The Northern
Territory election appears to be on course, predictably enough, for a
comfortable Labor victory, despite occasional efforts by commentators
to drum up some excitement. The most interesting weekend news was a
poll in The Australian showing Labor ahead by a huge margin, 57% to 43% two-party-preferred.

are a couple of caveats on this poll. First, it seems to be the only
Territory poll that Newspoll has done since 1994, so we don’t know how
reliable it is. Second, it was only taken in greater Darwin; that’s a
problem for Labor because Darwin is where its new members are, so you
would expect Labor to be getting a boost there that might not hold up
in the rest of the territory. Although Labor’s 2001 vote in Darwin was
the same as territory-wide (48.5%), its target seats this time are
mostly elsewhere, and we have no poll data out there.

Even so, Labor must be feeling pretty happy. Centrebet puts the party at 4-1 on, and the Poll Bludger
now tips it to win all but one of the five target seats I mentioned
last week (given the Newspoll result, I would now add Port Darwin to
the list as well), with an independent to win the fifth, Goyder. That
would be a landslide victory: Labor 17 seats to the CLP five and three

It might not be quite that big, but unless
something dramatic happens in this last week, expect Saturday to be a
good news day for Labor.

Betting on the Liberal leadership

There’s a school of thought, pioneered in Australia by Andrew Leigh
at the ANU, that says betting markets are the most reliable guide to
election outcomes. So Canberra-watchers will be interested by the
market Centrebet is offering on the Liberal Party leadership.

The question is who will be leader at the next federal election: John
Howard is a firm favourite at 6-4 on, followed by Peter Costello at 5-4
against, Brendan Nelson at 8-1 and Tony Abbott at 14-1. The top two
have been steady for the last couple of weeks, but the odds have been
shortening on Nelson and lengthening on Abbott.

Nelson gets the occasional run, most media commentary still assumes
that Abbott is the greater rival to Costello for the succession –
indeed, for what it’s worth, so do I. But the punters are apparently on
a different track. As the leadership contest hots up over the next
year, it will be worth keeping an eye on where the money is going.