And they’re off and racing!

NT Chief Minister Clare Martin has just announced a Territory election for 18 June, a pleasingly brief campaign of just under 3 weeks. Even this jaded political observer should manage to avoid terminal boredom for that period.

Bryan Palmer of Ozpolitics has started posting on the NT election, and the Pollbludger even has a Territory election site. Lucky they’ve got time because I certainly don’t, what with 300 public law essays to mark and then just as many exam papers. Even better, the ABC has a quite flash Territory election website.

My general “gut” feeling is that Labor are pretty warm favourites to win, partly because Martin and her team haven’t made any obvious big mistakes in the last year or so, and partly because the NT economy is now very buoyant after a few years in the doldrums. Even more importantly, the CLP is back under the leadership of recycled failed Chief Minister Denis Burke, who lost the seemingly unloseable election to Labor back in 2001. Burke is back in the driver’s seat after the CLP’s chosen replacement Terry Mills proved to be too nice, ineffectual and inexperienced for a successful career as a political leader. But Burke shows no sign of having learnt anything from his stint in the political wilderness, and has hardly been an inspirational leader since his comeback a few months ago.

Moreover, the CLP has been tearing itself to pieces on the front page of the NT News in recent weeks, after Burke sacked former leadership aspirant (and CDU law graduate) Peter Maley from the front bench and the party, after Maley defied his leader and returned to full-time private legal practice while continuing to pull a politician’s salary of over $100,000 per year. Maley’s hitting the front page of the paper last week over an alleged domestic violence incident didn’t help either. Latest rumour is that Maley is going to run in his former seat of Goyder as an Independent purely to screw Burke and deny the seat to the CLP!

Meanwhile, another CLP candidate in the seat of Millner, Paul Mossman, has found himself in all sorts of trouble over some appallingly sexist statements he made on an Internet political discussion board. Labor’s Matthew Bonson (another CDU law graduate) holds Millner by just 89 votes, so the CLP leadership must be none too pleased by Mossman’s idiot indiscipline. Nevertheless, they also have former local CLP member Phil Mitchell running as an “Independent” in the seat and no doubt swapping preferences with the official CLP candidate, so I’d reckon Millner is one of the more likely seats to go to the CLP.

There are 5 Darwin northern suburbs seats (including Millner) held by Labor with margins of less than 4% (less than 400 votes or thereabouts). Labor holds government with 13 seats, the CLP has 10 and there are 2 Independents. It’s a truism that Territory elections are won and lost in Darwin’s northern suburbs. On the other side of the ledger, there are also a couple of CLP seats (*Drysdale and Daly) which Labor has a rough chance of picking up following the retirement of long-time sitting members, not to mention MacDonnell in Central Australia, a longtime Labor seat that has been held for two terms now by the CLP’s John Elferink on a wafer-thin margin of 2%. MacDonnell is a predominantly Aboriginal seat and Labor is running a high profile Aboriginal candidate in Alison Anderson. Elferink did well to win the seat and then hold onto it in 2001. Personally I hope he holds on again, because Labor has run a very distasteful smear campaign about Elferink’s sexuality, following his revelation that he was molested by a serial pedophile as a child.

All in all, the CLP isn’t travelling well, though, and it seems unlikely voters will embrace a party that is so publicly divided and squabbling. Even former longtime Chief Minister Marshall Perron was recently heard to lament that his party was a pathetic shadow of the invincible political machine it once was.

Unlike most state elections, however, you can never be sure with a Territory election, because it’s too small for any of the major media players to be bothered spending money on public opinion polling. The parties themselves undertake extensive polling, though, and their respective demeanours suggest that Labor isn’t too worried (although Clare Martin is doing a reasonable job of avoiding a Goss/Kennett effect by not appearing arrogant or overconfident). Centrebet is the best indication we’ve got at the moment, and it has Labor at 3:1 on.

ABC Radio in Darwin have asked this armadillo to prognosticate about the NT election at 5.10 this evening on the Drive program. God knows why. What would I know? But feel free to tune in if you live in the Top End.

PS – Here’s an audio of the radio interview in Windows Media format for anyone interested. It includes an interview with a senior CLP spin doctor named Peter Murphy as well as me.

* Actually, I think Steve Dunham is standing again, although he certainly mused about quitting not so long ago. And I’m a bit surprised that Poll Bludger William Bowe is apparently so sanguine about Labor retaining Millner. Maybe he doesn’t quite realise that the CLP has a long and quite successful history of running dummy independents in close marginal seats to maximise the party’s vote. The “independent” is invariably a close CLP associate and proceeds to swap preferences tightly with the official candidate. Phil Mitchell is very much in that tradition, and with a margin of around 90 votes I expect him to have a significant influence. I reckon Millner is a lineball proposition; I wouldn’t want to call it either way.

As for the Pollbludger’s prediction that Labor will win the seat of Araluen in Alice Springs from the CLP, I don’t think so sunshine. Do you want to put money on it? Alice Springs is injun country for Labor, and I don’t see anything in the tea-leaves likely to change that scenario. I’d give Labor’s Fran Kilgariff (current Alice Springs mayor and daughter of a legendary former CLP federal member) a very rough chance of unseating the CLP’s Richard Lim in Greatorex despite a margin of some 9%, but I certainly wouldn’t have her as favourite. Generally I’d be surprised to see any seats change hands in Alice Springs.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2021 years ago

Without knowing a skerick of anything in the N/T I would say the ALP will win comfortably win.

Having been scared of what the ALP may do in government Territorians are now quite easy with them in government.

Tradionally outside of the N/T a term government usually wins better in the next election.

The Opposition is doing what Oppositions usualy do after being in government too long. Fighting amongst themselves and not knowing what to do.

Guy
Guy
2021 years ago

Ditto Homer’s comments! :)

Nabakov
Nabakov
2021 years ago

It’s the way of the Western world. Centre-left Local and State Goverments cos’ they focus on service delivery, and centre-right Federal or National governments cos’ they focus on national security.

William Bowe
2021 years ago

Ken, you have persuaded to reverse my call on Araluen – for now. However, I am mindful of the tendency of landslide election wins to throw up individual seat results that nobody saw coming, and I think such an outcome might be in the works here. I suspect that those who have watched Labor struggle over nine Northern Territory elections might prove a little slow to acclimatise to the entirely new circumstances now that Labor heads a stable government with a popular leader, and faces a divided rabble of an opposition. I would not be amazed if the CLP emerged with as few as six seats. As for Alice Springs, I would point you towards Labor’s 2PP booth results from the federal election – 53.54 per cent in Alice Springs, 52.08 per cent in Sadadeen, 48.78 in Gillen and 46.20 per cent in Larapinta. That adds up to a better result than the national average.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2021 years ago

” the entirely new circumstances now that Labor heads a stable government with a popular leader, and faces a divided rabble of an opposition.”

Also, the quality of the Labor candidates is a lot better than it used to be.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

Is the CLP subsidising mens’ shirt makers by sticking pins in their collars instead of jacket lapels? I know it’s hot in Darwin, but don’t you look just a little silly with a flag piercing your collar? Or is it just me?

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

I suspect the NT flag pin is like Jehovah’s Witnesses wearing white shirts and ties. It’s not only their uniform which serves to create and reinforce their group identity, but it also serves the useful purpose of allowing the rest of us to see the bastards coming and keep away from them. Doorknocking Labor candidates can be slightly harder to pick, but luckily I know Jane Agaard and I’m going to vote for her anyway so she doesn’t need to doorknock my place.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

I think Millner is easy to misread when all you have is the ABS electorate report. The thing to remember is that Millner as a seat takes in three quite distinct areas: there’s a slice of Northern Suburbia which tends to follow other Northern Suburbs in its voting, there’s the Bagot community which is solidly Labor and there’s the RAAF base which tends to lean towards the CLP.

It’s dangerous to see the numbers in Bagot and assume this is the beginning and end of voting in Millner, because voters in the Bagot community are far more likely to be transitory, to be unenrolled, and to fail to turn out to vote. If I remember correctly the NTEO sends a mobile polling team through Bagot to try and improve the turnout a bit.

In real terms the piece up for grabs are the snippets of suburbia, some of them surrounding the Bagot community, plus the suburb of Millner itself. As usual, without access to polling data, it’s hard to say with certainty which way it would go.

Unfortunately for the CLP, timing has not gone their way. All of Labor’s vote losers happened early in the term, or earlier this year. The big news of the last few weeks has been closure on the waterfront deal (a white elephant, but popular), the Arafura Games, Peter Maley’s fallout with Denis Burke and the CLP, and of course Paul Mossman’s indiscreet comments on a website.

I think that Labor will be back for a second term. Though hopefully uni liberal club members will repeat their massive Federal performance at the St Paul’s Primary – the best in Darwin with a 7% primary swing towards our candidate.

And of course, curse Clare Martin for calling the campaign in the middle of bloody exams. A distraction I don’t need.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

Oh, and I have one of those little flag pins, which I received as a gift from a family member. Business suits are very rare in the NT, so there’s no lapel to stick them on.

Generally southern folk can be spotted heading one way up a street with a suit on, and on the way back with the tie loosened, the sleeves rolled up and the jacket over one arm.

Mark Bahnisch
2021 years ago

But don’t they wreck the collars on your shirts, Jacques?

I’ve never been one for pins in lapels. A flower is nice.

Paul Watson
2021 years ago

Ken,

I see that Clare Martin has a (relatively) early morning-after speaking engagement here:

10:45am

Pam John
Pam John
2021 years ago

I’m in Clare’s electorate – but will not be voting for her this time – she looks absolutely shattered – has aged about fifteen years and just feel it would be cruel to put her back in the hot seat – I don’t think she would make to the end of four terms – in fact there is talk around (for some time now) that she is quiting after 2 years!!!

GEORGE GAMESON
GEORGE GAMESON
2021 years ago

I PREDICT CLP HOLDING ALL ALICE SPRINGS SEATS IN CLUDING STUART.
A CLP VICTORY WITH CLARE MARTIN LOSING HER SEAT IN FANNIE BAY.
THESE 4 YEARS HAVE BEEN A HICUP CLP RETURNS AND SAVES THE TERRITORY.
BEST TV ADVERT THE FISHING LURE.
THE GOVNOR ALICE SPRINGS

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

George,

I only said I thought the ALP was entitled to warm favouritism. I reckon the most likely result is status quo – both parties hold all current seats. However, I wouldn’t be really surprised if the ALP picks up one (Daly or Greatorex or Goyder – although any one of these requires a substantial swing)), and I wouldn’t be totally astounded if they lose one (most likely Millner) and end up as a minority government (given that I don’t expect either Gerry Wood or Lorainne Braham to lose their seats, and I expect both would support Labor minority government). I think it’s very unlikely that the CLP would pick up the 3 seats it would need to form a majority government.

BTW George, internet ettiquete regards using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS as bad manners, like shouting in someone’s face.

Jim Stewart
Jim Stewart
2021 years ago

I stumbled on the Troppo site while seeking info on NT polls so my 1st query is what is a post-moral majority? Is it
A: a Clayton’s majority?
B: a majority of “post-moral” people?
C: relevant to NT polls
D: none of above

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2021 years ago

Jim

The answer is essentially (b), although it’s mostly an ironic inside joke. It derives from a time when several right-leaning bloggers were condemning a left-leaning blogger named Gianna for “choosing” to give up work to have a baby and go on a single parent pension. One of the troppo contributors wrote a post criticising the attitude of the right-wingers, who retaliated by labelling us the “post-moral majority”. Hence I decided to adopt the label on our masthead. In part it also reflects the mostly moderate libertarian attitude of many of the contributors (although the latter label probably doesn’t precisely fit Wendy or Sophie).

Jim Stewart
Jim Stewart
2021 years ago

Thanks Ken, & I think I get it.

Someone thinks of “us” as having a majority, where “us” are those “choosing” what they have a right to choose. So who are the minority & why are they the minority? Do they have no right to choose some things?

Sorry if this sounds confusing & irrelevant to my interest in NT polls, but it is not. It is particularly relevant if NT voters have “full” preferential ballots. Do they?

Drivetime
Drivetime
2021 years ago

Thoughts from afar:

How delightful to see some of those old names cropping up in political discussions.
George “The Gov” Gameson was a thorn in the side of conservative politics for many years because of his outspoken position on how they should be doing their job, and Ken Parish a thorn in the side of Labor politics because he believed in taking an honest position instead of an opposing position.

Apply the basic rules of state politics and you come up with a Labor win.
1. The sophomore effect-where first term winners get a bounce of about 2-3% at the their second election. That alone will help the ALP consolidate their wins from last time.

2. Incumbency-it’s the double whammy of the sophomore effect where small NT electorates give an advantage to the incumbent by simple virtue of having a broader contact with the electorate.

3. Oppositions don’t win, governments lose. As lacklustre as this government has been, it hasn’t got into any trouble.

4. Disunity loses votes. Just ask the SA Libs who turned a generation long lead into a two term government because of leadership tussles and an appearance of disunity. Federal Labor had similar problems last year. The axeing of Burke, then Mills will have hurt.

5. The last four days. Elections in small environments can swing dramatically in the last four days by virtue of good campaigning or a campaign error. This time Labor has the money, the staff and resources of a full ministry, and an unadventurous streak that should prevent a mistake.

6. Bookies. A savvy big punter can get a fair indication with their own private polling in two key seats at the end of the campaign, so watch the late money.

All the rules point to a win for the current government, which then leaves questions of the future structure of the CLP. Like Federal Labor, the historical reasons for its existence are not there any more. Should it split into its relevant parts and operate as a coalition, or become a party of factions forever burdened with division?

Seats to watch?

The one that might buck the trend is Casuarina where CLP candidate Wendy Green has a strong following and connections going bak many years.

Kevin N