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Federal Election 2007

Aug 25, 2007

Today’s lesson in electoral history takes us all the way to the top: to Darwin, focal point of the electorate of Solomon, held by David Tollner of the Country Liberal Party on a margin of 2.8 per cent. The top end’s history of federal parliamentary representation goes back to the creation of the Northern Territory electorate in 1922, but the seat did not come with full voting rights in parliament until 1968. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was granted shortly after it fell to Sam Calder of the Country Party after a long period of Labor control. Calder was involved with the foundation of the Country Liberal Party in 1974, a local alliance of Liberal and Country Party members formed to contest elections for the newly established Northern Territory parliament. Grant Tambling succeeded Calder as CLP member in 1980, going on to lose the seat to Labor when the Hawke government was elected in 1983 (he would return as a Senator four years later). Northern Territory subsequently changed hands with great frequency: former Chief Minister Paul Everingham recovered it for the CLP in 1984, Warren Snowdon won it back for Labor in 1987, Nick Dondas held it for the CLP for one term from 1996, and Snowdon returned in 1998.

The territory was divided into two electorates at the 2001 election, Darwin and Palmerston forming Solomon and Lingiari taking up the vast remainder. This looked set to be reversed at the 2004 election, when the Northern Territory was found to be 295 residents short of the number required to maintain its second seat. Since both major parties felt they could win them both (a more sound judgment in Labor’s case), the second seat was essentially legislated back into existence. This was done through the expedient of adding “two standard errors” to the official calculation of the territory’s population, which is known to be underestimated in census counts, thereby boosting its quota determination from 1.498 to 1.517. The raw figures ahead of the current election had the population still further below the decisive 1.5 mark, but the second seat was again preserved when the standard error adjustment lifted it from 1.471 to 1.505. This has left the two Northern Territory electorates with by far the lowest enrolments in the country: at the time of the 2004 election, Solomon had 54,725 voters and Lingiari 58,205, compared with a little under 70,000 for Tasmanian seats and a national average of around 87,000.

Solomon’s distinguishing demographic characteristics are a high proportion of indigenous persons (10.3 per cent compared to a national figure of 2.3 per cent) and a low number of persons aged over 65 (5.3 per cent against 13.3 per cent). Darwin is divided between Labor-leaning post-war suburbs in the north, including Nightcliff, Jingili and Sanderson, and the town centre and its surrounds south of the airport, an area marked by higher incomes, fewer families and greater support for the CLP. Even stronger for the CLP is Palmerston, a satellite town established 20 kilometres south-east of Darwin in the 1980s. This area is somewhat less multicultural than Darwin and has a high proportion of mortgage-paying young families, and the booths here take votes from the nearby Robertson barracks (for a clearer view of the lie of the land, see my 2004 booth result maps at Crikey). At the time of the 2001 election, Solomon had a notional CLP margin of 2.3 per cent while Lingiari had a notional Labor margin of 3.7 per cent. Warren Snowdon naturally opted for Lingiari, and Solomon emerged as an extremely tight contest between Labor’s Laurene Hull and David Tollner (right) of the CLP. Tollner suffered a 2.2 per cent swing against the national trend, but was able to hang on by just 88 votes. He had a slightly more comfortable time of it at the 2004 election, picking up 6.9 per cent on the primary vote and 2.7 per cent on two-party preferred. The swing was especially strong in Palmerston, which accounts for just over a quarter of Solomon’s voters.

Close margins are not the only reason Tollner is lucky to be in parliament. Party colleagues had been gunning for his disendorsement in 2001, and failed to secure it only because party rules would not allow it so close to an election. At issue was a drink driving charge and an earlier cannabis conviction, which exacerbated ongoing hostility over his attempt to win the territory seat of Nelson as an independent in 1997. Running on opposition to gun control, Tollner had come within 41 votes of defeating the CLP’s Chris Lugg. Two significant figures in the CLP cited Tollner’s preselection as a factor contributing to their decision to quit the party – Nick Dondas, the member for the Northern Territory electorate from 1996 to 1998, and Maisie Austin, who went so far as to run against Tollner as an independent, but managed only 5 per cent of the vote. Austin later returned to the party and ran as its candidate for Lingiari in 2004. Tollner has continued to cut a colourful figure since entering parliament. In early 2004 he was forced to apologise for misbehaviour on a Qantas flight: he had reportedly “annoyed” Liberal colleague Christopher Pyne by “ruffling his hair”, and had to be told to sit down three times as the plane came in to land. In August, just weeks after the government announced its intervention in remote communities, Tollner was one of a number of party functionaries seen on a boat on which alcohol was consumed very near a dry Tiwi Islands community. As police investigated the discovery of empty beer bottles at the community’s airport, Warren Snowdon used parliamentary privilege to accuse Tollner and Senator Nigel Scullion of illegally taking alcohol on to the land.

Labor has nominated Damian Hale (left), who coached the Northern Territory Football League club St Marys to three successive premierships from 2003 to 2005. Hale made national news in June after an incident in a Darwin nightclub involving wayward AFL star Chris Tarrant. Hale says he expressed his “disappointment” with Tarrant after he “pulled down his trousers and bared his backside” at a female companion, to which Tarrant responded by punching Hale in the face. Tarrant copped a three-match suspension for his efforts, but Hale declined to press charges. Hale was preselected in February ahead of Darwin lawyer and rugby coach Wayne Connop, marine scientist Stuart Fitch, and two candidates associated with the territory branch of the Australian Nursing Federation: former president Denis Blackford, and organiser Matthew Gardiner. Darwin sports broadcaster Charlie King had earlier been named as the front-runner, having also contested preselection for the 2001 election (hats off to the Northern Territory News sub who came up with the headline “King: Solomon’s mine”). However, he withdrew from the race after what the Northern Territory News described as “pressure from ABC management”.

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Dinsdale Pirahna…

Labor gain. A no-brainer.

ummm… nope.

end thread….


LOL I think a little more than that. As posted on the other PB site on Solomon, the 3 , yet to be counted mobiles, will give him some advantage. Cheers.


throwing a dart now..

If Damian Hale wins.. it will be by less than 80 votes.

de ja vu for Solomon…


page 5 NT news.


Is that u Dave T.
Sorry about your leader’s demise last night old bean. Wait a minute, no I’m not.

True to form, you didn’t actually address my point. That being, 2,500 to 3,000 seems more like the pre-poll numbers my friend. Cas Village numbers were good but not in the numbers u r thinking of.

Guess we will see you challenging Jodene in the next 12 months or so now.


there was two weeks of pre polling in Darwin and Palmerston.

At the Palmerston booth Thursday and Friday there were about 250 and 300 respectively.

It was a very popular alternative to the long queues on Saturday.


Err, dartboard, 10,000 you say, that’s a lot of pre-polls don’t u think?
Where did u get that figure from my friend? Seems a little high to me.
Did you just get someone to flick a dart at you to get that number (ironic humour).
Seriously though, I would have thought maybe a quarter or a third of that number might be more realistic (see notation below re: HTV’s).

I hope you’re right though (slightly sarcastic humour).
They might favour Mr. Hale 5 to 3 (baseless assumption), as mostly the ordinary working people of Darwin pre-polled, because they were working on Saturday. You probably already know this, as I do, because you (or someone you know) were probably manning one of the pre-poll booths for the past week or so and know how many HTV’s were passed out (this is the factual bit).
Cheers, (who said I’m crazy) NSMM.


10000 pre poll votes to be counted.

maurice foley
Hello all – esp. Solomon voters! Maurice Foley here – I hope you’ve at least considered voting Independent. You do have a choice – if you’re open to it… Good blog – good comments, esp. from Just Me. That’s a great one about Dondas – well and truly said… he was an embarrassment. Of the CLP federal rep.s, the only one I thought was any bloody good was Grant Tambling. They should beg Sandy to get Grant to take up the party presidency. He’s not as young as he was, of course – but he and Sandy could do it – strictly part-time and no work for Sandy… not after all the years they’ve already done – as a sort of ceremonial thing – but provide some much needed decency at the top of the party… I also endorse your comment that : “…The indigenous problems here are already well known to locals, and are probably largely already factored into local voting patterns. Personally, I doubt it will make a whole lot of difference to the vote anywhere in Oz.” This is also ‘well said’ – and so depressingly true. And something the major parties – reflecting, as they do, the low common denominator of the public – will never change. I predict the intervention will be over by the new year – no matter who wins. And, no matter who wins, guess what the papers and lite ABC will say? “Hey, well – at least we tried. We spent millions. We went all over the place… sent the army and experts… and doctors and nurses too… and they’re still the same… they’ll never change… well, we made the money – just like we made this country – and we’ll spend it on a new fly-about, near the new round-over beside the new clinic that someone forgot to get any nurses for…” For those who know a little history [which is all I do]: The current Federal intervention – what Fred Chaney [who is a real liberal] said was a ‘last chance’ when he spoke at the uni here on the issue, with the excellent Olga Havnen and Michael O’Donnell – is the equivalent of ‘snatching the dying pillow’… the final threat: Assimilate or Die Some related Sense’07 campaign slogans : its too late for Sorry – there’s actually no-one left to say Sorry to… [* See note just… Read more »

Solomon should go to Hale. Tollner is the type who wins here but then Hale is not a great deal different. They are both seen as not too bright but reasonable blokes.

The difference is that Tollner is to the right of Genghis Khan and Hale is not.

Hale will pick up good votes in the ‘old’ Darwin population where the bulk of the footy supporters come from. He was a successful and smart coach and has a good reputation. He lives in Palmerston and has been pushing that hard. This may counter some of the army/newcomers vote that often goes to the CLP.

Some voters may even figure that they Tollner is not running against Clare Martin – not yet anyway.


Solomon is closer than thought (originally easy ALP win). Hale, although raising his profile doesnt seem to have attracted much in the way of popularity. His best hope is to benefit from the general Labor swing but Territorians are notoriously independant in political matters. Tollner is well known and (depending on your view) considered either a bit of a larrikan that has made a genuine contribution to getting funding for his electorate (oncology etc) or alternatively a ridiculous figure and a fool. Eye of the beholder…..

I suspect Tollner will gain quite a lot of advantage from incumbency all the same and its true that people are definately tiring of the NT Labor parties interference in local life. (Read as down south policies ideas implanted on the locals)

Lingari is a no brainer for Snowdon (ALP) – put your house on it!

K David

Debate went to hale on points, Tollner looked scratchy.
In todays NTN talk of internal CLP polling showing Hale well ahead and Tollner contemplating his future possibly in the NT Legislative Assembly.

X Man

Labor/Liberal. Its too close to call, i think ill leave it in gods hands. which party is going to be best for families first, enviroment extreamists second, at the end of the day who will give the average family the most money. personally i would like to see affirmative action to give aboriginal people basic health and education with the goldern rule 1. to prioritise createing indiginious jobs . 2. if alternative philosophies are right refere to rule number 1. if you dont like either party the greens alternative consciousness will hand out free heroin and make freaky babies with genetic/ ivf surogate cloaning. cool man


I like K David’s comment about an easy way to lose one’s seat is to treat everyday drinkers like criminals.

As someone who has been involved with these new grog laws, I can tell you people ain’t happy. Besides the $100 debacle (that does nothing at all to protect little children), in many parts of the NT now, people cannot take grog in their boats when they go fishing, nor can they have grog at many camping areas across the NT.

I have visited in an official capacity town camps where people were told they are now not allowed to drink in their own homes and I’d be very very surprised if a single one of them voted for the Coalition! They are incredibly p’d off at the Australian Government about the intervention.

And so am I.

K David

Yeah, the same carwash that dave was photograpghed washing the YRAW van


Is that the same carwash that Trish Crossin was photograhed in front of the 130SUXX plated car..

…on the CLP pollies knee with the big thumbs up?

sure Aunty Clare loved that one..

absolute platinum..

K David

I heard on Hot 100, Hale at a celebrity car wash on the weekend and was being interviewed , Tollner was late and whe Hale was asked what he thought he responded with ” Lucky that hes not on an AWA or we could dock half his pay”


Sid 513

The trouble with any results here in Darwin is that the CLP is running a campaign against Clare Martin’s NT Goverment. The most recent CLP ad with Giles and Tolner talks about stopping council rate rises from NT Council Amalgamations.

It is thought that Labor may get some backlash as the NT ALP is on the nose. Recently the Martin Government has introduced speed limits, red light cameras and a points system on driver’s licences, all highly unpopular.

The CLP has been talking up the faults of Clare Martin’s Government using deficiencies in health, police etc. (like a mini Howard campaign) to confuse Federal and Territory issues.

The defence vote has been worried about by the ALP and door-knocking has been almost continuous in the Defence dominated Palmerston suburbs.

The “Your Rights At Work” campaign is continuing to gain traction and may go well due to the “lifestyle” that the Territorians love.

It should be close regardless of who wins.

K David

Grog Laws came in on the weekend.
If a normal Darwin Resident Buys over $100 worth of grog (about 2 cartons of Boags) they now have to fill out a form.

Tollner said on the ABC that he didnt even read the Legislation before voting for it.

This is probably the easyiest way to lose your seat in darwin, treat everyday drinkers like Criminals.


I know this comment was a while ago, but it’s been a whole since I checked in here:

Palmerston (including the nearby Robertson barracks) also has a high proportion of military people, who traditionally have tended to vote conservative

I am actually in the military, joined in late ’05 as a mature age direct entry officer and am a rusted on Labor voter. I expected to run into mostly conservatives, but there have been less of them than I expected. I’ve run across many more negative comments against the current government than I expected. So I would say that “tending to vote conservative” is accurate, but not as much as probably most people would think.