Greatorex by-election live

7.44pm. Sadadeen booth now in, and CLP candidate Matt Conlan is home and hosed with 53.6 per cent of the primary vote. Paul Herrick now leads the Labor candidate 20.3 per cent to 16.5 per cent, while the Greens got a boost from Sadadeen to finish on 9.6 per cent, still down on 10.7 per cent in 2005. Only declaration votes and some more postals to come, which shouldn’t make much difference.

7.05pm. We’ve now got mobile, pre-poll, postal and the small Windmill booth, leaving only the large Sadadeen both (about two-thirds of the total) and declarations (a small handful). Barring something unexpected in Sadadeen, the CLP are looking very good – 62.4 per cent compared with an equivalent 51.4 per cent in 2005. Herrick (17.1 per cent) should finish clear of Labor (13.6 per cent), but it probably won’t be enough. Greens down from 8.7 per cent to 7.0 per cent.

7.00pm. Comparison of pre-poll votes from the 2005 election: the CLP are up from 55.0 per cent to 59.3 per cent, Labor are down from 37.6 per cent to 16.9 per cent and the Greens are up from 7.4 per cent to 7.6 per cent. Filling the gap from Labor’s decline is independent Paul Herrick, on 16.3 per cent. So the swing on pre-polls is not so big you would say the CLP is out of the woods yet.

6.53pm. Pre-poll votes are in, and they suggest a comfortable ride for the CLP candidate, who has 211 of 356 votes (59.3 per cent).

A by-election called Alice: form guide

The tea leaves will not be easy to read, but tomorrow’s Northern Territory by-election for the Alice Springs seat of Greatorex might be of broader interest as a test of the federal government’s intervention into Aboriginal communities. Here as elsewhere in Alice Springs, voters who were happy to back Labor at federal level have traditionally refused to touch the territory party with a barge pole, and there is little question that racial issues have played a role here. Labor nonetheless made a concerted bid to defeat sitting member Richard Lim at the 2005 election, fielding an extremely high-profile candidate in Alice Springs mayor Fran Kilgariff. They succeeded in narrowing the margin from 9.0 per cent to 1.5 per cent, but Lim nonetheless emerged as one of only four surviving Country Liberal Party members in a chamber of 25. After 13 years in parliament, Lim announced late last month that he was standing aside due to ill health in his family.

In Kilgariff’s absence, a correction in the CLP’s favour should have been expected even without taking into account the Martin government’s recent humiliation at the hands of the feds. With the party’s stocks further boosted by a high-profile candidate, the stage appeared set for a swing to the CLP that would no doubt have been over-interpreted as a pointer to the federal election. However, the waters may have been muddied by the emergence of an independent candidate whom local observers reckon to be in with a real chance. Should that come off, the parliament will have three CLP members and three independents. This will make it possible for the independents to band together and demand half the public funding available to the official opposition for “parliamentary running costs”, said by the Northern Territory News to total $900,000 a year.

The candidates in ballot paper order:

Jo Nixon (Labor). An audiologist by trade, Nixon is apparently known locally as “organiser of the annual Beanie Festival&#148, which the ABC describes as “increasingly famous”.

Paul Herrick (Independent). Until he quit the job to focus on his campaign, Herrick was the territory’s deputy chief fire officer with specific responsibility for the “southern region”. He has lived in the electorate for 16 years, competed in four Sydney to Hobart and two Melbourne to Hobart yacht races, and can boast involvement with “AFL Central Australia, Centralian Senior Secondary College Council, Rugby League Referees Association and the Alice Springs Cycling Club” (list compiled by the Centralian Advocate). Herrick is being heavily backed by Loraine Braham, the independent member for the north-western Alice Springs seat of Braitling.

Matt Conlan (CLP). Conlan is described by the Northern Territory News as “the Centralian John Laws”, which if accurate would surely make him a hard man to beat. He has nonetheless been targeted over the short term of his residence in Alice Springs. Nick Calacouras of the Northern Territory News describes him as a “radio shock jock”, while contentious Poll Bludger commenter Isabella calls him a “vocal critic of Labor’s soft touch when it comes to out of control Aboriginal crime in the town”. Conlan nonetheless describes his radio program as “non-political”. The Northern Territory News reports he won preselection unopposed after two unidentified rivals withdrew. Those mentioned as potential nominees had included Alice Springs alderman David Koch, former CLP president Jenny Mostran and Alice Springs businessman David Douglas.

Jane Clark (Greens). An Alice Springs alderman, Clark initially sought Labor preselection, seeking and receiving Greens endorsement when this fell through. It had earlier been reported that the Greens were not planning on running.

Tune into the Poll Bludger from early tomorrow evening for half-arsed live commentary.

A by-election called Alice

Richard Lim, one of four remaining Country Liberal Party MPs after the party’s debacle at the 2005 Northern Territory election, has announced he will retire as of next week. This means a by-election looms for his Alice Springs seat of Greatorex, possibly within weeks. Alice Springs was the only part of the territory that remained impervious to Clare Martin’s charms in 2005, and it seems unlikely voters will further swell her bloated majority by handing the seat to Labor. However, the Territory’s pocket-sized electorates mean there is always a chance an independent might do some damage.

Stuart by-election live

8.05pm. I suppose I should point out that Labor’s vote has fallen from 71.3 per cent at last year’s election, but that was a two-horse race. The two-party result is 68.7-31.3 (with Japanangka in second place), a remarkably modest swing of 2.6 per cent.

7.45pm. Wow, results – all at once. As expected, Karl Hampton has won easily. With all the booth results in, he is on 1123 votes for 58.2 per cent of the total. In second place is former Labor MP Gary Cartwright with 14.6 per cent. Of the two CLP candidates, Rex Granites Japanangka is outpolling Lloyd Spencer-Nelson 11.1 per cent to 7.8 per cent; of the independents, Anna Machado is on 7.1 per cent and the reluctant Peter Tjungarray Wilson on just 23 (1.2 per cent).

7.33pm. The NTEO seem to be dragging their heels.

1pm. Not sure how big an audience I’ll attract, but a half-hearted attempt at live-blogging the Stuart by-election count will begin at 6pm Northern Territory time. The count will not be a particularly exciting process, as the entirely remote electorate is served exclusively by mobile booths. Turnout at last year’s election was only 59 per cent (for a total of just 2535 votes) and will presumably be lower still this time. Discontent with the Martin goverment’s indigenous policies should theoretically make the election of interest, but by all accounts the issue will be decided by Labor’s organisational strength in Aboriginal communities. They have also chosen a good candidate – as well as being an indigenous adviser in the Office of Central Australia, Karl Hampton is the coach of the Central Australian Football League club the Pioneers. The CLP seems to have adopted a tactic of clogging the ballot paper with both official and unofficial candidates in the hope of at least embarrassing Labor by suppressing their primary vote. The official candidates are Rex Granites and Lloyd Spencer, described by the Northern Territory News as "Walpiri men with strong cultural links in different areas of the electorate". The independents include Anna de Sousa Machado, who was the CLP candidate at last year’s election; Gary Cartwright, the former Labor member for Victoria River (which became the new electorate of Daly in a redistribution that deprived him of his strongest areas) who is directing preferences to the CLP; and Peter Tjungarray Wilson, who told the ABC he "hates politics and is only running to support fellow candidate Anna Machado".

Bits and pieces

• The only seat still in doubt in Queensland is Bundaberg, which looks likely to be won by Nationals candidate Jack Dempsey. Dempsey led 9,778 to 9,568 at the close of count on Saturday, but the ABC computer was pointing to a 0.3 per cent Labor win. This was based on comparison with results from 2004, when Labor did much better on the as-yet-uncounted declaration and pre-poll votes (55.3 per cent versus 36.7 per cent) than polling booth votes (50.4 per cent versus 41.4 per cent). However, that trend is being substantially reversed this time around. Most pre-poll and postal votes have now been counted (roughly two-thirds of the non-polling booth total, itself 16 per cent of the overall total), and Dempsey’s lead has widened to 11,161 to 10,821. Most of the remaining uncounted votes are absentee votes, of which about 5 per cent will be exhausting minor party votes. With similar figures this time, non-exhausting absentee votes will need to break about 920-580 in Labor’s favour (roughly 70-30) if they are to win the seat. Very, very unlikely.

Charles Richardson of Crikey has been good enough to invoke my words of wisdom while criticising the media for buying Labor’s late-campaign spin about worrying internal polling:

Governments worry obsessively about overconfidence – the twin dangers of (a) seeming arrogant, which puts voters off, and (b) looking invulnerable, which makes voters think they can safely punish them without risking an opposition victory. So when they seem to be getting too far ahead, out comes the famous "private polling" to play down their chances. The media obediently went along. Having spent the previous week reporting the collapse of Coalition support, they started to have second thoughts. As William Bowe, the Poll Bludger, put it on Friday, "momentum is building behind the idea, if not the reality, of a late Coalition revival". But there was never any real evidence for it. The final polls from both Newspoll and Galaxy picked the result almost exactly, while the punters who swung Centrebet’s odds back towards the Coalition in the last week all lost their money.

However, if Glenn Milne in The Australian is to be believed, the Liberals in particular did enjoy a late-campaign recovery that spared them from being reduced to one seat, maybe even less. This of course could be yet another example of journalists receiving selective intelligence designed to serve the ends of those providing it, and should perhaps be viewed in the context of Liberal leadership ructions. It should be noted that Milne is commonly faulted for serving the ends of particular elements in the Liberal Party, intentionally or otherwise.

• Across the border to the west, the by-election for the Northern Territory seat of Stuart will be held the Saturday after next. Labor’s candidate is Karl Hampton, a ministerial officer to the retiring member, Health and Justice Minister Peter Toyne. The CLP is adopting its favoured tactic of running both white (Lloyd Spencer-Nelson) and Aboriginal (Rex Granites Japanangka) candidates (CORRECTION: thanks to Kerry Gardiner in comments for noting both candidates are in fact indigenous), which is calculated to boost its vote in remote communities (a circumstance born of the Territory’s practice of including candidate photos on ballot papers to assist illiterate voters). The party’s candidate at last year’s election, Anna de Sousa Machado, is running as an independent, as is Gary Cartwright, the Labor member for Victoria River (now called Daly) from 1990 to 1994. Rounding out the ballot paper is a third independent, Peter Tjungarray Wilson.

By-election alert

The Northern Territory Health and Justice Minister, Peter Toyne, has announced he is retiring from parliament due to ill health. This means a by-election will be held in his electorate of Stuart, assuming more than one candidate nominates. This is not a foregone conclusion – Stuart is a remote electorate in the west of the territory with an 84.3 per cent indigenous population, and has always been extremely safe for Labor. The electorate includes the troubled Yuendumu community, which has been in the news recently due to an outbreak of gang violence. The CLP could well be forgiven for sitting the contest out, but recent anger at the Martin government’s indigenous policies could make life interesting if a suitable independent comes forward.