Northern Territory 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 1.51.46 pm

Welcome to the Tally Room’s guide to the 2016 Northern Territory election. This guide includes comprehensive coverage of each seat’s history, geography, political situation and results of the 2012 election.

Electorate profiles

Seat profiles have been produced all 25 Legislative Assembly electorates. You can use the following navigation to click through to each seat’s profile.

You can also use this map to find an electorate and view the seat guide.

Political history

The Country Liberal Party held government in the Northern Territory continuously from 1974 until 2001. From 1974 until 1978, the Assembly had limited powers, while the NT readied itself for self-government.

Seven people led the CLP in government during these 27 years. The last of these chief ministers was Denis Burke, who led the government from 1999 until 2001.

In 2001, Clare Martin’s Labor Party swept into power, winning six additional seats to give them a slim 13-seat majority. Burke continued to lead the CLP until 2003, when he was replaced by Terry Mills. Mills stepped down just before the 2005 election, and Burke returned to the CLP leadership.

The Martin Labor government won the 2005 election in a landslide. The CLP was reduced to only four seats, with Burke losing his own seat. Labor won a slew of Darwin-area electorates which had been considered safe for the CLP.

The Country Liberal rump was led by Jodeen Carney from 2005 until early 2008, when she was replaced by Terry Mills. Clare Martin stepped down as chief minister in 2007, to be replaced by Paul Henderson.

At the 2008 election, the Labor government narrowly maintained its majority, winning 13 seats. The CLP won eleven, with one independent.

The ALP subsequently lost its majority in 2009. Firstly Marion Scrymgour, a former deputy chief minister, resigned from the party. She subsequently returned to Labor after another member, Alison Anderson, moved to the crossbench. Anderson went on to join the CLP just before the election.

2012 election summary

Labor and the Country Liberal Party each held 12 seats before the 2012 election, with the last seat held by independent Gerry Wood.

The most marginal seats in NT elections have traditionally been those seats in the northern suburbs of Darwin, and it was expected that the CLP’s best shot at winning government would be to pick up seats like Karama, Johnston and Wanguri, as well as other marginals like Fannie Bay and Daly.

This is not what played out. Instead, Labor lost a slew of outback seats which were considered safe. This included Arafura and Arnhem in the top end, and Stuart in the outback, as well as the more conventional marginal seat of Daly. The CLP also held on to the seat of Namatjira, in the southern outback. Namatjira was a new name for the seat of MacDonnell, which had traditionally leaned to Labor before sitting MP Alison Anderson defected to the CLP in the previous term.

This gave the CLP a total of 16 seats, with Labor holding eight.

Events since the 2012 election

Former chief minister Paul Henderson resigned from his seat of Wanguri in early 2013, and Labor gained a large swing at the subsequent by-election.

Following the by-election, Terry Mills’ support in the party dried up. After seeing off challenges by John Elferink and Dave Tollner, Mills was replaced by Adam Giles while he was on a trip overseas in March 2013.

Mills resigned from Parliament in early 2014, triggering a by-election in his seat of Blain. In the lead-up to the by-election, three indigenous MPs resigned from the CLP. The CLP held onto Blain despite a 10% swing, which gave them the numbers to narrowly hold onto a majority in the Parliament. One of those three indigenous MPs, Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu, returned to the CLP later in 2014.

The resignation of Labor MP Kon Vatskalis in late 2014 triggered a by-election in Casuarina. The Country Liberal Party gained a 4% swing, but Labor held onto the seat.

In early February 2015, Giles lost a party room ballot for leader of the Country Liberal Party to Willem Westra van Holthe. After Giles refused to step down, the CLP reversed the decision and reinstated Giles as leader.

In April 2015, Delia Lawrie stepped down as Labor leader in the face of a leadership challenge, and was succeeded by Michael Gunner. Lawrie resigned from Labor in late 2015 after losing preselection for her seat.

The CLP lost two more members in 2015 – reducing the government to minority status. Kezia Purick resigned in mid-2015, and Robyn Lambley followed suit later that year. CLP minister Nathan Barrett stepped down from the ministry in June 2016, and moved to the crossbench soon after.

Changes in seat numbers

Since the 2012 election, a number of MPs have left the major parties and become independents. Five Country Liberal Party seats are now held by independents, along with one Labor seat.

Country Liberal MPs Larisa Lee, Alison Anderson and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu all left the CLP in 2014 to sit as independents, and shortly afterwards united to form the NT branch of the Palmer United Party. This experiment was short-lived. Kurrupuwu returned to the CLP, and Lee and Anderson now sit as independents. This puts Lee’s seat of Arnhem and Anderson’s seat of Namatjira in independent hands.

Kezia Purick has represented the seat of Goyder since 2008. She served as a shadow minister until 2012, when she became Speaker. Purick resigned from the CLP in 2015, and later in the year survived an attempt to remove her from the speakership thanks to the vote of a CLP member in a secret ballot.

The CLP’s Robyn Lambley has held the seat of Araluen since 2010. She resigned from the CLP in 2015 after the draft redistribution report proposed that the seat be abolished (although this change was reversed).

The CLP’s Nathan Barrett was elected to represent the Palmerston-area electorate of Blain at the 2014 by-election following the resignation of former chief minister Terry Mills. Barrett quickly rose through the ranks to become a minister, but was forced to resign from the ministry in June 2016 due to a sex scandal. He resigned from the CLP later that month.

Labor’s Delia Lawrie holds Karama. Lawrie was Labor leader from 2012 to 2015, and resigned from the party in late 2015 after losing Labor preselection for Karama.

As it stands now, the CLP holds eleven seats, Labor holds seven, and there are seven independents – five of whom were elected as Country Liberal candidates, one of whom was elected as a Labor candidate, and the last being independent Gerry Wood.

Changes to the electoral system

Legislation passed in February 2016 moved the Northern Territory from compulsory preferential voting to optional preferential voting. This means that, for the first time, voters will not be required to number every box on their ballot paper, and parties have the choice to recommend that voters not give preferences.

The legislation also prohibits any campaigning or campaign materials within a 100-metre radius of any polling place, which will make it significantly more difficult for parties and candidates to hand out how-to-vote cards.

Redistribution

The recent redistribution saw a shift in power towards the Darwin area and away from Alice Springs.

Prior to the redistribution, Alice Springs had three electorates entirely contained in the city – one of those three seats (Greatorex) was abolished.

At the other end of the Territory, the new seat of Spillett was created to straddle the area between Palmerston and Darwin. This resulted in the three Palmerston seats all shrinking slightly, and had knock-on effects in central Darwin. Fong Lim, which previously straddled the two cities, has been pulled much closer to central Darwin and has become much more marginal.

In notional terms based on the 2012 results, the CLP still holds sixteen seats, to eight for Labor and one for independent Gerry Wood.

About the Author

Ben Raue is the founder and author of the Tally Room. If you like this post, please consider donating to support the Tally Room.