Antony Green’s poll preview on Friday afternoon probably said it all:
“We’re seeing the best economic times for several decades, and if you
go back to the 1950s and 60s there were precious few changes of
government back then. And we’re seeing the same sort of tendency at the
moment, with good economic times, is that governments are not defeated.”

Or, indeed, that some lucky buggers – like NT Labor’s Clare Martin, get
12 per cent swings. Labor has gone from a majority of one to holding 16
– and possibly as many as 19 – of the 25 seats in the Territory’s
Legislative Assembly.

The Country Liberal Party, the unchallenged rulers of the Territory
until their upset loss in 2001, has been largely reduced to a rump in
Central Australia. Opposition leader Denis Burke, the man who returned
to the job earlier this year after presiding over the previous defeat,
seems sure to have lost his seat – the CLP’s safest.

Yesterday, Burke was ruling out the idea of incorporating the CLP
formally into the Liberal Party. The existence of the standalone
“Country Liberals” is a historical accident – the result of Queensland
influence on Territory politics in the seventies, when self-government
was introduced. Rebadging may be vital to rebuilding.

The Territory ALP may have had good times on their side – but there are three other lessons, too:

  • Punters don’t necessarily go “oh-ah” at the big ticket infrastructure items
  • A charismatic leader does plenty to lift a pretty patchy bunch
  • If you have the runs on the board and are prepared to take a stand, voters will reward you

Parties need candidates that reflect the community back to them.

Now if only Federal Labor could make that conceptual leap…

Summaries and results are available at Antony Green’s NT Election homepage.