Senate – Northern Territory – Australia 2022

Incumbent Senators

  • Malarndirri McCarthy (Labor)
  • Sam McMahon (Country Liberal)

The Northern Territory first elected Senators in 1975, when the Labor Party and the Country Liberal Party each won a single seat. Both parties have maintained this 1-1 split at every election since, with no serious challenge to this status quo.

The strongest ever minor party performance came in 1987, when the Northern Territory National Party, who were not endorsed by the federal Nationals, ran for the Senate and polled over 14%. This election saw the CLP fall below a quota (polling 32.5%) for the only time in three decades of Senate elections. The National Party never ran again for the Senate in the Northern Territory, and the CLP recovered to a primary vote above 40% in 1990. The 1987 election saw the ALP top the poll for the first time, and ever since then the party that won the federal election has topped the poll in the Northern Territory, with the CLP winning in 1996, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2010; and the ALP coming first in 2007.

In 1998 the CLP fell below 40% for the second time when One Nation polled 9.3%, but they still safely won a quota.

In 2010, the ALP suffered a 12.6% swing against them. That vote was split between the Shooters and Fishers and the Sex Party, who hadn’t run before, and a 4.7% swing to the Greens.

Trish Crossin stepped down in 2013 after losing preselection to Nova Peris. Peris served in the Senate until shortly before the 2016 election, when she was succeeded by Malarndirri McCarthy.

Scullion retired at the 2019 election, and the CLP seat was filled by Sam McMahon.

2019 result

Group Votes % Swing Quota
Labor 39,353 37.5 +0.0 1.1241
Country Liberal 38,513 36.7 +0.3 1.1001
Greens 10,752 10.2 -0.5 0.3071
United Australia Party 6,469 6.2 +6.2 0.1848
Help End Marijuana Prohibition 4,027 3.8 +3.8 0.1150
Conservative National Party 2,207 2.1 +2.1 0.0630
Rise Up Australia 1,955 1.9 -4.8 0.0558
Braedon Earley independent group 1,290 1.2 +1.2 0.0368
Citizens Electoral Council 461 0.4 -0.8 0.0132


    1. Raj Rajwin (United Australia)

The Northern Territory will almost certainly elect one Labor senator and one Country Liberal senator, as it has done at every election since 1975.

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  1. Price isn’t guaranteed. If people vote below the line they could potentially re-elect Sam McMahon. The senate ticket order doesn’t stop voters from going against the parties preference and voting for the lower candidates of the party.

  2. McMahon hasn’t been in the Senate long enough to get that much of a profile. The NT government (ALP) suffered a swing against them in 2020, and that should be enough to retain the status quo once again.

  3. If Price is successful will she sit as a Nat or Lib in Federal Parliament?
    Interested in the demarcation given that the Senate spot is for the whole of the territory, and Lingiari is considered to be a Nationals contested seat (although never won by the Coalition) and Solomon was in the purview of the Libs.
    Would there be any benefit to joining one over the other at the level? Considering both Coalition parties would probably want her front and centre for various reasons; don’t think she’d get a better deal one way or the other but perhaps Territorians on here have a better read of Country Liberal split.
    Given the recent poor performance of the CLP at Territory elections, who is less palatable to the general electorate Liberal or National?

  4. CLP senators have always been Nationals. I don’t know if the individual has any say over that or (like the QLD LNP) the party basically locks them in to one of the two federal parties.

  5. Thanks Ben it’s an interesting issue, given Ian Macfarlane tried to defect to the Nats to try and get back into Cabinet after he was dumped. This was eventually blocked by the LNP state executive.
    But Leslie Williams was successful moving to the Libs from the Nats in NSW, probably because the parties aren’t formally merged.
    I think Price would get a better deal as a Lib given Bridget McKenzie would most likely be her biggest blocker in the National party, and I think Morrison would be more likely to promote her quicker than Joyce.
    There seems to be a trade off where the Territory leader/Chief Minister will be Liberal when they obtain power, and the Nats then get the top spot on the Senate ticket.

  6. It’s only federal politicians that have to pick a side, though. At the territory level they’re just CLP. I don’t think the party leader has to pick Lib or Nat.

    As for Leslie Williams, yes it’s totally different because they are separate parties.

  7. The will she-won’t she continues with Senator Sam McMahon.

    Key Points:
    – Sam has said she won’t be re-contesting but “a day is a long time in politics and you never know what the future holds.”
    – Confirmed she has been approached by LDP, One Nation and… interestingly Jacqui Lambie Network. And that she has had a recent meeting with Campbell Newman but insists it was nothing related to running in 2022.

    One thing that was brought to my attention [Hat Tip: Kevin Bonham & his Party Registration Crackdown Tracker] is that if Sam is really pissed off with CLP, she could quit the party and that might leave them in the quandary of possibly being de-registered if they don’t meet 1500 members. Although, there might be some grace timing by AEC and if done before writs. Nevertheless, would be interested to see who she runs with if she does.

  8. The whole debacle of Jacinta Price knocking off a serving CLP senator has been a messy one.

    Ever ambitious, Price is closer aligned with the Libs than the Nats and that makes me think as soon as she is elected, she would just go over and caucus with the Libs, infuriating the Nats. There is no compulsion for her to go and sit in the Nationals party room, her path to promotion is also easier as a Liberal, as Mackenzie would be vying up against her in the Nats.

    So, Sam McMahon quits the party as a final FU and throws the registration of the CLP in doubt. I am going to enjoy watching this.

  9. PO & echt
    McMahon is pretty irrelevant don’t you think ?. Executions by there nature are pretty “messy’ don’t you agree ? IIRC wasn’t there some alcohol fuelled incident involving the good senator ?. So what other future was there really ? . Is Price being “ambitious” a problem ?. Why else would she be nominating?.

    I have no sense whatever that Price will have any inclination toward the Libs.That would be a meaningless, & pointless distraction. My prediction is that she will be aiming for Deputy leader of the Nats under Andrew Gee when Barnaby moves on. That will only be possible if Price can impact the social issues of the NT.
    Quite a tall order i’m sure you will agree ?

  10. The Liberal Party room would certainly welcome her. I could be misreading this but I would have thought Jacinta Price would gravitate towards the Liberal party room with her philosophy of personal responsibility and giving aboriginal people the tools to manage their own affairs. I can’t see how anyone much in the National party room has much time for the tough policy work of reforming service provision to needy aboriginal people in remote areas. Not many votes in the National Party for that. Admittedly the centre right of the Liberal Party that may have had some appetite for this work has been hollowed out over time, but Jacinta Price would still find some fellow travellers in the Libs.

  11. Not true that CLP senators have always sat with the Nats! Bernie Kilgariff sat as a Liberal from 1979 until his retirement in 1987 following a resolution passed by the CLP (and I believe still in force) that members could choose which party room to join, and a general feeling that members should divide between the two Coalition parties (lower house MP Sam Calder being a Country Party stalwart; Kilgariff was CP too but felt strongly about dividing the delegation).

    As for Price, even if the CLP is deregistered pending her election, surely she would just run under either the Liberal or National banner. I can’t imagine it putting her election at risk.

  12. @WD irrelevant maybe, but nevertheless, causing a headache for CLP. Concur that pre-selections and political executions are messy, but the impact of her decision directly impacts the possible party registration of CLP (as opposed to others sitting and becoming independents at the end of their term after loosing pre-selection).

    @Geoffrey – true it can be viewed really as a storm in a tea cup as if Jacinta Price just gets re-elected then the CLP would become a parliamentary party again and running under either banner as you mentioned (unless she decides to stay under her new banner). It’s more about the headache in the meantime.

  13. Looking at past results since 2007, CLP and ALP have managed to get a quota outright at every election except for ALP in 2013, and that was only barely below. IF, and that’s a big IF, Sam McMahon runs, even with a support of a party, I just can’t see her winning unless there is a massive swing and some very generous preferences flowing from other parties that are running. Think she’ll need at least 15K voters as an absolute minimum (I was thinking more 20K at first) to desert the CLP and vote for her; I just don’t see this happening.
    Even with the headaches mentioned above- 1 CLP (or whatever party based on registration) and 1 ALP retain.

  14. If the CLP is deregistered and Price is on the ballot paper as a Liberal, would the Nats run their own candidate?

    If I was the CLP, I would wish for 4 Senators per territory with pairs with staggered terms. A second Senator would be very handy at the moment.

  15. CLP could be in trouble re registration.

    Simply, if the have a sitting parliamentary member then no issue. But it is an issue since McMahon is no longer a member of parliament.

    If they don’t have a member of parliament then they must have 1,500 members. Given the size of the NT’s population it would be extremely unlikely that the CLP would satisfy the 1,500 member requirement.

    The AEC guide:

    states at page 12:

    “If a Parliamentary party ceases to have a member who is a Senator or Member of the House
    of Representatives, the AEC will review that party’s registration to see if it is an eligible party
    (has ‘at least 1,500 members’) or whether the party needs to be deregistered.”

    It also notes:

    For registered non-Parliamentary parties and parties that lose Parliamentary status, the
    Electoral Commission issues a Notice under section 138A of the Electoral Act seeking a list
    of at least 1,500 party members on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll.
    When the AEC seeks this information from parties, section 138A of the Electoral Act
    provides a period of two months for the parties to comply with the Notice. Extensions of time
    may be permissible. If a party does not comply with the Notice, the Electoral Commission
    may issue a further Notice under section 137 of the Electoral Act that the Electoral
    Commission is considering deregistering the party. The party then has a further month to
    respond to that notice.

    So if the AEC does a review the CLP has 3 months to respond – which would be 1 May if the AEC sent the request out tomorrow. Which would be right in the middle of an election if it is to be held mid-May.

    Wonder what would happen if the CLP was deregistered between writs being issued and the election (and probably after pre-polling had commenced)?

    Suspect that the AEC will “sit on its hands” / “turn a blind eye” until Price is elected as a Senator and then the issue goes away (or she loses and the CLP disappears at a Federal level).

    There are two issues here.

    1. CLP is an independent party from the Liberal Party whereas the other state and territories have branches of the liberal party so that the ACT would never fail the 1,500 member test should a liberal senator not be be elected. The liberal or National party could create a branch in the territory to avoid this problem but would seriously annoy the territory CLP members.

    2. The liberals have themselves to blame – trying to make micro-parties harder to establish has come back and bitten them on the backside – what is that old saying “be careful about what you wish for because it might become true”……

  16. Even if party registration is not paused when the writs are issued, there is a practical barrier to deregistering any party in early May, namely that by that point the nominations will have already closed. I don’t think I’d even characterise it as the AEC “turning a blind eye” to accept a nomination by a then-registered party, and to print that party’s name on the ballot, even if the party was ultimately to be deregistered after that ballot was printed. To do otherwise would be tantamount to preempting the Notice of intent to deregister.

  17. AEC party admin completely freezes when the writs are issued. Applications pause, registrations pause, deregistrations pause, audits pause. (Usually with audits you get to re-submit after the writs come back, on account of it’s been a month or three and a few of your members probably moved or resigned in the interim.)

  18. Thanks all for that information. So it seems even if the CLP membership was found to be below, the entire process would take 3 months by which time election called, writs issued to AEC halts it process on parties. Basically CLP is safe and then keeping their Senate seat keeps them safe after the election. @AlexJ I had thought about that possibility of writs returned and there being a small gap before Price takes seat for CLP in July. But again, the timing saves the CLP and would become a moot point. Of course, Sam McMahon could win…(I know, and pig flys) but am looking forward to some more polling and which party Sam chooses.

  19. Yep, territory senators take their seat right away. Not really a big deal now that federal elections happen right before the Senate term change-over, but back when there was a long gap it was relevant.

  20. Whoops a slip of a clog there, yes you’re right re: Territory Senators. So the CLP really is safe then – I think I got my thoughts mixed up and was thinking that because it’s a territory seat not a state seat. Nevertheless, shall be interesting to watch to see how McMahon goes.

  21. While the obvious result here is Labor and Liberals getting one seat each, there is a narrow path to another result.

    The current 2PP swing nationally, based on PollBludger’s BludgerTrack, is 7.5% to Labor. If this were to apply in NT, and most of the swing is against the Liberals on primary vote, they could end up on below 30% of the vote. This would draw the Liberals down to less than 0.9 quotas. For the sake of simplicity, let’s suppose that much of this flows to Labor.

    The hypothetical path I’m seeing is Liberals losing some extra quota to, say, UAP. Let’s suppose an extra 0.1 quota shifts to UAP. Then we could see something like this:

    Labor: 1.32 quotas
    Liberals: 0.8 quotas
    Greens: 0.3 quotas
    UAP: 0.28 quotas
    Other: 0.3 quotas

    Labor, naturally, gets one seat. Then preferences need to flow enough to get a party past the Liberals. With this spread, no “Other” parties would get enough to get ahead of the four listed parties. I’d say Other will flow primarily to UAP, and to a lesser degree to Greens and Labor, with Liberals getting a smaller subset of the flow. Let’s say 40% to UAP, 15% each to Labor and Greens, and 8% to Liberals, with 22% exhausting (probably a little high, but hard to predict without particular knowledge of the full set of “other” parties running). Then we’d have Liberals 0.824, UAP 0.4, Labor 0.365, and Greens 0.345.

    Greens would then drop, with the lions share going to Labor – let’s say 70% to Labor, 15% to UAP, 5% to Liberals, and 10% exhaust. We’re now at Liberals 0.841, Labor 0.607, and UAP 0.452. If UAP preferences flow right, it’ll push Labor over the top.

    If the balance flows a little differently, it could be UAP pushing over the Liberals.

    This is an extreme case, though – it requires a lot of anti-Liberal sentiment in the NT to push the preferences away from them and onto Labor or UAP.

  22. Sam McMahon has joined the Liberal Democrats.

    Realistically, what are her chances of going against Price for the 2nd seat?

  23. Anyone who believes there will be a change here can also buy this large rock called Uluru I have for sale.
    ALP 1, CLP 1


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