The Northern Territory Election is only a few days away. If you forgot about it, you’re not alone most of the media coverage has been centred around Melbourne as the COVID-19 hotspot and the government efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
The current Gunner Labor government is seeking re-election against its opposition the Country Liberal Party, and newly formed Territory Alliance.
The NT is one of the most chaotic places politically with issues such as race, fracking, a struggling economy, crime, and even weed management being on top of people’s minds.
Territories have smaller parliaments then the states. ACT and NT only have 25 members. Smaller parliaments favour major parties and are generally less representative. Their laws can also be overruled by the commonwealth if they so choose. The NT in 1995 became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise voluntary euthanasia, however, was overturned by the federal government in 1997.
The NT is also one of the worst areas for participatory democracy. Nationally 96% of the population votes while NT participation is at 84%.
Participation for indigenous communities is also not great with 16,000 residents currently not enrolled to vote – close to 15% of the population.
Before the pandemic, The Northern Territory was in the midst of a budget crisis. With a report released saying that net debt was to increase tenfold to $35.7 billion by 2029-30.
The debt has increased by $1.7 billion in 2016 when Labor was first elected to $3 billion in 2018, and is set to increase this year to $6.2 billion.
Economists have found that the $35.7 billion estimate is likely conservative since changes to the economy due to the pandemic.
A large part of the problem changes to the GST. The current 2019/20 GST allocation of $2.7 billion is 42% of the Territory’s incomes. As a whole 70% of the NT’s income comes from the federal government.
The NT Treasurer Nicole Manison has blamed the commonwealth for $500 million drop in the carve-up of the GST.
Another part of the problem was The Ichthys-INPEX LNG project. The $45 billion project led to a boom-bust scenario where fly in fly out workers fuelled the local economy. The project was completed in 2016 and now does little for the economy.
Tourism faired heavily in the result as many tourists found it expensive to visit the NT due workers driving up accommodation prices.
The last part of the problem is the increase of public services. 21,207 people in the NT are public servants, almost 9% of their population.
In Victoria, we only have around 4.7%. Profession Gerritson has attributed this to the NT’s statehood aspirations. However, the government has denied this stating the demands on the needs of health, youth justice, police and child protection.
Many were planning on voting on for another party in the upcoming election — the coronavirus has thrown a curveball.
Territorian’s want to keep it this way. With many saying their opinions of the Labor government and leader Michael Gunner have changed.
The chief minister has been criticised by his opponents for politicising the debate stating vote for him to “keep your life safe, keep your job safe”.
Gamba Grass – Weed Management A Priority
Never has never quite been an issue like Gamba Grass. Brought in to feed cattle in the 1930’s, Gamba has become a pesty weed. It is highly flammable and can be extremely dangerous in bush fires.
Gamba grass can reach temperatures of 1000c melting the windows of fire trucks. Compared to normal grasses at 350c.
It’s also environmentally a risk to the native ecosystems, including animals and biodiversity.
All the parties, including the CLP, Labor, and Territory Alliance, have Gamba grass policies.
The Territory is known for having some of the highest levels of crime in the country.
The CLP is pushing hard on a tough on crime approach as well as the Territory Alliance.
Many Aboriginal leaders say though the tough on crime approach is fuelling indigenous incarceration rates. The NT has the second-highest in Australia after Western Australia, with 85% of indigenous adults and 95% juveniles in detention also being indigenous.
Fracking has become an increasingly controversial issue in the Territory. Labor has said it supports it and the CLP has said it “wants to grow”.
The Terriotarity Alliance has shifted its policy and has stated it wants to ban it. A different position from a couple of months earlier where Terry Mills their leader stated: “we’re not enthusiastic about it”.
The NT Greens made headlines in February when it stated it would preference conservatives over Labor because of fracking in the Johnston byelection early in the year. However, this made little change to the result with Labor being reelected.
Back in 2016, Labor had been elected with the promise to put a moratorium on fracking. In 2018 they lifted the moratorium with many environmentalists feeling betrayed.
The Gunner government has said it will implement all the recommendations from the Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission’s interim report which includes gas as a key component.
Graeme Sawyer from the environmental advocacy group Protect Country Alliance stated to NT news:
“To see the Gunner Government pushing ahead with plans for a gas-led economy is also especially ironic as it coincides with the release of the scathing Samuels Report into the failings of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which found Australia’s environment was getting worse under the laws designed to protect it,”
Banned Drinkers Register & Minimum Unit Price
Another hot topic is booze.
The NT has the highest consumption rate of alcohol in the country — 173 per cent above the national average.
The Banned Drinkers Register bans you from buying takeaway alcohol from bottle shops. There are many ways to get on the BDR from drink driving to assault — anti-social behaviour fuelled by alcohol will likely get you on the BDR.
The MUP is a little bit more confusing. The MUP is a floor price which is set at $1.30 per drink. Just to clarify this is not a tax in addition to the price. If your Cooper Pale Ale is 1.3 drinks, it must be sold at minimum for a $1.69 — a carton (24) must cost at least $40.56. It effectively makes cheap alcohol more expensive while not effecting higher-priced drinks.
The BDR and MUP were put in place to decrease alcohol-fuelled violence. There’s some debate from the CLP about whether the BDR and the MUP work. A 12-month review by the government found that alcohol-related assaults dropped by 26%, with a drop in Alice Springs by 43% — the lowest it’s been in the NT in 10 years.
Alcohol domestic violence also had a significant drop with a 21% drop across the NT and a 38% drop in Alice Springs.
Predictions and To Sum Up
It seems likely that Labor will be returned to power, however in a majority may be another question. There will still be people angry at Labor about the budget, but likely Territorians will vote for stability.
It will be interesting to see if fracking will make much of an impact to the Territoriality Alliances vote with many environmentalists likely to preference them.
Just as well, whoever wins, atleast something will be done about that darn Gamba grass.