The Northern Territory budget was handed down last week – beers all round was its main point, we understand, beers and croc control. Now the talk is that Chief Minister Clare Martin will go to the polls earlier rather than later. Territory pollie watchers are nominating a Saturday in June. Not only would it get the election out of the way, but also mean that the budget would not have to go through Estimates before the big day.

Peter Beattie dropped by last week for a backslap fest, and Territory Labor is all geed up. The Country Liberal Party still seems unable to come to terms with its first ever stint in opposition since self government, even after four years. The CLP has tried to give itself a competitive edge by taking on Ian Hanke – yes, that Ian Hanke who got Mark Latham so excited – to help with its campaign, but this has engendered a furious response from the government. It is trying to tell the NT News and any other local media that the shaven-headed operator is a much bigger threat than any saltwater croc. The thought of a “Southern Dirt Digger” lurking ready to pounce on local pols as they go about their affairs in their idiosyncratic local ways, Territory Labor says, is much more sinister.

In an attempt to grab a little cred, CLP leader Denis Burke has been busy talking up how “Federal Treasury people” have been helping him with policies, but this tactic may have backfired. True, virtually all of the Territory’s money comes from other parts of the country – but the locals don’t like the idea of Southerners telling them what to do.

Burke may have scored an own goal. The CLP prides itself on being local. “The CLP was founded in the Territory and only operates in the Territory. It is the only political party that was created by Territorians and exists only to serve Territorians,” its website says. Why, the locals ask, are they getting Canberra to write their policies?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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