Daly by-election, 2021

Cause of by-election
Sitting Country Liberal MP retired for health reasons in August 2021.

MarginCLP 1.2%

North-western parts of the Northern Territory. Daly covers rural areas south of Darwin, stretching to the edge of Katherine, and covering Berry Springs, Wadeye, Batchelor, Adelaide River and Pine Creek.

The electorate of Daly was created in 2001 as a new version of the seat of Victoria River. The seat had moved north and the name was no longer appropriate. The seat of Victoria River/Daly has been a marginal seat for its entire existence, switching back and forth between Labor and the CLP over the last 47 years.

Victoria River was created for the first NT assembly election in 1974 and was won by the CLP’s Goff Letts. Letts served as Majority Leader in the first assembly from 1974 to 1977. Letts lost Victoria River in 1977, while the CLP won a comfortable majority in the Assembly.

Labor’s Jack Doolan won Victoria River in 1977, and held the seat until 1983, when he contested the seat as an independent Labor candidate.

The CLP’s Terry McCarthy won Victoria River in 1983. He held the seat until 1990, when he moved to the new seat of Goyder, which he held until 2001.

Labor’s Gary Cartwright held Victoria River from 1990 until 1994, when he was replaced by the CLP’s Tim Baldwin. Baldwin held Victoria River until 2001 when it was renamed Daly. He held Daly for one term, until he retired in 2005.

Labor’s Rob Knight won Daly in 2005. He held the seat for two terms, losing in 2012 to the CLP’s Gary Higgins.

Higgins became a minister in 2015, and was re-elected at the 2016 election. He was one of only two CLP members to win re-election, and he became leader of the party after the electoral wipe-out.

Higgins announced his retirement in early 2020, and stepped down as Country Liberal Party leader.

CLP candidate Ian Sloan won Daly at the 2020 election, and retired in 2021.


  • Wayne Connop (Independent)
  • Dheran Young (Labor)
  • Rebecca Jennings (Independent)
  • Kris Civitarese (Country Liberal)

Daly has tended to stay in Country Liberal Party hands but has been very marginal at the last two elections. This seat is very much in play.

2020 result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Ian Sloan Country Liberal 1,386 35.8 -6.1
Anthony Venes Labor 1,321 34.1 -2.7
Regina McCarthy Territory Alliance 708 18.3 +18.3
Will Kemp Greens 324 8.4 +8.4
Mick Denigan Independent 135 3.5 +3.5
Informal 257 6.2

2016 two-party-preferred result

Candidate Party Votes % Swing
Ian Sloan Country Liberal 1,984 51.2 -0.5
Anthony Venes Labor 1,890 48.8 +0.5

Booth breakdown
Daly contains two ordinary booths, both at the northern end of the electorate. These two booths were only responsible for 11% of the total vote. Over a third of the vote was cast through mobile polling teams in smaller towns throughout the electorate.

About one third of the vote was cast through pre-poll booths – about a third each in a booth within the electorate and just outside the electorate, and the other third at five other pre-poll booths across Darwin and Palmerston.

The CLP won large majorities of the two-party-preferred vote at the Berry Springs pre-poll booth (66.9%) and the Coolalinga pre-poll booth (70%), and won a 60% majority in Berry Springs on election day.

Labor won 55.3% in Wagait Beach and over 60% in the mobile polling.

The Territory Alliance managed to outpoll the CLP in the mobile booths but came a distant third in other places.

Voter group TA prim % CLP 2PP % Total votes % of votes
Mobile 24.2 38.1 1,489 38.4
Berry Springs pre-poll 13.3 66.9 472 12.2
Coolalinga pre-poll 12.0 70.0 410 10.6
Berry Springs 12.5 59.8 264 6.8
Wagait Beach 14.9 44.7 161 4.2
Darwin-Palmerston pre-poll 14.7 50.7 469 12.1
Other votes 17.9 56.8 609 15.7

Voting places in Daly at the 2020 Northern Territory election
Click on each booth to see the two-party-preferred vote and primary votes for leading candidates at that booth.

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  1. Gun to my head I say CLP hold, but I don’t know much about NT politics – basing this given it was held in 2016 and the Gunner government lost seats in 2020.

  2. The CLP preselected a political staffer who lives 10 hours drive away in Tennant Creek. The CLP’s vote in 2020 was helped by the fact they preselected the publican who ran the only pub in that part of the electorate. Lia F, the CLP leader, has been increasingly wayward and missing the point over the past 3 months. Before this, she was incredibly focused and always on message. Gary Higgins, the previous CLP leader and member for Daly, helped the outgoing CLP member to get elected, but is refusing to help and bagging Lia and the CLP this time around.

    Prediction, Labor gain and embarrassing swing in a by-election to a government.

  3. When I read “10 hours drive away in Tennant Creek” I thought “surely not”. I checked and I see it really is! The vastness of outback Australia somehow still surprises me.

  4. Lia Finocchiaro is unfit to be Chief minister/premier of NT. The circumstances of this by-election will punish the CLP because if their MP’s can’t be trusted why should Finocchiaro be trusted with the territories affairs?

    Labor gain but it will be close, The CLP will be in opposition for many elections to come because they never learn from their mistakes in the last government. they may have won Braitling and Katherine but they both are marginal. weren’t they 20+ CLP before 2016? and they still don’t have Port Darwin.

  5. In an otherwise quiet election cycle, am looking forward to this by-election. I didn’t realise how much this seat swung in its history as Higgins held on in 2016 (as one of only 2 CLP MLA). It’s hard to tell which way this one will go, with Gunner rubbing some up the wrong way, but ALP have chosen well in their candidate. With no Territory Alliance (TA) this time (or Greens), that’s a lot of votes up for grab this time (25% roughly to minors last time). Not sure how Rebecca Jennings will go with no TA badge and a different seat, but see the order as CLP, ALP, IND (Wayne), IND (Rebecca), predicting a CLP hold.

    Minor/IND in 2012 had under 10% of the vote, 2016 it was 21% and 2020 a whopping 30%. I’m honestly surprised Regina McCarthy didn’t have an attempt at this by-election, after running as IND in 2016 and TA in 2020.

  6. Have to say I didn’t think ALP could really pull this off, but there we go! Seems from early counting (8pm AEDT) that the 30% roughly I mentioned above up for grabs went 50% to IND-Jennings, 33.3% to ALP and 16.7% to IND-Cannop. The fact that on overall numbers CLP went backwards doesn’t bode too well. Although how much of that is affected by the following (Lia’s Leadership, more a first term MP resigning a year out from the election having some backlash and perception of Gunner) remains to be seen. Daly keeps it’s swinging status.

    This gives Gunner some breathing room on his majority with one MLA still Labor but not in caucus.

  7. Lia Finocchiaro’s position is untenable and needs to resign. Covid is just an excuse for the by-election loss and so is their scandal.

    Gary Higgins definitely had a large personal following here that is why he held on in 2016 and he personally should have led the CLP into 2020. Finocchiaro will lead her party to oblivion if she stays on until 2024 because people would have seen the real Lia Finocchiaro by 2024. Last year was a protest against the lockdowns considering NT didn’t have much of COVID. Covid will likely be a foregone conclusion by 2024. and will be fought on economic recovery and I have absolutely every confidence that Michael Gunner is the one who can deliver that recovery. because only a progressive government can deliver in times of crisis like this.

  8. I think it’s a bit difficult to draw conclusions like that Daniel in electorates with only small thousands of people. The way I see it, the CLP stuffed up big time in not preselecting a local. C.F. the result last year in Barkly, where the CLP gained the seat after 30 years.

  9. This is the first time a government has won a seat off an opposition in the NT, and the first time anywhere since Benalla in 2000 – it’s a rare event. Any recent examples of this, it’s early in a govt’s term (honeymoon phase) when a senior minister from the previous govt resigns, eg: Benalla (Vic 2000), Burwood (Vic 1999), Clarence (NSW 1996) and Helena (WA 1994). Last time that didn’t apply was Stafford (Qld 1984).

  10. Just wanted to drop by and say that I called this. See previous comment. This seat was always in play and when the CLP picked a political staffer from Tennant Creek, this became unwinnable. Lia or Jamie should have just said no,no, no, no, go back in that room and pick someone from the general vicinity or with some, any, connection with the seat. Also, the CLP’s messaging looks like it was done by someone with ADHD.

    But what a fantastic campaign and result for Labor, and for Rebecca Jennings!! Top marks to both.

  11. Daniel, do you live in the Territory? If you did, you would know that there were no lockdowns last year, so also no protest vote against them.


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