Top End victory looms for Labor

27 August 2016


There seems to have been an increase in Australia over many years, if not the last few decades overall, in voters throwing out governments more out of desperation to be rid of them, rather than because of enthusiasm for the alternatives.  When voters want to throw governments out, sometimes they simply don’t care what the alternatives are – they just see or hear alternatives effectively saying, “We’re not those people.”

An election occurring today in the Northern Territory looks very much like playing out this way.  Voters there look like electing the Labor Party and throwing out the Country Liberal Party, or CLP for short.

The previous election here, in 2012, saw the CLP win office for the first time since 2001, when it lost to Labor.  Although there might’ve been a time factor at play when Labor lost office in 2012, after eleven years there, the result then was unlike in past NT elections, because the CLP had won office largely after a backlash against Labor in non-urban seats.

While you’d normally expect elections anywhere to be decided in the suburbs of capital cities, the 2012 election in the Territory saw no change in its capital of Darwin – the change happened in rural seats and vast outback seats.  The CLP took power after winning the seats of Arafura and Arnhem and Daly in the north, and the massive seat of Stuart in the west.  Another massive outback seat, Namatjira in the south, had an unusual situation with its sitting member, Alison Anderson, having originally represented the area as a Labor MP before moving to the crossbench – she joined the CLP ahead of the 2012 election, when she won her seat as a CLP candidate.

But after winning office, the CLP imploded.  Terry Mills had led the CLP into office with victory in 2012, but less than a year later, he was dumped in a leadership coup.  As a result, the new leader following the coup was Adam Giles, who became the first Aborigine to hold the job of Territory Chief Minister or State Premier anywhere in Australia.  In the years to follow, there were numerous instances of scandals and infighting.  Several MPs left the CLP to sit on the crossbench, and the CLP lost its parliamentary majority, meaning that it could only govern with the help of crossbenchers.

Now the CLP looks like a rabble, and while few pollsters pay attention to this neck of the wood, it looks voters want it out of office, regardless of what the alternative is.

Therefore Labor looks like winning today’s election, purely due to voter dissatisfaction with the CLP.  There doesn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for Labor, and little seems known about what Labor would do in office, but voters seemingly couldn’t care less.

In terms of the Territory and its future, particularly its economy, not much seems to have attracted attention during the election campaign.  There have been some concerns about economic management, and one suspects that more attention might be paid to that if not for the internal problems afflicting the Giles Government.  Without those problems, the economy might’ve been more concerning to voters.

At the moment, there are twenty-five seats in the Territory Parliament.  The CLP currently holds twelve seats, leaving it one seat short of a majority, and Labor holds seven seats.  Six other seats are in the hands of Independents, four of whom are former CLP MPs, while a fifth Independent is a former Labor MP – only the sixth of these Independents, Gerry Wood, was actually elected as an Independent previously.

With a big swing to Labor predicted in the Territory, I’m tipping a big majority for Labor, which will include the gaining of some Independent-held seats.  Most Labor gains will be in the northern region, nicknamed the Top End, although I also expect Labor to win two outback seats away from the north.

My tip is for Labor to win Arafura, Arnhem, Blain, Daly, Drysdale, Fong Lim, Karama, Namatjira, Port Darwin, Sanderson, and Stuart.  All bar Karama went to the CLP in 2012, with Karama being the seat now held by a former Labor MP on the crossbench.  Added to the existing Labor tally of seven seats, this would take its tally to eighteen.  I tip the CLP to only win four seats – Braitling, Brennan, Katherine, and Spillett.  Three other seats, Araluen and Goyder and Nelson, will remain with Independents.

This election thus has a scenario where a Top End victory looms for Labor.  I call it a Top End victory because Labor’s gains will mostly be in the north, notwithstanding two likely gains away from there.  Labor will win because Territory voters just want the CLP gone.