Pre-poll voting
(Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

A Northern Territory byelection has unexpectedly emerged as a flashpoint in the battle for the soul of progressive Australian politics.

Voters in the northern Darwin seat of Johnston are going to the polls on February 29, after the resignation of renegade Labor MP Ken Vowles, and the Greens' have recommended that voters put Labor last. Labor's candidate is Joel Bowden, a former AFL player and union leader.

Voters who heed the Greens’ advice will be putting Labor behind both the Country Liberal Party opposition, noted for its hard line on locally significant issues of law and order, and the Territory Alliance, a CLP breakaway party, whose candidates for the next territory election include one who ran for the messianic Rise Up Australia party at last year’s federal election.