NT redistribution – draft boundaries published


The draft boundaries for the next Northern Territory Legislative Assembly election in 2024 were released yesterday. Changes were mostly restricted to the Darwin-Palmerston area, and no seats have changed hands.

There was just one change outside of the northern urban area. An area around Timber Creek was moved from Daly into Gwojato the west of Katherine. This area is quite large in terms of land mass but only contained a few hundred voters.

Changes were more significant in Darwin, and particularly in Palmerston. Port Darwin is the only seat in the area unchanged.

Fannie Bay, Nightcliff, Johnston and Casuarina all bumped to the north, eventually absorbing territory from Wanguri.

Sanderson, Karama and Fong Lim all shifted to the east, eventually taking territory from Spillett and Nelson.

The Palmerston area was completely reshuffled, and now has four seats entirely contained to the area. Spillett was first drawn in 2016 as a seat bridging the gap between Palmerston and Darwin, but it has changed entirely into a Palmerston suburban seat. Nelson also gained some of that area on the western edge of Palmerston.

Overall about 7.85% of voters in the Territory have been moved into a new seat. Eight seats were unchanged, plus the changes to Arafura don’t involve any voters.

This map shows the changes. I have defaulted the map to show Palmerston and Darwin, but you can zoom out to see the other boundaries.

You can download the boundaries as a KMZ file here.

Now let’s talk about margin estimates. This is a bit more difficult to do in the Northern Territory, and particularly so with the 2020 COVID-affected election.

My methodology for state and local redistributions involves two steps. Ordinary election-day booths are individually reassigned (and sometimes split into multiple electorates if they lay near boundaries). Then I reassign the special votes in proportion to the number of voters moved, to ensure that overall the proportion of votes moved matches the proportion of voters moved. I skew this distribution to match the skew in the election day vote. So if Labor did better in one part of the seat’s booths on election day, they get a higher proportion of the special votes to represent that part.

But in the NT, they don’t tend to have a lot of polling places. No seat has more than three booths, seven electorates only have one booth, and the seat of Mulka had no election day booths. This is partly about electorates in urban areas being very small, but also because a lot of voters in rural electorates cast their votes using mobile polling methods. Those results aren’t reported at the level of each place where people vote, so can’t be used to analyse voting results in each area. In some cases I’ve needed to move a small proportion of a booth to make the model work.

Plus, in 2020, only about 18% of voters cast their ballots at an election day ordinary booth.

So take the redistribution estimates with a grain of salt.

Luckily many seats only experienced minor or no changes. The main changes were in the Palmerston area.

I’ve posted a table below listing the pre-redistribution and estimated post-redistribution margins for all 25 seats.

The biggest change was in Drysdale, where the Labor margin dropped from 7.9% to 5.3%. The CLP’s margin was cut by 1.2% in Nelson, from 8.3% to 7.1%. The CLP’s margin in Spillett was cut from 15.0% to 13.9%.

In terms of close races, Labor’s margin in Blain was increased from 0.2% to 0.6%. The CLP’s margin in Daly increased from 1.2% to 1.9% (although the seat is Labor-held after a by-election), and Labor’s margin in Fong Lim has been cut from 2.6% to 2.2%.

Seat Old margin New margin
Arafura ALP 3.6% ALP 3.6%
Araluen IND 0.5% vs CLP IND 0.5% vs CLP
Arnhem ALP 1.6% vs IND ALP 1.6% vs IND
Barkly CLP 0.1% CLP 0.1%
Blain ALP 0.2% ALP 0.6%
Braitling CLP 1.3% CLP 1.3%
Brennan CLP 1.2% CLP 1.1%
Casuarina ALP 16% ALP 16%
Daly CLP 1.2% CLP 1.9%
Drysdale ALP 7.9% ALP 5.3%
Fannie Bay ALP 9.6% ALP 10.9%
Fong Lim ALP 2.6% ALP 2.2%
Goyder IND 6.8% vs CLP IND 6.8% vs CLP
Gwoja ALP 16.2% ALP 16.2%
Johnston ALP 16.5% ALP 16.1%
Karama ALP 9.8% ALP 8.9%
Katherine CLP 2.3% CLP 2.3%
Mulka IND 5.0% vs ALP IND 5.0% vs ALP
Namatjira CLP 0.3% CLP 0.3%
Nelson CLP 8.3% vs IND CLP 7.1% vs IND
Nightcliff ALP 24.3% ALP 23.8%
Port Darwin ALP 2.1% ALP 2.1%
Sanderson ALP 19.3% ALP 18.9%
Spillett CLP 15% CLP 13.9%
Wanguri ALP 17.3% ALP 17.3%
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  1. Mulka is still well over quota and could possibly go over given the AEC is about to start a voter registration drive due to election activities regarding the voice referendum. they should have transferred some of that to Arafura given that it just had its increase due to the by election and is projected to lose over 200 electors before the next election

  2. I think Pinelands and some of the other surrounds should still be in Spillett rather than transferred to Nelson, given they are fringe areas that still relate more to Palmerston rather than the rural areas.

  3. @Yoh an agree a regional seat should not extend that far in especailly given the weird looking boundary it now creates

  4. I don’t think there’s much of an alternative. Would prefer the proposed arrangement to any alternative that sees the outer Palmerston suburbs hybridised with Litchfield.

  5. Hard to get excited here. NT self government is an expensive joke for the rest of us taxpayers. One MP for 4,000 voters? Why not just make the NT government the four Australian parliament members & get the rest off the taxpayers’ tit?

  6. Would have to partially agree with your comment Roger – maybe the NT could be structured similar to the ACT Parliament in having proportional representation with five multi-member districts (three covering Darwin and Palmerston, one covering the Top End and rural areas and the other containing the remote districts plus Alice Springs). Each of these districts can elect three members, giving a total of 15 MP’s.

  7. 15 is far too few for a democratic assembly, no matter the population. Even in the NT the cost of the actual Assembly would be a minor part of the budget.

  8. Probably worth looking at the new enrolment numbers – Since the first report, an additional 4,631 electors have been added to the NT electoral roll as a result of referendum work – mostly in remote areas.

  9. The latest NTEC update for enrolment numbers can be found here: https://ntec.nt.gov.au/enrolment/enrolment-statistics – if you compare them to the numbers in April you see a jump in seats like Mulka (560), Gwoja (569) and Barkly (519). For seats as small as those in the Territory those are significant increases. At the same time seats in Darwin and Palmerston saw much smaller changes – e.g Brennan (49), Nelson (15), Fong lim (43).

  10. This election will be interesting. NT elections can be hard to predict but at the moment I’m thinking that the CLP will win and Lia Finocchiaro will be the next Chief Minister. I say this because Labor’s majority collapsed from being a supermajority in 2016 to a bare majority in 2020. They currently have only 13 seats so they only need to lose one seat and then Labor’s in minority government.

  11. From what I understand, the CLP have the backing of two independents in Araluen and Goyder so they only need four seats to win 2024. Although, will the Daly and Arafura by-election failures have any effect on the CLP’s chances?

  12. The CLP have a problem in the bush and I think their path to victory is extremely narrow. For mine, given the increase of remote voters into Daly through the voice process – hard to see the CLP taking it back. Also makes holding Barkly and Namatjira tricky, given how close those two were last time. I’d be putting money on Labor holding on.

  13. @sam that was after winning one at a by election.
    i think CLP will form government they have a good chance at 5 seats. 4 from labor and 1 from TA. Labor also under threat in Arnhem from the independant if he recontests and the independant in Goyder could as well if she concedes any more ground to the CLP from her primary and TPP vote.

  14. @TopEndTodd they don’t really have a bush problem in the NT anymore. They now hold several remote seats and ones with high Indigenous populations (Barkly, Katherine, Namatjira, am I missing any?). Marginal CLP seats won’t really be relevant even if that is most seats because remember they gained a lot of seats in 2020 after they lost a lot in 2016, including Adam Giles’ own seat of Braitling in the conservative city of Alice Springs (now the CLP have this seat back). Daly could well turn back to the CLP (in fact in 2016 it and Spillett in Palmerston were the only two seats held by the CLP) at this election and a swing may occur in Arafura, Arnhem and Gwoja, also in Mulka if they contest this time (it would be good if they did, last time it was just the independent MP (who was re-elected) and a Labor candidate, the CLP should preselect a candidate from Mulka which includes the less-well-known but still important town of Nhulunbuy, which is nearly as big as Tennant Creek). Crime may be an issue too; the CLP seem to have a better plan than Labor on tackling crime.

    You mentioned the Voice; although this will be an issue for Indigenous people (obviously the referendum will have happened by then but still) despite the Voice having some well-known Indigenous opposers (e.g CLP Senator Jacinta Price and ex-Labor politician/now-Liberal member/candidate Warren Mundine). However, while Price and the federal Coalition oppose the Voice, as does the CLP’s rank and file, the parliamentary wing is neutral and they could still support the Voice. Lia Finocchiaro, the CLP leader, says she supports the Voice in principle but needs more detail; obviously the second part of that (the detail bit) is somewhat comparable to Dutton’s initial stance (and Jacqui Lambie’s current stance too as far as I’m aware), the first part (i.e the fact that she supports it in principle) is something Dutton did not explicitly do.

    Culture war issues will be less relevant as NT voters (even those in Darwin) are less focused on woke/populist issues and more on actual issues so it seems. Factionalism is also less relevant; simply put though Natasha Fyles is a member of the Labor Left faction, Michael Gunner (when in Parliament) was a member of the Labor Right faction, while the CLP doesn’t have factions (same as the Nationals and (on the Queensland state level) the LNP) but I would say Finocchiaro is more of a Moderate or maybe Centre-Right faction.

    Labor isn’t really popular in very many non-city areas. Nor are the Greens. What will be interesting though is whether or not One Nation or other right-wing minor parties (e.g UAP, Liberal Democrats) will contest in the ACT and the NT, they didn’t last time on the territory level but they did on the federal level. I’m not saying they’ll have much success but still, although the NT was the best state/territory for the Liberal Democrats at the last federal election (in fact they polled over 10% in Solomon).

    The lack of consistent polling for the territories at elections is annoying, even though we have the occasional poll or two; even though they have small populations, they do individual seat polling in other states (federally a seat is generally meant to have around 100,000 people, while in NSW it is meant to have around 50,000 (I think), not sure about elsewhere though) which is less people than both territories. I kinda wanna contact a polling agency like Roy Morgan and ask them to do some territory polling because then it would be easier to look at the voter’s opinions and also interesting to see what could possibly happen. The NT election is only 443 days away, which is just over a year so candidates will be preselected soon, redistributions announced, etc.

  15. I agree with some of your argument Nether Portal, but the current leader of CLP has shown an inability to campaign and resonate in the bush. In the current term there has been three by elections (not mentioning the seat of Lingiari) – all lost by the CLP. Two of those seats were bush and hybrid bush seats. In both cases Labor out campaigned and increased their margin. In Daly, it was the first time in the NT that a Government has taken a seat of an opposition during a by election. For Arafura, the Government took their margin from a 7% up to 19%. That is crazy for a second term Government, even when you consider the sitting MLA passed away in office. As an outsider looking in, I assumed CLP would win each of those by elections (including Fanny Bay – which they also lost). Each time however they have shown that their messaging and campaigning aren’t up to scratch. To be honest, I think a change of leadership for CLP would be a good thing for them leading into next year. I feel for their leader as she has been part of the rebuilding from their massive loss in 2016 – but it might be time to hand the baton on. I would note also that the bookmakers have Labor as heavy favourites for next year. As you say though, a long way to go and anything can happen in the Territory.

  16. @TopEndTodd maybe she has just been campaigning in other areas. Daly was an upset loss but the northern part of the NT seems to be good for Labor. Arafura was hard for the CLP (even with Labor candidate (and now MLA) Manuel Brown’s car crash controversy) because it’s a very Indigenous community and the previous MLA, Lawrence Costa, who was from the Labor Party, died in his 50s. If it was a resignation the CLP could have won and the margin could be cut by the CLP at the election when the dust fully settles, remember Terry Mills and the CLP won Arafura in 2012 with a big swing to them. However, for cultural reasons, the fact that a popular politician who was Aboriginal who represented many Aboriginal communities died in office meant that Labor would have been favoured to win. Also the bookies have been wrong several times before (e.g 2019 federally and 2016 in the US). In fact I really think their betting margin is too big. However we haven’t seen any opinion polls yet and territory elections (ACT and NT) only get the occasional poll, which again is silly because everyone else gets regular polling and even seat polling. However, again, as we both said a year is a long time in politics and anything can happen in the NT. If the CLP loses the election then I think she’ll resign, however, as she already lost in 2020 despite regaining many CLP seats.

  17. daly can be attributed to the covid pandemic and people sucking the govt tit. the govt could blame its debt problem on the pandemic now they have no excuse

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