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).

Northern exposure

A by-election looms in the Northern Territory, plus not much else of psephological interest going on right now.

With the excitement of the British election over and done with, now begins the extended nothingness of the silly season. A few points worth noting to keep things ticking over:

• A by-election looms in the Northern Territory for the Darwin seat of Johnston, not far out from a territory election scheduled for August 22. This follows the retirement of Ken Vowles, who has held the seat since 2012. Vowles served as a minister after Labor came to power in 2016, but was one of three members expelled from the party caucus in December 2018 over a feud with Chief Minister Michael Gunner. Labor held the seat with a 14.7% margin in 2016, an election at which it won the two-party vote 58.5-41.5. A heavy swing at the by-election seems inevitable, but the Country Liberal Party to this point appears to be dragging its heels on naming a candidate. Labor has chosen Unions NT general secretary Joel Bowden, a former Richmond AFL player who says he’ll be putting in a 100% team effort. Former Chief Minister Terry Mills’ CLP breakaway party, Territory Alliance, is running Steven Klose, who according to the Northern Territory News held the curious position of “political adviser at the Northern Territory Electoral Commission”. Also in the field will be Braedon Earley of the Ban Fracking Fix Crime Protect Water Party.

• In other by-election news, there isn’t any. Confident speculation a month or so ago that Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly would be gone by Christmas has less than a fortnight to bear fruit, and there also are no visible signs of progress on suggestions that Mark Dreyfus and Brendan O’Connor would be pulling the plug in Isaacs and Gorton.

Michael Koziol of the Sydney Morning Herald reports on jockeying for the Liberal preselection in Warringah, where the party faces the difficulty of its branches being dominated by conservatives in a seat whose voters gave Tony Abbott the flick in favour of independent Zali Steggall. Included on the watch list are “NSW upper house member Natalie Ward, Menzies Research Centre manager Tim James, Downer EDI executive and former Scott Morrison staffer Sasha Grebe, as well as management consultant and NSW Liberal Party state executive member Alex Dore”, along with Manly barrister Jane Buncle. Mike Baird, former Premier and now senior executive at NAB, set the hares running when he declined on opportunity to seek the position of chief executive at the bank, but “several Liberal sources doubted Mr Baird would want to take the pay cut to go to Canberra”.

• A number of victims of the Liberals’ 2018 Victorian election disaster are identified in The Age as potential successors for Mary Wooldridge’s Eastern Metropolitan seat in the Victorian Legislative Council, following her retirement announcement last week: John Pesutto, Heidi Victoria and Michael Gidley, respectively the former members for Hawthorn, Bayswater and Mount Waverley.

Northern Territory election endgame

The Country Liberal Party looks like having only two seats to its name, as counting sets to conclude today.

Only tiny handfuls of votes have been added since I lost interest in the Northern Territory count at the end of last week, meaning no change in what looked like a result of Labor 18, Country Liberal Party two and independents five (Gerry Wood in Nelson, Kezia Purick in Goyder, Terry Mills in Blain, Robyn Lambley in Araluen and Yingiya Mark Guyula in Nhulunbuy). Despite narrow margins in a number of places, including the defeats of Adam Giles in Braitling and Willem Westra van Holthe in Katherine, the only seat where the lead could plausibly change is Nhulunbuy, where Labor deputy leader Lynne Walker trails by 10 votes. According to the Northern Territory News, 45 out of 127 postal votes sent out are yet to be returned, and will be admitted to the count if they are received by noon tomorrow.

Walker may perhaps be a chance if postal vote arrivals in the last few days have been stockpiled for final counting, but there would clearly be no prospect of today’s arrivals turning the result. The Northern Territory News reports Labor supporters in Gove have been “desperately trying to rally voters to submit the outstanding 45 votes and fly them by courier to Darwin before the Friday deadline”, which raises questions I can’t answer about the status of postmarks in determining whether postal votes are admitted at Northern Territory elections. Walker says she would consider a legal challenge if the margin was less than five votes, though on what basis isn’t clear.

Northern Territory election live

Live coverage of the count for the Northern Territory election.


Very small numbers of votes have been added to the count over the last few days, suggesting only the very closest seats remain beyond doubt. Of those there are three – Adam Giles’ seat of Braitling, where Labor’s lead is down two since the last update to 23; Willem Westra van Holthe’s seat of Katherine, where the latest batch of 28 votes has worn Labor’s lead down from 39 to 29; and Nhulunbuy, where a very small trickle of new votes has been sufficient to reduce independent Yingiya Mark Guyula’s lead over Labor’s Lynne Walker from 22 votes to 11. Other than that, it’s Labor 16, CLP two, independents four.

Wednesday evening

Most counts have progressed today with the addition of various bits of piece, which find Terry Mills’ lead over Labor’s Damian Hale in Blain up from 87 to 97; Labor’s lead over Adam Giles in Braitling up from 11 to 25; Labor’s lead over Delia Lawrie in Karama up from 33 to 59; Labor’s lead over Willem Westra van Holthe in Katherine down from 41 to 39; and independent Yingiya Mark Guyula’s lead over Lynne Walker in Nhulunbuy down from 35 to 22. Leads for Labor in Brennan and the CLP in Daly increased, and are unlikely to be reversed.

Tuesday evening

Nothing today from Braitling, Karama, Katherine or Nhulunbuy, and only insignificant rechecking from Port Darwin. In Blain, 519 absents broke 240-226 to Damian Hale, reducing Terry Mills’ lead from 101 to 87. In Brennan, 473 absents broke 252-212 to Labor, increasing their lead to 198. In Daly, 585 out-of-division pre-polls broke 288-227 to the CLP while 254 absents broke 112-109 to Labor, increasing CLP member Gary Higgins’ lead from 128 to 186.

Monday 6pm

After some scattered counting of absents and rechecking:

Barkly. Labor’s Gerry McCarthy (1254, 45.0%) leads independent Elliot McAdam (802, 28.8%) and is presumably safe here, particularly on account of the the ill-advised direction from the CLP (424, 15.2%) to its voters to number only one box. However, there is still no two-candidate preferred count.

Blain. We now have a two-candidate preferred candidate which is good news for Terry Mills, showing him leading Labor’s Damian Hale by 1548 votes to 1447.

Braitling. Labor candidate Dale Wakefield’s 21-vote lead on election night has been pared back to 11 votes, with absents breaking 92-81 in Adam Giles’ favour.

Brennan. Presumably a lock for Labor, whose candidate Tony Sievers leads CLP incumbent Peter Chandler by 1627 to 1470, but I’m keeping it on the watch list regardless. No further progress in the count.

Daly. Gary Higgins leads 1242 to 1114 and will presumably retain the seat, but I’m holding off to see if still-to-be-reported early voting results turn up anything dramatic. No further progress so far.

Karama. Absent votes have pushed Labor’s Ngaree Jane Ah Kit into the lead, breaking 196-102 in her favour. She now leads Delia Lawrie by 1604 to 1571, a margin of 33.

Katherine. Absent votes and rechecking have left intact the slim lead for Labor’s Sandra Nelson over CLP member Willem Westra van Holthe, which is now at 1748 to 1707, a margin of 41.

Nhulunbuy. We now have a two-candidate preferred candidate which gives independent Yingiya Mark Guyula a 35-vote lead over Labor member Lynne Walker, of 1577 votes to 1542. Absent votes were added, breaking 70-46 to Guyula, and primary votes rechecked.

Port Darwin. No progress in the count, with Labor’s Paul Kirby holding a probably insurmountable lead of 1640 to 1449 over CLP candidate Rohan Kelly.

End of Saturday night

The table below provides a summary of the situation, with seat change figures based on the 2012 election result, rather than the configuration of parliament going into the election.


The only seat that has definitely been retained by the CLP is the new seat of Spillett, covering the stretch between Darwin and Palmerston. In the capital, Drysdale (Labor leads by 5.8% after 17.3% swing), Fong Lim (9.1%, 9.3% swing), Port Darwin (3.1%, 12.8% swing) and Sanderson (11.2%, 14.3% swing) are lost to Labor, as almost certainly is Brennan (2.5%, 16.5% swing). The CLP has also lost Blain, but it remains to be seen if the winner will be Damian Hale for Labor or Terry Mills as an independent. On the other hand, Labor trails by 1.2% in Karama, which former Labor leader Delia Lawrie seeks to retain as an independent.

The result in the six indigenous majority seats was even better for Labor, who won back all four CLP-held seats, including Alison Anderson’s old seat of Namatjira (Labor leads by 10.8%, 31.3% swing) and the three losses from 2012, Stuart (29.7%, 35.2% swing), Arafura (5.5%, 7.9% swing) and Arnhem (14.6%, 18.9% swing). However, Labor’s Lynne Walker may lose Nhulunbuy to independent Yingiya Mark Guyula (no two-candidate preferred count, but Labor leads by 2.6% on the primary vote).

The CLP suffered its biggest swings of all in the six non-Darwin seats without indigenous majorities, but in this case the votes were mostly absorbed by independents, who have won in Goyder (Kezia Purick, who leads by 23.6%) and Araluen (Robyn Lambley by 8.1%) to supplement Gerry Wood in Nelson. Each of the other three seats won by the CLP in 2012 is in danger of falling to Labor, including Adam Giles’ seat of Braitling in Alice Springs (Labor leads by 0.2%, 19.8% swing), Willem Westra van Holthe’s seat of Katherine (0.5%, 22.7% swing) and the northern pastoral seat of Daly (CLP leads by 2.4%, 2.8% swing).

Election night

12.07pm. The last result of the night from Karama, from the Casuarina pre-poll booth, was a good one for Delia Lawrie, turning her four-vote deficit into a 69 vote lead.

11.03pm. I had my eye off the ball in Nhulunbuy all night, where Labor’s Lynne Walker is being run close by independent Yingiya Mark Guyula. In Nhulunbuy itself, Walker outpolled Guyula 77.2% to 9.4%, but in the booths serving the remote areas, Guyula won 61.6% to 25.0%. The overall result is Walker 44.6% to Guyula 42.0%, with no preference count available.

10.42pm. New numbers at last from Port Darwin, with all outstanding booths reporting in one hit. Labor ends the night with a lead of 191.

10.17pm. The first of three mobile booths in Namatjira has broken heavily enough to Labor’s Chansey Paech to put him in the lead by 239, which will presumably widen from here.

10.14pm. Three booths now in from Stuart, where the CLP’s Bess Price has suffered a remarkably heavy defeat at the hands of Labor’s Scott McConnell, who leads 1520 votes to 457.

10.10pm. A mobile booth just made it closer in Daly, one of the few seats that were looking good for the CLP, whose lead narrows from 212 votes to 115.

9.55pm. The Palmerston early voting booth has pushed Terry Mills into second place in Blain, from which he would have a show at beating Labor’s Damian Hale on CLP preferences. Current score: Labor 38.4%, Mills 29.3%, CLP 27.0%.

9.28pm. A lot of votes still to come in Blain, where Terry Mills is stuck in third place and needing to overtake one of the major parties to win on their preferences. The alternative possibility is that Damian Hale wins the seat for Labor.

9.24pm. Willem Westra van Holthe doing worse on preferences than I’d have anticipated, and has a very slight deficit on the raw two-party vote.

9.19pm. Mobile booths have dumped Francis Xavier Kurrupuwa’s lead in Arafura, in another blow for the CLP. Now looking a win for Labor’s Lawrence Costa.

9.11pm. Finally a mobile booth result in from Stuart, and it’s indeed a big win for Labor’s Scott McConnell (341, 53.4%) over CLP member Bess Price (140, 22.3%).

9.02pm. The ABC computer has actually got Labor to 15 now, because it’s giving them Braitling, Drysdale and Port Darwin.

8.58pm. Finally some numbers from Fannie Bay, which means the ABC is now calling that for Labor. That makes Labor 12, CLP 1 and others 2, with nine not called. There are still no numbers for Stuart, but apparently Labor is expected to win. So there’s 13 for Labor. I’d also expect them to win Barkly, and for independents to prevail in Blain and Araluen. But I wouldn’t care to call Braitling, Drysdale, Daly or Namatjira; or Karama, which could go Labor or independent.

8.55pm. All fixed booths in now from Braitling, where Labor leads Adam Giles by 2102 votes to 2092. So no result there this evening.

8.53pm. Labor firming in Barkly – independent McAdam second, but Labor’s 46.7% primary should be more than enough.

8.44pm. Still awaiting more numbers from Araluen, where Lambley leads the CLP 418-337 after preferences, but with a lot of votes still to come.

8.43pm. Looking tight in Karama between Delia Lawrie and Labor. Preferences are in from Manunda Terrace, and they made little change to the margin from the primary vote — and the two are practically dead level on the primary vote.

8.40pm. Still only anecdotal evidence available for Stuart, but it’s apparently a Labor gain.

8.38pm. So the CLP has won Spillett; it might win Katherine, Daly, Braitling, Brennan, Port Darwin and, for all anyone knows, Namatjira. But it’s clearly behind in Brennan and Port Darwin.

8.28pm. Second Fong Lim booth, Ludmilla, has CLP down 11.4% and Labor steady, essentially confirming a Labor win.

8.17pm. Second booth from Braitling is Larapinta, a much stronger booth for the CLP than Sadadeen, but here too the CLP is down around 19% and Labor up around 15%. But with a margin of 19.6%, Giles seems to have his nose in front.

8.13pm. Three booths in from Spillett now and Lia Finnochiaro looking good for the CLP with 56.7%.

8.12pm. Darwin City booth the first result from Port Darwin: CLP down 18.1%, Labor up 6.1%, margin 9.7%. So very likely Labor win, but not calling it yet.

8.10pm. Result from Berry Springs in Daly suggests a Labor win, but not definitively: CLP down 13%, Labor steady, CLP margin 5.2%.

8.07pm. Labor wins Stuart Park both, which is transferred from Fannie Bay to Fong Lim, has been won by Labor, but now with any discernible swing. So this one isn’t over yet.

8.05pm. Disastrous first result from Braitling for Adam Giles, who loses Sadadeen booth (784 votes) to Labor by 35.1% to 32.4%.

8.04pm. 63 votes from Sadadeen are less good for independent Robyn Lambley in Araluen than the town centre booth result, but this part of the electorate was not served by her previously.

8.01pm. One bit of bright news for the CLP is that Francis Xavier Kurrupuwa has won the Wurrumiyanga booth in Arafura with 388 of 709 votes. Don’t know if that’s a particularly good area for him.

8pm. The cross bench is likely to account for Nelson, Goyder, Araluen and Karama, that we know of so far. So my best guess of the final result is four or five each for the CLP and independents, and Labor on 15 or 16.

7.58pm. So where might the CLP hold? Probably in Katherine. Possibly in Namatjira and Spillett, but too early to say. No numbers yet from Port Darwin or Daly, but they will presumably have their work cut out there. No numbers yet from Adam Giles’ Alice Springs seat of Braitling, but that will be interesting to see.

7.56pm. Labor has won big in a second of the three booths from Sanderson, confirming a big win for them there.

7.55pm. All three fixed booths from Katherine now in – Westra van Holthe leads Labor 36.0% to 31.2% and will probably win, but preferences will decide the result.

7.53pm. A third booth from Drysdale follows the broader pattern, with Labor a bit over 40% and the CLP in the mid-thirties. So a very likely Labor gain.

7.52pm. Gerry Wood gets 63.1% from Howards Springs booth in Nelson.

7.51pm. Tennant Creek booth in from Barkly. Elliot McAdam clearing the first hurdle by outpolling CLP, but with Labor on 41.9%, will need a strong flow of preferences.

7.49pm. Terry Mills and Labor almost level at Woodroffe booth in Blain with about 36% to 37%, the CLP a distant third, Mills set to win on preferences.

7.48pm. A second Arnhem booth is similar to the first, with Labor well over 50% on the primary vote and independent member Larisa Lee hardly registering. Make that a fourth seat to add to Labor’s base of six, leaving three to go for a majority.

7.46pm. Kezia Purick safe in Goyder, getting 54.5% at the Bees Creek booth.

7.45pm. The CLP down nearly 20% from two booths in Brennan, Labor up a little more than 10%. Suggests a close result in a seat with a 14.0% CLP margin.

7.42pm. Labor gets 116 out of 163 votes at the Jabiru booth, which has been transferred from Arafura to Arnhem. Independent member Larisa Lee got a mere six votes, though she will presumably do better in the old parts of the electorate.

7.40pm. Nigel Scullion on ABC TV suggests the CLP is likely to lose Stuart. So to add to a base of six safe seats, I’ve got them winning Stuart, Arnhem and Drysdale.

7.39pm. Labor gains the Darwin seat of Sanderson from the CLP — Wagaman booth swings about 15%.

7.38pm. Delia Lawrie looking good in Karama, winning the Karama booth with 36.3% to the CLP’s 33.4% and Labor’s 19.4%.

7.35pm. A second booth from the Palmerston seat of Drysdale, Driver, swings 18% to Labor, who look like they’ve taken the 11.5% margin seat, which is being vacated for the CLP by Lia Finocchiaro’s move to Spillett.

7.34pm. Town centre booth from Araluen looks good for Robyn Lambley — 34.5% primary vote versus 37.2% for the CLP with the rest to Labor, suggesting she will win on Labor preferences.

7.32pm. Huge primary votes swings against Westra van Holthe from two Katherine booths, but he’s still ahead of Labor. Minor party vote big but scattered.

7.30pm. A result with 195 votes for Spillett from Ludmilla, which is actually in Fong Lim, records little change on the 2012 result, which presumably bodes well for the CLP there.

7.25pm. Good start for the CLP’s Heidi Williams in Namatjira – 181 votes at Yirara versus 102 for Labor’s Chansey Paech, with other candidates not featuring.

7.25pm. CLP down 19.6% in Moulden booth in Drysdale, but Labor only up 3.8%. Labor ahead though, in a seat with an 11.5% CLP margin.

7.17pm. The first result in is a mobile booth in Barkly, where Labor’s Gerry McCarthy faces a challenge from former Labor MP turned independent Elliott McAdam. But the booth, with 124 formal votes, has been won by another independent, Jack Green.

6.30pm. Polls closed half an hour ago, and first results should be along very shortly. The ABC’s results are here, the NTEC’s are here.

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.

ReachTEL: 18% swing to Labor in Northern Territory

A rare reading of the electoral temperature in the Northern Territory points to big trouble for the embattled Country Liberal Party government.

The Australian and the Northern Territory News today bring us a rare opinion poll from the Northern Territory, conducted to gauge the impact of the Country Liberal Party government’s recent disarray. That impact is found to be considerable, with an 18% swing to Labor recorded on two-party preferred using respondent-allocated preferences. The poll was conducted on Sunday by ReachTEL from a large sample of 1036, using automated phone polling. Owing to the difficulties involved in polling remote areas of the territory, the poll is limited to 18 of its 25 electorates. After replacing the 13.7% “undecided” result with the separately published totals for “leaning towards”, as pollsters usually do, I get primary votes of 34% for the CLP, 42% for Labor and 9% for the Greens, which compares with 2012 election results of 51%, 36% and 4% from the electorates in question.

The inclusion of a respondent-allocated preferences result on two-party preferred is something I’ve never seen before from ReachTEL, but which the pollster has intimated we might be getting more often in future after the previous election method led it and other pollsters astray in Queensland. This has Labor with a lead of 61.8-38.2, compared with 56.2-43.8 to the CLP at the election. My own calculation based on minor party and independent flows from the 2012 election, which broke 59-41 in favour of Labor in the electorates in question, has the Labor lead at a more modest 56-44, which nonetheless amounts to a formidable swing of 12%. The poll also records Chief Minister Adam Giles with a net approval rating of minus 24%, compared with minus 5% for Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie.

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.

Matters Northern Territorian

The Palmer United Party secures three new MPs, reports of troubling private polling for the Country Liberal Party government, and a big-but-not-big-enough swing to Labor in a by-election held a fortnight ago.

Enough going on in the top end lately that it seems opportune to rope them together into a blog post:

• The Palmer United Party has silently secured three seats in the 25-member parliament after recruiting the three remote-area indigenous MPs who quit the Country Liberal Party a month ago. Senior among the three is Namatjira MP Alison Anderson, who was elected as a Labor member in 2005, became an independent in 2009 and joined the Country Liberal Party in September 2011, easily winning re-election in 2012 by a margin of 18.6%. The other two are Arnhem MP Larisa Lee and Arafura MP Francis Xavier, who were two out of the three surprise CLP winners in remote seats at the 2012 election, contributing to Labor’s defeat despite their success at retaining all their seats in Darwin. However, a cloud hangs over Larisa Lee who faces a charge of aggravated assault, which could cost her her seat if it leads to a sentence of more than one year. In the meantime, Palmer United has doubled its total representation across Australia’s federal, state and territory parliaments, with Anderson, Lee and Xavier joining Clive Palmer as member for Fairfax in the House of Representatives, and Gaven MP Alex Douglas and Yeerongpilly MP Carl Judge in the Queensland MP. Glenn Lazarus, Zhenya Wang and Jacqui Lambie will shortly join them as Senators for Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania when the new Senate term begins on July 1.

The Australian reported a fortnight ago that an automated phone poll of 881 respondents in Darwin, conducted by Telereach/JWS Research for an unidentified client, showed a 10% swing against the CLP since the last election, at which its territory-wide two-party preferred vote was 55.8%. The poll showed a minus 11% net approval rating for Adam Giles, a minus 23% rating for his deputy Dave Tollner, and a minus 4% rating for Labor leader Delia Lawrie.

• With counting completed for the April 12 by-election for the Palmerston seat of Blain, Nathan Barrett has retained the seat for the CLP by a margin of 3.2%, representing a swing to Labor of 10.0%. The CLP primary vote was down from the 61.6% recorded in 2012 for Terry Mills, who was at that time his party’s candidate for the chief ministership, while Labor’s vote was up only modestly from 33.6% to 37.3%. Independent candidate Matthew Cranitch, the president of the territory branch of the Australian Education Union, polled 8.7%, and directed his preferences to Barrett. The Greens and the Citizens Electoral Council, neither of whom fielded candidates in 2012, respectively polled 8.7% and 1.4%.