NT Country Liberals’ laura norder windfall

Law and order themes are always popular in NT election campaigns, even more so than other parts of Australia.  It’s hardly surprising given that violent crime rates are more than twice as high as the Australian average. Almost 6% of Territorians experience a violent crime every year. A fair proportion of both perpetrators and victims are Aboriginal, but a lot of violence also emanates from the drug and alcohol-fuelled binge drinking party culture, a significant younger population than the Australian average and lots of young single military personnel aka AJs out on the prowl.  Darwin’s CBD after nightfall is no place for the faint-hearted, and parents of teens and 20s worry about their kids’ safety every time they go out on the town.

From Australian Bureau of Statistics crime victimisation survey

 

The Henderson government has done a politically skillful job of seizing the populist “tough on crime” high ground over the last few years, with draconian policies that have kept the punters quiet and filled the prisons((Hence current expenditure of more than $500 million on a new prison on Darwin’s outskirts ~KP)) while doing nothing at all to reduce crime rates. Instead crime has actually been rising in quite a few categories although we can’t be sure how much because the most recent available statistics date from March 2011.

That’s why CLP strategists must have seen it as manna from heaven when deputy leader John Elferink was attacked by a drunken thug on Darwin’s streets yesterday while launching a law and order policy in front of the assembled media.

Not only that, the Elf got to display his ex-cop man of action credentials and effect a citizen’s arrest on the perpetrator (who eventually bolted with the help of a mate but was captured by the cops a short time later). The incident not only dramatised the crime situation on Darwin’s streets but portrayed the CLP as a party willing to take tough measures to deal with it.

It could conceivably be a seminal moment in the campaign, rather like Mark Latham’s aggressive handshake of John Howard that convinced many including me that he was dangerously loopy, or PM Gillard’s “real Julia” gaffe that jet-propelled doubts about her trustworthiness that already existed from the manner of her deposing Kevin Rudd.

Somewhat ironically, the street assault on the Elf took place while he and Opposition Leader Terry Mills were launching a bizarre “one punch homicide law” policy in opportunistic reaction to an event the day before when an 18 year old boy was king-hit in Darwin’s CBD in an incident eerily similar to the recent Kings Cross killing of young Thomas Kelly. The Darwin victim is in hospital in a critical condition while the 28 year old alleged perpetrator is in police custody.

Some have wondered whether the whole thing was staged. Somehow I doubt it because it would be too easy for a such a stunt to come unglued.

The CLP policy in itself looks rather silly, in that it’s already possible for an assailant to be charged with murder or manslaughter for a single punch king hit. It probably would have been ignored as the cynically meaningless electoral pose that it was, had it not been for the extraordinarily fortuitous circumstance of the Elf being attacked by a thug in front of the TV cameras.  Some have wondered whether the whole thing was staged. Somehow I doubt it because it would be too easy for a such a stunt to come unglued. Mind you, events surrounding the Ashby/Slipper affair (and before that Godwin Grech) indicate that no stunt however tawdry is beyond imagination in the strange and desperate world of electoral politics.

More prosaically, my hobnobbing with Labor luminaries at Saturday night’s Darwin Cup Ball suggests an increasing level of quiet pessimism on their part, though not yet desperation.  I suspect their tracking polling is showing the prospect of salvaging a narrow victory slipping away as voters begin focusing on politics with just 3 weeks until election day. All will depend on the intensive campaign period, which began last night with a Labor election ad TV blitz.

I’ve already suggested that the seats of Johnston, Nightcliff, Fannie Bay and Daly are potentially vulnerable, although only Fannie Bay is officially marginal on the 2008 election figures.  I would now add to that list the predominantly Aboriginal seat of Arafura.  Centred on the Tiwi Islands and north-west Arnhemland and nominally a very safe ALP seat, Labor has lost the incumbency of sitting MLA Marion Scrymgour. Moreover I’m told she has antagonised many of the “Big Men” Tiwi traditional owners to the extent that quite a few including family patriarch Cyril Rioli are actively backing Country Liberals candidate Francis Xavier Maralampuwi, despite the fact that the Labor candidate is AFL hero and kinsman Dean Rioli.  That may make a significant difference to the CLP vote, although the authority of Aboriginal elders isn’t what it once was and Dean Rioli has rock star status among young and ordinary Tiwis.  I suspect Labor will manage to hold onto the seat but it’s certainly one to watch.

Styles isn’t the most charismatic of politicians nor the brightest bulb in the CLP chandelier.

On the other side of the ledger, Labor remains hopeful of picking up the CLP Darwin suburban seat of Sanderson.  Labor lost the seat to the CLP at the 2008 election after previous MLA Len Kiley disgraced himself and was punished by the voters after making a gross drunken sexual remark to a female security guard at Marrara Stadium. Sanderson is currently held by CLP ex-cop Peter Styles on a margin of 5.2%. Labor has a plausible candidate in local high school principal Jodie Green.  Styles isn’t the most charismatic of politicians nor the brightest bulb in the CLP chandelier. Nevertheless it would be surprising if he hasn’t managed to build up some sort of incumbency cushion over the last 4 years, and the Gillard backlash factor will also help him. I’d be surprised if the CLP doesn’t retain this seat but it too is certainly one to watch.

All in all, with at least 5 vulnerable Labor seats and only a single CLP one in that position((I should also mention the Palmerston seat of Drysdale, where sitting MLA Ross Bohlin was disendorsed by the CLP but is standing as an Independent. The notional majority is 9.3% but it is likely to be closer than that. Labor has already spent lots of money in Palmerston and has just promised to spend another $100 million building the rest of the dual carriageway on the main commuter route Tiger Brennan Drive. Labor must think it has some sort of chance there if it’s willing to commit that sort of money. ~KP)), you can see why the bookies have the Country Liberals as firm favourites.  In that context the Elf’s telegenic citizen’s arrest yesterday could prove a campaign watershed moment.

 

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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AJ
AJ
9 years ago

The ALP’s hopes of retaining power seemed to be founded on mere optimism and the large somewhat threatened public service workforce in Northern Darwin suburbs. There has been an noticeable improvement in self promotion across media by the government recently, probably to counter claims in previous elections that they were invisible and had done nothing. There is no massive feel for change but I believe a perception in the electorate that a) the Government has run out of new ideas b) The debt accumulation is unacceptable c) The has been niave policy development without sufficient thinking through of consequences – eg the 100% New housing funding initiative which would require new applicants to find about $1000 a week “spare” to repay the mortgage.
I was interested to read about which seats you felt were vulnerable though. It seems to me that political history dictates a really large call for change in the electorate before seats with wide margins change hands (eg when the CLP first lost power). I dont see this happening this election. The small electorate sizes do mean increased volatility here though. Nightcliff will be interesting for instance. I honestly cant see Sanderson even in play despite the lack lustre incumbent, The ALP candidate is unknown (in my electorate)

jennifer
jennifer
9 years ago
Reply to  AJ

For those who don’t want to pay $1000 a week in rent the terrifying commitment of that sum in a mortgage might seem do-able.

The ALP holds Nightcliff on a 10.7% margin, so is ostensibly safer than Sanderson which Peter Styles holds at 5.2%.
But if, as Ken points out if Peter Styles hasn’t won the hearts and minds of the electorate (or his electoral secretary hasn’t) then he might not be sitting all that pretty, although, having said that, it is a bit disturbing that you haven’t even heard from the ALP candidate. I’m sure she’d like to rectify that!

Speaking of quiet candidates I haven’t seen or heard hide nor hair of Kim Loveday (except, to be scrupulously fair, once at the market) but the others are greeting everyone on the bike path and ‘Tree Climber’ Peter Rudge has decided to run. No idea what his politics are but he has always done great work in our over-treed garden. And dedication to causes like that count.

AJ
AJ
9 years ago
Reply to  jennifer

I pay a fraction under $500 a week for a 3 bedroom with 2 rooms sublet, affordable for me but Im lucky in that I have a good secure place at this price, scratching around for an additional $500 a week is too big a stretch for me despite having a well paying job and a part time business

AJ
AJ
9 years ago
Reply to  jennifer

You would have to discount and incumbenct factor for Nightcliff with Jane Aagard retiring though, thats probably 4-6% off the margin. Also Nightcliff as noted elsewhere is the “greenest” electorate in Darwin meaning that their will likely be a healthy percentage of Greens/Blanche votes and preferences are likely to come into play. Although those are more likely to go ALP than CLP, it does split the vote somewhat

AJ
AJ
9 years ago
Reply to  AJ

Forgive spelling errors, java seems to want to drop letters or misread my keyboard

jennifer
jennifer
9 years ago
Reply to  AJ

That is very low rent. Well done!

….thought you’d have something to say about incumbency and Greens.

Quite separately, Greens intransigence and intolerance drives me nuts. That party gums up the works everywhere IMHO (very H).

DarwinNTGuy
DarwinNTGuy
9 years ago
Reply to  jennifer

You need to get out more! Kim has been at the Sunday Markets at Nightcliff EVERY Sunday since pre selection. And at the Nightcliff shops EVERY Saturday morning. And doorknocking around the electorate. Rudge, he of the infamous past, only has one policy, seems to be edible verges.

Pedro
Pedro
9 years ago

I suppose I’m nitpicking, but Godwin Grech doesn’t fit the description of a political stunt unless your suggesting Turnbull new it was crap. Also, I’m sure the chase for his seat and revenge is the reason for the complaints against Slipper, but that does not mean the complaints are not, in substance, valid, which again would not be a stunt of the type you are suggesting possible. But I agree really stupid things can be cooked up as political stunts and surely the best recent example is the tent-embassy affair.

Joey
Joey
9 years ago

I think you might want to look a bit further into seats in the bush. Namajira is a real dogfight now, while daly is a good chance of swinging CLP. The CLP seem to have made real headway in both Arnhem and Stuart also. Together with the fact that everyone seems to be totally overlooking the seat of Barkly.
If you call 10 people in Tennant Creek, 9 of them would say they wont be voting for McCarthy. The general feel was that the communities feel the same. I do some work there occasionally and it sounds and feels like he stands little chance of getting back in. In fact many people spoke with real venom when dicussing him, while the young CLP candidate people seem to feel somesort of ownership/connection over.

AJ
AJ
9 years ago
Reply to  Ken Parish

I think the joker in the pack in these types of electorates might be the First Nations party. Although I dont expect a first timer party to win a seat anywhere since history tells us it takes us a few years and elections to build up a sufficient support base, no one knows what level of disenchantment the ALP has engendered in these communities. What used to be an almost bolted on ALP vote has another direction to vote now, although the effectiveness, preferences and quantity of this slippage is completely unknown at this stage. If the rumblings for self management are directed against the federal ALP’s ongoing support of the intervention, the slippage may well be larger than anyone thinks.

AJ
AJ
9 years ago
Reply to  Ken Parish

Fair comment Ken, thanks for the response. I tend to be very interested in poltical outcomes and am a bit of an amateur political scientist from way back, but its difficult to get information in the NT so it makes predictions harder to make. By my estimates I have the CLP getting over the line by a slim majority since there doesnt seem to be any popular/viable independants with the exception of Gerry in Nelson to expect anything other than the usual 2 horse race in terms of actually winning seats outright. I was interested to read that 500 people have enquired with the TIO about the Governments 100% mortgage scheme. That to me is an indication that maybe, maybe they have found a way to appeal to those in the increasingly swelling homeless ranks to solve this particular problem (even though personally I can see the sad future outcome of selling up ala NSW at the high repayment rates down the track). Im not convinced that the ALP is doing much worthwhile campaigning, as policy apart from this seems thin on the ground. The CLP is a little vague too so Im tending to use demographic and core-vote factors to make seat by seat predictions. The NT was once boringly predictable and despite the inevitable transitory population that factor is still there in a lot of electorates. I wonder just what the net “turnover” of population from other states and overseas has been in the last decade or so since the change of government?

joey
joey
9 years ago
Reply to  AJ

Well I guess time will tell.

But I think it may warrant extra investigation, when I was there recently many people were remarking on the amount of historically labor households displaying Healy Coreflutes. In particular that of Elliott McAdam who has one up on his block of land just three doors from McCarthy own house.

My Friend up there said that McAdam is firmly supporting if not mentoring Ms Healy. I noticed also that her CLP Profile says she grew up in Elliott, so who knows how well she connects with the people on country.

And your anti shire point is a good one too, that may cause some softening of labor vote as you mention.

jennifer
jennifer
9 years ago

Ahhhh the old ‘orchestrated CLP Cheer campaign’ trick! That accounts for the sloppiness of the rebuke.
I did mention I saw her when I was at the markets so it seems she has the Nightcliff shops at least covered.

Your personal attack on Peter Rudge was uncalled for as Ken says, He has always been helpful, knowledgeable and honorable in all our business dealings with him.

Jenny
Jenny
9 years ago

How is one punch legislation silly? It would act as a strong deterrent.
Brett Meredith died from a punch in Katherine two years ago and if it was in place, perhaps that young man from the weekend would not be in such a bad condition. Perhaps the offender would have thought twice?

I hate to say it but I think the CLP have got it right with this one.

jennifer
jennifer
9 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

If the CLP ‘one punch’ legislation duplicates existing legislation it logically follows that it is not a strong deterrent.

Besides there is the view that harsh penalties are less effective as a deterrent than the certainty of being caught.

However, might I say the certainty of being caught did not deter the Elferink attacker and probably wouldn’t have prevented injury to the young fellow hit in Mitchell street the other night or Brett Meredith’s death either.

So harsh penalties and more surveillance and police don’t seem to be working. Not easy is it?

Bill Posters
Bill Posters
8 years ago

Has anybody heard a rumour that Elferink set up the situation aka The Bishop Brennan bet?