By political correspondent Christian Kerr


2005 will be
dull, dull, dull for wonks. Now that WA is out of the way there’s no
state election to look forward to until South Australia goes to the
polls in March next year. The only scheduled event will be the Northern
Territory’s very own festival of democracy, although speculation remains rife as to the date of the election.

The
2001 NT poll ended the benevolent – and seedy – despotism of the
Country Liberal Party, in power since self-government in 1978.

Labor Chief Minister Clare Martin tried to put on a show with a
regional parliamentary sitting in Alice Springs last week – but the
punters stayed away in droves. The poll must be held by October. Martin
needs to get the voters warmed up. Last week’s sitting simply got them
hot under the collar, with the news that her roadshow cost $235,000 –
plus something like another $250,000 in hidden departmental costs while
the posh Parliament House sat empty in Darwin.

Reincarnated
opposition leader Dennis Burke ordered senior staff to stay in Darwin
during the Alice Springs sittings, working towards an earlier election.
The Budget is due in May, leaks about stamp duty sweeteners are already
trickling out and the CLP fear the government will go straight to the
polls in its wake, shutting down the Parliament and avoiding any nasty
questions on the fine print at Estimates.

Early election
speculation is being backed by some last-minute games of musical chairs
among senior government advisers, and Labor is locking in its final
pre-selections.

In true Territory style, there have been some
interesting tactics. Labor’s candidate for the central Australian seat
of Araluen – the CLP’s most marginal – has fired off a few rounds at
health shadow Jodeen Carney, with references to Carney’s domestic
situation.

Most interesting, however, has been the pre-selection
of Fran Kilgariff, Mayor of Alice Springs, to run for Labor in
Greatorex, a key seat the ALP needs to boost its numbers from 13 in the
25 seat legislative Assembly. Kilgariff is the daughter of former CLP
founding father and Senator Bernie Kilgariff. Her proud dad has
announced he will vote Labor. Heaven knows what his fellow CLP life
members make of that.

Peter Fray

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