Relations between the Country Liberal Party government in the Northern Territory and the local meeja used to be just the sort of case study wonks dream of.

Why, it even had sex and violence – or incest and standover tactics, anyway.

Now, of course, that the CLP is gone and the Territory has its first Labor Chief Minister, Clare Martin – a former ABC journo herself – everything is different. Right? Er…

They could hear the laughter as far away as Adelaide when copies of the Weekend Australian magazine with Nicholas Rothwell’s profile of Martin finally arrived in the top end.

That was probably a reaction to the florid language Rothwell used – and an initial response to the content. Things probably got nastier the further Territorians pressed on.

The Northern Territory business community (no, it’s not a misnomer nowadays) has very little confidence in Labor’s handling of the economy.

Yes, the CLP and business were cuddling up in much the same way as Sir Joh and the white shoe boys used to before Labor came along, but they still form a more reliable barometer for coming political storms than glossy puff pieces.

Rothwell failed to mention the Territory Government’s spectacular cave in on pool fencing laws in the middle of last month. OK. The weekend lift outs have longish lead times – but if the article was written before Martin changed her mind, it should have been amended as the issue has been running hot in NT politics for a long time.

The backflip, when it came, was not only gymnastics par excellence. It will cost taxpayers several million dollars – big money in terms of the Territory budget. All Clare Martin got out of that was a damned good claim to an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the pol who said “sorry” the most times in one press conference.

The Weekend Australian Magazine does say Martin can be tough. It tell how “she sacked a female Cabinet colleague with pointed public brutality at the end of last year”.

That’s a polite reference to former health minister Jane Aagaard – generally regarded as an absolute disaster. An absolutely disaster who survived for much longer than she deserved and much longer than was good for the government, thanks to Martin.

Indeed, when Martin finally announced a cabinet reshuffle, she couldn’t even bring herself to admit that Aagaard had been a failure. Spinning like a tip, she simply said the minister was just a “poor communicator”.

History like that has got locals really wondering about Rothwell’s claim that Martin is a “fair bet to win another term in office”. Really?

Some would say she’s got no chance – and that exercises in self-delusion like this article are one of the key reasons why.

Peter Fray

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