September 09, 2013

NT Election wrap-up: Darwin-Palmerston gaps grows, no-one understands Lingiari and the CLP swing is over.

As Tony Abbott moves into the top job, I've had a look over what happened in the NT for the 2013 Federal election. There haven't been any major changes - (Natasha Griggs looks to have held her seat in Solomon as has Warren Snowdon in Lingiari. Nigel Scullion is again our CLP senator and Labor still won the other senate seat) - but looking a bit more closely at the results shows a few interesting things:

Solomon

Natasha Griggs has apparently been returned, after a very tight battle with Labor's Luke Gosling. She survived about a 1% swing against her and currently leads by only 800 or so votes. (ABC still has the seat in the "in doubt" category though). Looking at how individual booths voted, the northern suburbs of Darwin generally swung towards Luke and he won quite a few booths there with a clear margin. Down in Palmerston, most or all of the booths there swung towards Natasha. So while the final result is much the same, underlying this is a widening gap between a Labor-voting suburban Darwin and a CLP-voting Palmerston.

Lingiari

In 2010, Warren Snowdon's domination of earlier elections was nowhere to be seen. He survived a massive 13.9% drop in his primary vote, despite being up against a controversial and not particularly strong CLP candidate, Leo Abbott. This time around he was up against Gina Rinehart wannabe Tina Macfarlane. Despite Tina having her own controversies for an environment/nepotism scandal, she was expected to give Warren a very tough contest. Commentators expected the bush votes to continue to swing away from Labor as they did in last year's NT election, although I maintain that it was less a swing to CLP but rather swings all over the place by frustrated and disillusioned bush voters. So I thought Warren was still in the game.

As early polling results came in, Tina MacFarlane was showing a good swing towards her. So much so that pretty much everyone started calling the seat hers:

Pretty much everyone forgot that it's a hugely diverse seat. The booths in CLP-voting towns like Katherine and Alice are counted first and the last ones counted are the remote polling booths. ABC Alice Springs journo, Anthony Stewart, was one of the few with his head still screwed on but still thought Tina would win:


I kept watch throughout the night as the results kept coming in and sure enough, as remote booths were added to the total, Warren clawed his way back and passed Tina at about midnight. Currently, he's sitting about 1,400 votes ahead of her, surviving another swing against him of 2%.

I don't think any commentators really expected this, again revealing them to be very wobbly in anticipating how Aboriginal people in the bush vote. The predicted swing to the CLP didn't eventuate with many (but not all) of the remote booths swinging, often strongly, towards Warren. It also looks like many Lingiari voters were dubious of Tina, especially those closer to her home town of Mataranka. The biggest swings she got were booths a long way from where she lives: in the Darwin Rural area and in Alice Springs. Katherine and Tennant Creek voters who you might expect to give more support to a more local candidate were much more 'meh' about her. One of the two booths in Katherine even went to Snowdon which was unexpected and a turnaround from 2010. 

Senate

Another hotbed of controversy was created earlier in the year when Julia Gillard decided she wanted no more of Trish Crossin, or Trish's potential rival candidate, Marion Scrymgour and instead parachuted political newbie Nova Peris onto the Senate ballot sheet. This pissed off the majority of Territorians, including me: I reacted by instantly renewing my lapsed membership to the Greens. I was appalled by Labor's move and I really felt for Marion Scrymgour who had been in contention for the top spot on the ballot sheet but was jilted by Julia just as much, if not more, than Trish was. (And yes, my sympathy for Marion is a huge turnaround after being critical of her for so long for her hand in scrapping bilingual education programs).

If Julia wanted an Indigenous woman in Federal parliament, what was Marion? Chopped liver? Many Territorians saw Nova's appointment as tokenistic. Julia Gillard had shafted someone who, like Nova, is Aboriginal and female but unlike Nova, is an experienced pollie. Apparently Marion is too much of an independent thinker and Julia didn't want someone who isn't afraid to put her constituents ahead of party politics (surely a good quality!). Marion was quite right to say that:
"If Canberra is afraid to have someone stand up and have the debate then I don't want to be part of that process - I think it's disgraceful. I don't want to just stand up in front of the Prime Minister when it's about issues that impact Indigenous people and nod my head."
But all this was months ago and by the election it was pretty much all forgotten about. Initial hopes that Trish or Marion might run as independent never eventuated and it would've been extremely tough for them to win anyway. Antony Green's exciting notion that Rosalie Kunoth-Monks might do well also never eventuated so the Senate result was back to a predicable finish with Nigel being returned and Nova winning.

There's been a bit of celebrating Nova's historic appointment as the first Aboriginal woman in Federal parliament such as this puff piece which seems to have forgotten the controversy surrounding her appointment. I wish Nova all the best, but I'm not celebrating until she proves she has some mettle and can represent Aboriginal people and/or the NT well in the Senate. 

Overall trends - CLP swing is over

Overall, Saturday's vote in the NT didn't show the trend towards the CLP continuing. Their primary vote increased very marginally from 2010 (+0.3%), a bit less than Labor's did (+0.4%). When you add in the slaughtering the CLP got in the Wanguri by-election earlier in the year, it looks like the shine has already gone off them and the NT is back to being a battleground.

From the ABC Election site
And sadly for me, the Greens' vote dropped significantly across the board: their primary vote dropped 5.3%, but I guess by still polling at 7.7% and 9% for the Senate shows there is still a decent voting base, even in the NT which has a reputation for being conservative and red-necked in many ways.

Congrats to the winners and may you all represent all Territorians and our great lands well in Canberra! 

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