Former Alice Springs ‘radio announcer’ Matt Conlan is the latest addition to a Northern Territory parliament which is rarely accused of harbouring an overabundance of talent. Sadly, the track record of the Country Liberal Party’s newest parliamentarian offers no great cause for optimism.

In his previous career, Conlan was a shock-jock. He embraced the politics of fear and division, inciting his listeners to the belief that Alice Springs was a lawless, violent frontier.

“Look at the crime stats” he told his local radio audience on October 31 last year, “nearly all of the serious crimes including assault, r-pe and murder are committed by Aboriginal people.”

The previous day, Conlan had been holding forth about a brutal attack some days earlier, opining that “While the attackers have not been found yet, you can bet your bottom dollar who’s responsible – and I don’t mind saying it – young Aboriginal men.”

The Country Liberal Party is the brand name of the Liberals in the Northern Territory. At the 2005 territory election the CLP was routed – banished completely from Darwin, and reduced to just four seats in the 25 member unicameral assembly.

Now the CLP has a serious case of the staggers, with each of its parliamentarians required to take on the task of monitoring the performance of Clare Martin’s Territory Labor Government across seven or more portfolios.

Ineffective opposition is anathema to accountable government. And a desperately weakened CLP rump received a further blow with the recent retirement of long–standing member Richard Lim.

Yet in Alice Springs, Labor is very much on the nose. So much so, that Saturday’s by-election for the Centralian seat of Greatorex – triggered by Lim’s resignation – was won convincingly by Matt Conlan’s tissue-thin populism.

The number-crunchers say that Territory elections are won and lost in the northern suburbs of Darwin. This is ‘aspirational voter’ land, and the time-honoured recipe for success in this neck of the woods is to attend to the voters’ hip-pockets.

Here in Alice Springs, the political refrain is ‘poor bugger me’, as fingers are pointed across the ‘Berrimah line’ at perfidious Darwin, gorging itself on riches denied to the Alice. Elections are won here by courting the glamour girl – Laura Norder.

Accordingly, the Conlan campaign took out a full-page newspaper add, spruiking a ten point plan to ‘get Alice Springs moving again’. The top four items in the list were (i) Reducing crime in Alice Springs (ii) Getting 20 additional police for Alice Springs (iii) addressing growing rates of antisocial behaviour, and (iv) Reintroducing mounted police.

All the evidence suggests that the CLP stable has recruited a one-trick pony.