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What Can We Learn From the NT Election?

What can we learn from the NT election? The answer is not much. As at Sunday afternoon, Labor had still not achieved the 13 seats required for a majority government. There was a swing of 2.9% to the Country Liberal Party but this was not enough for them to even go close to being able to form a government with the support of independents.

Labor had campaigned almost exclusively on its management of the COVID crisis and its border restriction policies but there was only a lukewarm endorsement of this policy package. Territorians were not overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the apparent plan for the government to keep the borders closed for 18 months and for everyone to live off Commonwealth stimulus payments.

On the other hand, the fact that Michael Gunner came back from political death to hold on to power is an indicator to other premiers that pushing the COVID barrow is a route to electoral success. This could have disastrous consequences for the economy.

As ‘The Conversation’ pointed out:

“State and territory parties usually do better when the opposite party is in power federally. With the Coalition in power federally, the CLP had a difficult task against a first-term Labor government. As there is very little polling in the NT, we do not know whether the coronavirus crisis had an impact.”

The voting results so far show a Territory electorate politically divided by its geography, with Labor tipped to win all Darwin inner-city and northern suburbs seats and the CLP tipped to pick up seats in rural Darwin, Central Australia, Katherine and Palmerston. The seats in the Darwin city area are dominated by public servants.

When counting finished today, the ABC predicted Labor, which won 18 seats at the 2016 election, was likely to win 11 seats, two short of the 13 needed to form a majority government, with up to seven seats still in doubt across the Northern Territory.

It seemed that most Territorians couldn’t care less about the election. When ordinary people were vox popped about the big event that was happening yesterday most people thought the interviewer was referring to the AFL game between Richmond and Essendon that was being played at Darwin oval.

The Gunner Labor government has been underwhelming when it comes to public administration. From this perspective, a minority government may be a good thing for the NT. Labor will have to negotiate with independents to be able to guarantee supply. The independents are a savvy lot with a range of sensible demands which Premier Gunner will have to satisfy if he wants to stay in power.

At the moment Anastacia Palaszczuk is behind 51% to 49% in Newspoll which explains why she is going so hard on the Queensland parochialism using the Michael Gunner playbook. She may get away with it.

However other premiers are probably going to come up with plans on how they are going to revive their economies when the Commonwealth stimulus runs out. On Friday, the Governor of the Reserve Bank told the National Cabinet that the states needed to step up and shoulder more of the burden of economic recovery. He suggested that they needed to kick in an extra $40 billion for shovel ready infrastructure projects.

By way of example, at a public school in Derby WA they are asking for $40,000 to fix the school’s broken toilets but the W.A. education minister, Sue Ellery, says they are still doing a feasibility study. Can you believe it?

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