Nominations closed on Monday for the Northern Territory, to be held on June 18, and they can be viewed on the NT Electoral Commission site here. As far as election watching goes, a Territory election is a good one for beginners because everything happens in miniature: smaller seats than anywhere else (4,000-5,000 voters in each), fewer of them (25), fewer candidates (only two or three in most seats), and less than three weeks of campaigning.
But if the Northern Territory is a more exotic place, the fundamental truth is that it’s the same as the rest of the country: most elections are won or lost in the mortgage belt. It may be a land of wide open spaces, but wide open spaces don’t return many MPs: two-thirds of the seats are in suburban Darwin and Alice Springs. Labor’s safest seats are in the outback, but it won in 2001 because it swept the seven seats in Darwin’s northern suburbs.
Those seven seats will be the battleground again, and it looks to be a pretty one-sided affair. Although some are very marginal – Millner the closest on 1.2% – all but one of the Labor members are contesting their first election as incumbents, a powerful advantage in such small electorates. Add the electorate’s indulgence towards first-term governments, and the disarray in the Country Liberal Party opposition, and it’s hard to see Labor being seriously troubled. Centrebet confirms this view: its latest odds have Labor almost unbackable at 9-2 on, with the CLP about 11-4 against.
With such favourable conditions, the Martin government will be aiming to increase its one-seat majority. (There are also two independents, but Labor would not like to have to rely on them.) It has hopes of finally breaking through in Alice Springs (either Araluen or Greatorex), and of picking off one of the two remaining rural CLP seats, MacDonnell and Daly. It must also be given a rough chance in Goyder, on the southern fringe of metropolitan Darwin, where the CLP lost its sitting member in controversial circumstances.