Saturday, August 27, 2016

NT Election 2016: How Badly Will The CLP Be Beaten?

Final result 18 ALP 2 CLP 5 IND.  Result will be declared and winners seated subject to any challenges.

Because of fieldwork I have not had much time to follow the Northern Territory election to be counted tonight.  I'll use this thread to post comments on any aspect of the count of interest either while the count is going or in the following days.  The ABC has some very comprehensive coverage (and will have more on News 24) and there is also coverage and discussion at The Tally Room and Poll Bludger.

The Country Liberal Party (CLP) won an impressive victory at the 2012 election, picking up a 5.1% swing and four seats to form majority government under Terry Mills with 16 out of 25 seats.  Everything since then has been a shambling farce.  Electorally the rot started with a bad performance at a by-election, soon after which Mills was dumped for Adam Giles after little over six months in the job.  Of the original sixteen MLAs, only ten have remained in the CLP fold throughout the term.  Mills quit parliament and five others left for the crossbenches, with one of these, Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu, later rejoining.

Giles himself was apparently rolled as leader by Willem Westra van Holthe in a leadership challenge, only to have the coup put down (apparently via the threat that he would bring the Government down on the floor if it removed him).  Furthermore, three Country Liberal MLAs are retiring at this election or have been deselected.  The government has also been plagued by personal scandals, constant reshuffles and a botched attempt to dethrone the Speaker.  When the government tried to blame the timing of the recent Don Dale juvenile detention scandal on attempts to undermine it at the polls, this only raised the question of why the media would bother holding up a good story to destroy something so obviously doomed.

The interest for election-watchers generally has been whether the CLP will be merely smashed to pieces (retaining, say, three seats) or whether something more extraordinary might occur.  With some polls suggesting swings as high as 20% against the government, and with two of its three safest seats from the last election held by independents, a case can be made that the CLP could be reduced to one seat or maybe even wiped out altogether.

On the other hand polling in the NT has been very scarce and is generally unreliable, so there's some thought the damage might be less severe and the government might retain, say, seven seats. (I can't even say absolutely for certain, with so little polling evidence, that the government will lose, but it would be truly staggering if it survived.) Because the NT's electorates are so tiny, name recognition and the reputation of the sitting member count for a lot, so if a sitting member is well regarded they may be able to buck the trend.

Also of interest are the number of contests involving independents.  By the end of the term the crossbench had swelled from one (longterm crossbencher Gerry Wood) to seven.  Although two of these are retiring, there is a lot of interest in:

* Araluen, where Robyn Lambley gave the CLP a massive serve on the way out in 2015 and is generally expected to retain.
* Blain, where the CLP is given very little chance of holding on despite a 13.2% margin and the contest seems to be between former federal member Damien Hale (ALP) and Terry Mills running as an independent.
* Karama, in which former ALP leader Delia Lawrie is trying to defend her seat as an independent against her old party.  Lawrie was forced to stand down amid legal wrangling over the previous Labor government's granting of a Darwin site to Unions NT rent-free.
* Goyder, where Speaker Kezia Purick is expected to win easily.
* Arnhem, where Larissa Lee is recontesting as an independent after going CLP-Ind-PUP-Ind.  Centrebet had Labor as rather strong favourites here.

Two changes to voting are worth keeping an eye on.  The NT has switched to optional preferential voting, but I expect the impact of this change to be swamped by differences in preference flow caused by changes in minor party composition and the government's severe unpopularity.  Advertising within 100 metres of polling places has also been banned (as in Tasmania) but nearly half the electorate has already voted, and given the small voting populations in each electorate I would be surprised if that many voters were affected by this.

The only recent polls are by MediaReach, (second poll here), a relatively little-known robocaller that has only had one previous test at an election.  For the federal election, it had Labor ahead 61:39 for the seat of Solomon, which was in fact won by Labor 56:44.  The five-point error (while hardly unusual in seat polling) does provide some reason to wonder if things will be as bad for the CLP as its 64:36 polling at Territory level.  However, even a repeat of the error seen in the federal poll would still see the government retaining about 4-6 seats (depending on how many it recovered from the crossbench).

The results of the MediaReach polls were not massively different to other polling (both public and private) seen during the government's term.  The other polling generally predated the switch to OPV.

Counting and post-counting comments to follow tonight and in coming days.

Election night 6:50 (note: times are AEST, deduct half an hour for NT time): There's already speculation about the CLP possibly losing their safest seat, Katherine, to the One Territory party (which includes ex-CLP figures).

7:10 Provisional counts passed on by Senator Malarndirri McCarthy have Robin Lambley slightly behind on primaries but likely to win on preferences, and Willem Westra van Holthe ahead on primaries but by an amount that might make him nervous about preferences.  The figures are each from one booth.

7:23 Figures (official or otherwise) now have the CLP struggling in Katherine and Braitling (Giles) but off to a good start (relatively) in Spillett.

7:33 Namatjira is the only other seat with figures on the board where the CLP are doing well, but it's only one booth so if it's the candidate's home base it might not be representative.

7:42 Purick is doing fine in Goyder so far.

8:03 Kurrupuwu is ahead in Arafura after the first booth but that's not necessarily representative. (ABC projection suggests it's not).

In summary, the CLP appear to be winning Spillett. They're ahead for now in two remote seats, and both Katherine and Braitling (21% swing to ALP so far) are close.

8:34 McCarthy reports Giles a very small number of votes behind once all figures are counted (based on figures not uploaded yet).

9:03 Giles ten votes behind with 75.5% counted.  However the CLP may now be holding Daly.  No new figures in Namatjira for a long time.

9:20 Note that the ABC numbers for Blain are not real numbers, just their estimates.  However if their current primary figures were final I'd expect Mills would win.

9:40 Mills has now slumped to third, and if he stays there his preferences will elect Labor.

9:51 There is yet another independent in the frame - Yingiya Mark Guyula in Nhulunbuy is giving Labor a close contest.  There are no 2PP figures for this seat between the right two candidates.

11:18 Willem Westra van Holthe has also made a contest of it again in Katherine, trailing by 31 votes at the end of the night's counting.

Sunday: Very late last night new figures were posted for Karama showing Lawrie now leading by 67 votes. We are still waiting for correct-candidate 2CP figures from Nhulunbuy and (if Mills is indeed second) Blain.

2PP Swing: We haven't had much on the 2PP front yet and it will be a long time before we get 2PP figures for the seven non-classic seats.  Based on the 2PP figures at present for the 18 classic seats, plus Blain for which there was a classic 2PP showing for most of the night and Barkly for which the ABC is still showing one, I'm getting the average swing at about 14.5 points, boosted by Namatjira (31.3) and Stuart (35.2).  The smallest swings are Daly, Casuarina and Spillett, all around 3 points.  If this holds up across the remaining seats the 2PP would be 58.7% to Labor.  However I'm suspecting that without any obvious outliers in the non-classics it will come in a bit lower and the final 2PP might be about 58:42.  Either way, not the 64:36 of the MediaReach polls, which had the Labor primary fairly accurate but the CLP too low.  If the CLP loses Katherine and/or Braitling then they will have done poorly on the seat tally for their 2PP vote on account of having larger than average swings in these seats and Sanderson.

Monday: Rechecking is expected to occur today together with more primary counting.  There is no information yet on when Blain, Nhulunbuy and Barkly will be counted as two-candidate preferred to the correct two candidates.

Monday 5pm: The following are the most important results of today's counting:

* Yingiya Mark Guyula leads Labor by 11 votes in Nhulunbuy with 53.4% counted based on an actual preference count.
* Terry Mills trails Labor on primaries by 167 votes which seems a very bridgeable gap.
* Labor's lead over Giles in Braitling is down to ten votes.
* Labor's lead in Katherine is more or less holding at 33 votes.
* Lawrie now leads by 61 votes in Karama.  That might not sound like much but it is just over 51:49.

If Mills wins Blain and all the other current leads hold then we would have a remarkable result of 17 Labor, 2 CLP and six independents.

Late Monday: Yingiya leads by 35 votes and in Katherine Labor leads by 41.  Giles trails by 11.  We have a 2PP for Blain and it does look like the Terrynator is back - he's up by 101, which in the NT is a yawning chasm.

Tuesday: Mills lead cut to 87 on absent votes.  Minor progress in the Daly count where 53.5% is now in the can with no real change.  However there is a big change in Karama where Labor have taken the lead from Delia Lawrie on absents by 35 votes. In Katherine Labor lead by 39.

A preference distribution in Barkly has Labor leading former Labor MLA for the seat Elliot McAdam with 52.3% two candidate preferred, but as the lead is only 89 with quite a bit to go I've put that seat in minor doubt (likewise with Blain).

Tuesday 5 pm: A big preference surge to Labor in the remaining Barkly booths to be added has put that one out of reach for the independent challenger.

Wednesday 11:30: Changes in Nhulunbuy (Labor trails by 22) and Karama (Labor leads by 59).

Wednesday 10 pm: An excellent release of detail by the NTEC shows that in both Blain and Karama the margin now exceeds the number of votes remaining.

Friday 1 pm: In Nhulunbuy Labor have been receiving a very large share of the postal votes.  Today they received 11/11 and trail by 11 with 56 postal votes potentially outstanding.  How many of these arrive (and the recount on Monday) will determine the seat.  In Katherine the counting of 28 postals has boosted the CLP by 11 votes meaning they trail by 28 with 59 remaining.  Projections off such small samples are pretty useless so it's best just to wait for the votes to be counted there.

7 Sep: I haven't been updating regularly as I've been away.  We're just now awaiting what few postals may still arrive by the deadline with current margins of 10 in Nhulunbuy, 25 in Braitling and 28 in Katherine. A possible challenge has been flagged should the margin in Nhulunbuy reduce to five or less, but on unstated grounds.

9 Sep: All over at 18-2-5.  The closest margin was seven votes in Nhulunbuy.  Results will be declared and winners seated.  Losers may challenge in court (it will be interesting to see if any basis can be found in Nhulunbuy).  The closest 2CP result, Nhulunbuy, is 50.11%.


  1. Great write-up as usual. Might be worth adding Arnhem (Larisa Lee) to the seats of interest.

    Minor correction: Kezia Purick is still the Speaker, despite the CLP's best (?) efforts.

  2. A minor correction from me as well. "If Blain wins Mills" should of course be "If Mills wins Blain"

    1. Ta. Perhaps I should make this site like Wikipedia so that readers can fix all the blatant typos for me. :)