publishing independently due to the ABC’s cavalier treatment of the invaluable blog he had there in happier times. There will also be a piece by me on the Greens’ decision in Crikey today, God willing.

• The other by-election in progress at the moment is for the Queensland seat of Currumbin on March 28, for which my guide can be found guide can be found here. With the closure of nominations last week, only two candidates emerged additional to Laura Gerber of the Liberal National Party and Kaylee Campradt of Labor: Sally Spain of the Greens, a perennial candidate for the party in federal and state Gold Coast seats; and Nicholas Bettany of One Nation, about whom the only thing I can tell you is that he recently deleted his Twitter account (what’s preserved of it on the Google cache reveals nothing particularly outrageous).

Casuarina by-election live

The first of our two by-elections today is for the Northern Territory seat of Casuarina, which is being vacated by the retirement of Labor’s Kon Vatskalis.

Election count

7.51pm. The Nakara 2PP was also better for Labor than my projection, so their raw two-party margin is now 5.1%. I’m projecting it to come down to 3.0%, but it will probably be a bit higher than that because there are no absent votes at a by-election, which is always a difficulty when you’re trying to project general election results on to a by-election. So I’m certainly calling it for Labor, but with a fairly solid swing to the CLP. Although that may tell you about Kon Vatskalis’s personal vote more than the overall standing of the parties.

7.38pm. The Tiwi 2PP result was better for Labor than my projection: 722-548, rather than 694-576. I’m now posting a 2.0% margin for Labor, but it should probably be slightly higher than that given that I’m still using the old preference projection for the Nakara primary vote result.

7.30pm. Actually, the 3.4% just cited is Labor’s raw lead. I’m actually projecting them winning by 1.5%. Which, with actual 2PP numbers not yet in and some postals and such still outstanding, means you wouldn’t quite write the CLP off yet.

7.22pm. Primary votes are now in from the two main booths, and based on my rough preference calculation (which gives Labor 80% of Greens preferences and 40% of everybody else’s), the large Nakara booth has swung to the CLP by 9.6% (2026 votes), and the smaller Tiwi booth has swung 3.9% (1270 votes). All told, I’m projecting a Labor win by 252 votes, or 3.4%, from a 7.8% swing. But the CLP wouldn’t be conceding yet.

7.03pm. When I said a 7.9% swing just now, that was only referring to the postals. Combining postals and the Darwin pre-poll, I make it 6.4%.

7.00pm. The 2PP from those postals is 64-62 in favour of CLP, not 67-59 as per my projection. Those three votes make a big difference to the swing calculation, putting it at 7.9% rather than 10.3%.

6.55pm. Ha! My preference distribution guesstimate from the Darwin pre-poll booth was exactly right: 127 votes to CLP, 124 to Labor. We’ve now also got 126 postals, and they’re very interesting – a 10.3% swing to the CLP, going off the preference distribution that served me so well last time. Given the 9.3% margin, this could prove very close indeed if the pattern is followed at the two main booths.

6.42pm. Antony Green has the swing at 4.6%, but we’re both guessing at this stage.

6.37pm. The Darwin pre-poll booth has reported its 251 votes, and it has Labor’s primary vote down about 14% on the election — although that’s partly because there were only two candidates at the election, and the 10.4% Greens vote in particular had to come from somewhere. The CLP vote is about unchanged, and based on my back-of-envelope preference calculation, there is a two-party swing to them of 3.7%. That wouldn’t be enough for them to win the seat, but it would be better for them than they might have expected.


Two by-elections today: one for the Western Australian seat of Vasse (on which you can read my thoughts here, as well as here if you’re a Crikey subscriber), where polls will close at 9pm eastern standard time; and one in the Northern Territory seat of Casuarina, where polls close at 7:30pm EST. Casuarina is being vacated by the retirement of Kon Vatskalis, the Labor member since 2001. It covers Darwin’s northernmost coastal suburbs of Tiwi and Brinkin, along with Alawa and Nakara immediately inland.

Casuarina has existed as an electorate since the parliament was established in 1974, and was held by the Country Liberal Party for the entirety of its history until Vatskalis’s victory in 2001. The member from 1974 to 1994 was Nick Dondas, who went on to federal parliament for a term after winning what was then the single Northern Territory electorate in 1996. The vacated seat was contested at the 1994 election by television newsreader Peter Adamson for the CLP and ABC Radio presenter Clare Martin for Labor. Adamson prevailed, and Martin would instead find a way to parliament in the Fannie Bay electorate in 1995.

Casuarina was among the seats gained by Labor for the first time when Martin led the party to its first ever victory in 2001, Kon Vatskalis prevailing with a 3.5% margin after an 11.4% swing. Katskalis consolidated with another big swing of 15.5% in the 2005 landslide, which was dented only slightly by successive swings of 4.8% in 2008 and 4.9% in 2012, leaving Labor with its current margin of 9.3%. Given the comfortable margin and the troubled history of the CLP government, the expectation is that Labor will retain the seat. The two by-elections held so far this term, in the Darwin seat of Wanguri and the Palmerston seat of Blain, have both produced double-digit swings to Labor.

Labor’s candidate is 27-year-old Lauren Moss, a 27-year-old health campaigner and youth advocate. Moss won the support of the locally dominant Right, which was seen as a snub to Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie, who favoured Darwin alderman Kate Worden. Also in the field was Matthew Gardiner, an organiser with United Voice, who was disadvantaged by his alignment with the Left. The CLP candidate is Harry Kypreos, a general practitioner from Lyons. Moss and Kypreos are joined on the ballot paper by a further five candidates, making for one candidate per 783 voters: Michael Connard of the Greens, Trudy Campbell of the Citizens Electoral Council, and independents George Mamouzellos, Trevor Jenkins and Jack Childers Henderson.

Updates on the results will be added to this post as they are published. Reflecting the small size of the territory’s electorates, there are only two polling booths for the by-election: Nakara Primary School and Dripstone Middle School, which are located within half a kilometre of each other.

Blain by-election live

Will the Northern Territory’s Country Liberal government still have its majority by the end of the evening? Find out here.

7.35pm. Now, all in one hit, we’ve got both primary and pre-poll results from all three ordinary polling booths, together with results from the Darwin pre-poll booth. The raw two-party result shows the CLP leading by 3.2%, and my projection is hardly different at 3.7%, a swing to Labor of 9.5%. I have the CLP primary vote down 15.8% on a booth-matched basis, or 45.5% in raw terms, but Labor is up only 3.2% to 37.5% thanks to the 8.3% vote for independent Matthew Cranitch. The Greens and Citizens Electoral Council, who did not field candidates in 2012, are respectively on 7.3% and 1.4%. So to summarise: the CLP has suffered a large swing, but not sufficient to cost them the seat given the extent to which it was absorbed by candidates other than Labor.

7.22pm. “I think we’ve won,” says CLP president Ross Connolly, as related by Nine reporter Kathleen Bruyn on Twitter. However, I still have nothing more to go on than the aforementioned Palmerston pre-poll booth primary votes.

7.20pm. The media feed being deployed by Antony Green is evidently running ahead of the result being published on the NTEC website, as it has a two-party result from those pre-polls. These suggest that my preference guesstimates were spot on, or at least that the errors cancelled out. There’s also talk on Twitter that the Rosebery booth is likewise recording a big-but-not-big-enough swing to Labor.

6.55pm. 521 pre-poll primary votes have been added, and based on my very crude preference distribution, in which Labor gets 80% of Greens preferences and 40% of independents and CEC, the result is a 9.1% swing off a margin of 13.2%.

6pm. Booths – all three of them – have closed. I guess we might see a first result in 45 minutes or so.

Blain by-election: April 12

The Northern Territory’s Country Liberal government will fight to keep its parliamentary majority intact at Saturday’s by-election to replace former party leader Terry Mills.

UPDATE (Friday 11/4): The Northern Territory News has published a poll from a small sample of 200 voters, which going on past form I presume to have been conducted in-house with help from the Adelaide Advertiser. This suggests a very close result, with the Country Liberal Party leading 51-49 on two-party preferred from primary votes of 40.8% for the CLP, 39.2% for Labor and 12.5% for independent Matthew Cranitch.

The parliamentary majority of Northern Territory’s Country Liberal Party government will be on the line on Saturday when voters in the Palmerston seat of Blain go to the polls to choose a successor to Terry Mills, who led the CLP to victory at the August 2012 election only to be deposed by his party less than seven months later. The CLP won 16 seats out of 25 at the election, after indigenous candidates fielded by the party emerged surprise winners in four remote electorates. However, last week the party lost the services of three of those members – Alison Anderson, Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier – who had been at loggerheads with their colleagues since the Tourism Minister, Matt Conlan, reportedly told Anderson during a party room meeting to “do us all a favour and f**k off you c**t”. They will now sit on the cross-benches, putting the parliamentary numbers at 13 for the CLP and eight for Labor with four independents. Should Blain fall on Saturday, Adam Giles’ government will be reduced to minority status, although it will presumably be able to rely on the support of Gerry Wood, the long-serving independent member for the pastoral electorate of Nelson. While the CLP margin in the seat is 13.2%, swings in the Northern Territory tend to be large due to the small size of the electorates (about 5000 enrolled voters each) and consequent importance of sitting member effects.

Palmerston is a fast-growing satellite city located about 20 kilometres east of central Darwin, and is serviced by three electorates in the Northern Territory parliament. Blain covers its southern end, including the suburbs of Woodroffe, Moulden, western Rosebery and the new development of Bellamack. It has been held by the CLP since its creation in 1997, but the margin fell to 3.3% at a by-election held in 1999 after the mid-term retirement of Barry Coulter. It was thereafter held comfortably by Terry Mills, who had two stints as party leader – from November 2003 to February 2005, when he stood aside admitting he “wasn’t up to the job”, and from January 2008 when he emerged at the head of a party room that had been reduced to four members by the 2005 election debacle. His position was secured by a 9.2% swing to the CLP under his leadership at the 2008 election, which was followed by a 5.1% swing in 2012. However, his hold on the loyalty of the party room remained shaky, and a 12.4% swing to Labor at the Wanguri by-election in February 2013 was enough to precipitate his demise.

The CLP’s candidate for the by-election is Nathan Barrett, a port worker and former high school teacher. Labor is again fielding its candidate from 2012, police officer Geoff Bahnert. Running as an independent is Matthew Cranitch, the president of the territory branch of the Australian Education Union, which is not affiliated with the ALP. Cranitch has dealt Labor a blow by putting Barrett and ahead of Bahnert on his how-to-vote card. Other candidates are Palmerston councillor Sue McKinnon for the Greens and former naval officer Peter Flynn of the Citizens Electoral Council.

BludgerTrack: 54.7-45.3 to Coalition

The Poll Bludger’s federal poll aggregate has recorded little change since the previous result a week ago. Also featured: preselection argybargy, changes to electoral legislation, a new Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, and a by-election result.

In recognition of the quickening tempo as the federal election draws nearer (let’s continue to presume it will indeed be on September 14), my mid-week update to the BludgerTrack 2013 poll aggregate will henceforth get its own thread. This means that in the normal course of things there will be three more-or-less evenly spaced federal politics post a week: one hanging off the main poll release on Sunday or Monday, the regular “Seat of the Week” on Friday or Saturday, and the BludgerTrack update in between.

The latest update throws the latest results from Nielsen and Essential Research into the mix, producing little change after the slight recovery for Labor last week. However, the state relativities have changed slightly with the addition of data from Nielsen, one of only two pollsters which provides state breakdowns with any consistency. The swing recorded for New South Wales is now higher than for Victoria, as most commentary suggests it should be. As noted in the previous post, the weekly Morgan result is being excluded from the calculation for the time being until there is enough data from its new “multi-mode” methodology to allow for a credible bias measure to be determined with reference to the overall polling trend.

Other news:

• Four nominees have emerged for the Labor preselection in the Sydney seat of Barton, to be vacated upon the retirement of former Attorney-General Robert McClelland. They do not include former NSW Premier Morris Iemma, who may have had his factional association with Eddie Obeid to consider, together with the extreme difficulty any Labor candidate will face defending the seat. Paul Osborne of The Australian reports the contest is effectively between Shane O’Brien, Rockdale mayor and NSW Public Service Association assisant secretary; Kirsten Andrews, “former state and federal ministerial adviser”; and Steve McMahon, former Hurstville mayor who “made a name for himself when he sold the mayoral car to build a children’s playground”. O’Brien is “widely seen as the frontrunner”; Another nominee, state upper house MP and former Rockdale mayor Shaoquett Moselmane, withdrew his nomination after two days, choosing instead to make headlines with a parliamentary attack on Israel. Murray Trembath of the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader earlier reported that Moselmane’s run was thought to be “a lever to seek a more secure position on Labor’s upper house ticket for the next election”. The Liberals have endorsed Nick Varvaris, accountant and mayor of Kogarah.

• A day after the Financial Review reported he had received assistance from Eddie Obeid as he sought to enter parliament in 1999, independent state MP Richard Torbay has dropped a bombshell by announcing his withdrawal as Nationals candidate for Tony Windsor’s seat of New England. The Nationals’ state chairman, Niall Blair, confirmed Torbay was asked to stand aside after the party received unspecified information “of which we were not previously aware”. Barnaby Joyce has expressed interest in the past in using the seat for a long-desired move to the lower house, and there were immediate suggestions he might take Torbay’s place.

Troy Bramston of The Australian reports Tim Watts, Telstra executive and former adviser to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and former Victorian Premier John Brumby, is the front-runner to succeed Nicola Roxon as Labor candidate for the safe western Melbourne seat of Gellibrand.

• With John Forrest bowing out at as member at the next election, the Nationals preselection for Mallee has attracted 10 candidates. Those named in an ABC report are Horsham farmer Russell McKenzie, former Victorian Farmers Federation president Andrew Broad, Buloke Shire mayor Reid Mather and Swan Hill deputy mayor Greg Cruickshank. Liberal party sources quoted by Terry Sim of the Weekly Times said the Liberals were “unlikely to field a candidate”. Labor has endorsed Lydia Senior, chief executive of the Lower Murray Medicare Local.

Megan Gorrey of the Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser reports Laurie Ferguson effortlessly saw off a preselection challenge from Damian Ogden, by a margin of 132 to 11.

• Legislation which completed its passage through federal parliament earlier in the month has raised the bar for prospective election candidates by increasing nomination deposits (from $500 to $1000 for the House of Representatives and $1000 to $2000 for the Senate) and requiring of independent candidates more supporting signatures on nomination forms.

Top End corner:

• The Northern Territory had a change of Chief Minister last week, with Adam Giles emerging as the first indigenous leader of an Australian government. Terry Mills, whom Giles ousted as leader just seven months after he led the Country Liberal Party to victory at the polls, was informed of his ill fortune by text message while on government business in Japan.

The present leadership crisis began a fortnight ago when deputy leader Robyn Lambley stood aside for Giles with a view to healing a long-standing rift, only for Giles to up the ante by indicating he would move to replace Mills as leader unless further conditions were met. In this he had hoped for support from Alison Anderson, the most senior of the CLP’s complement of indigenous MPs, but she instead publicly blasted Giles for refusal to accept the deputy leadership and threatened to take her “bush coalition” of four MPs (the cohesiveness of which is disputed) to the cross-benches or even into coalition with Labor. The turmoil coincided with the period of a Newspoll survey for the Northern Territory News targeting 437 respondents in the CLP-held seats of Sanderson, Blain and Brennan, which showed a 22% against the CLP on the primary vote and 14% on two-party preferred. Mills’s personal ratings were at 26% approval and 67% disapproval, compared with 39% and 38% for Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie (whom Mills nonetheless led 38-37 as preferred Chief Minister).

The situation was transformed the following week when Anderson and the bush MPs were persuaded to put the previous week’s acrimony behind them and throw their support behind Giles, with Anderson telling Amos Aikman of The Australian the decision was made to forestall a rival challenger she declined to identify. The victory for the Giles camp was confirmed when his key supporter, Fong Lim MP and former federal Solomon MP David Tollner, was installed as deputy leader and Treasurer. Mills meanwhile is widely expected to head for the exit in fairly short order, promising to initiate a challenging by-election in his seat of Blain.

• All of which nicely leads into my belated results summary for last month’s Wanguri by-election, which delivered a bloody nose for the CLP and a morale-boosting result for Labor, which had suffered a 7.7% swing in the seat when Paul Henderson contested it as Chief Minister at the election on August 25.

February 16, 2013

				Votes 	% 	Swing 	2PP 	%	Swing
Nicole Manison (ALP) 		2,428 	65.2% 	+8.2% 	2,585 	69.4%	+12.4%
Rhianna Harker (CLP)		1,059 	28.4% 	-14.6% 	1,139 	30.6%	-12.4%
Peter Rudge (Independent) 	237 	6.4% 			

Formal 				3,724 	96.4% 	-1.6% 		
Informal 			86 	3.6% 	+1.6% 		
Enrolment/Turnout 		4,984 	77.5% 	-11.6%

Wanguri by-election live

The by-election to fill former ALP Chief Minister Paul Henderson’s northern Darwin seat in the Northern Territory parliament is a three-candidate, two-polling booth affair.

8.27pm. On the final figures for the night there have been 3663 formal votes cast compared with 4239 at the general election, with probably only a handful still to come.

7.27pm. Leanyer and Wanguri have both reported, and it really has been a cakewalk for Labor, who have picked up double-digit swings at both booths and also on postals and pre-polls. Surprisingly high turnout as well – possibly even higher than at the election. Labor has 69.7% of the two-party vote which pans out to a swing of 12.7%, whether going off raw or booth-matched figures. The primary vote totals are 65.5% for Labor, 28.1% for the CLP and 6.4% for Peter Rudge.

7.08pm. 120 postals have been added, and it’s another encouraging indication for Labor breaking 75-45 their way. The CLP scored a slight majority on postal votes at the election. Peter Rudge is on 6.8%.

7.05pm. The independent turns out to be Peter Rudge, who made a splash when he ran in Nightcliff at the election.

7.00pm. The NTEC site has been intermittently blocking the results page to “unauthorised” access, and is doing so at present. Most unhelpful.

6.50pm. Turns out I was wrong about there only being two candidates: there’s also an independent called Rudge. The Darwin pre-poll booth has reported, and it splits 129-58 to Labor, which is much better than they did on pre-polls at the election. The other pre-poll booths was in Alice Springs and presumably didn’t do much business.

5.50pm. Polls close in ten minutes for Northern Territory’s Wanguri by-election, held to replace the outgoing former Chief Minister Paul Henderson. As was the case at the general election last August, the seat has attracted only two candidates: Labor’s Nicole Manison, a former Henderson government media adviser, and the Country Liberal Party’s Rhianna Harker, a former president of the Young CLP. The electorate covers the northern Darwin suburbs of Leanyer and Wanguri, together with part of the new suburb of Lyons, which are each accommodated by a single polling booth. The local breakdown of last August’s election result is as follows:

		Votes	ALP	Swing
Leanyer		1840	57.4%	-5.4%
Wanguri		1412	59.6%	-7.3%
Other		987	52.5%	-14.3%

		4239	57.0%	-7.4%

Wanguri was held by the CLP’s Don Dale from its creation in 1983 until his retirement in 1989, subsequently falling to Labor’s John Bailey at a by-election. Bailey nearly lost the seat against the trend of a general pro-Labor swing at the 1994 election, which some blamed on CLP push-polling. Bailey’s retirement in 1999 precipitated a by-election in which Paul Henderson picked up an 11.5% two-party swing. Despite a redistribution turning it into a notional CLP seat, Henderson was comfortably returned in 2001 with 55.3% of the primary vote, to which he added a further 15.5% in 2005. The air from that balloon went out to the tune of 5.9% in 2008 and a redistribution-adjusted 7.4% in 2012.