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.