The August 27 Northern Territory election saw the conservative Country Liberal Party (CLP) lose power in a landslide. They now hold just two of the twenty five seats in the legislative assembly.
While there was a huge swing away from the CLP of almost 19%, the swing towards the Northern Territory Labor Party certainly didn’t make up all the lost ground. They only received a 6.6% swing towards them.
There were a number of factors that contributed to the CLP’s loss. The deteriorating and increasingly unstable economic situation probably tops the list. Over the past 12 months economic growth has dropped from 10.5% to a mere 1.5%.
This is in part because of the move from the construction phase to the production phase at the $34 billion Inpex gas project, as well as slumping house prices and generally lower tax receipts for the government.
Seeing this downturn on the horizon, the former CLP government was forced to go searching for other ways to balance their books.
This led to the government selling off the previously state run Territory Insurance Office (TIO) to Allianz, the insurance company that heartlessly ripped off flood affected Queenslanders in 2011 when they refused to cover for riverine flooding. The CLP also moved to lease out the Darwin Port.
These privatisations were unpopular, but adding to the discontent was the horrendous abuse carried out at the Don Dale detention facility. Much of this abuse took place on the CLP’s watch and seemingly with the knowledge of some of the party’s leading figures. The CLP was increasingly seen as both incompetent and divided.
While the CLP won the 2012 election with a clear majority of sixteen seats, by this election they were only hanging on by a thread as a whole number of members resigned to carry on their terms as independents. In the end disaffected Territorians decided to severely punish the CLP.
While Labor managed to benefit from the CLP’s woes to some extent, people did not run to them with open arms. It was mainly independent candidates that gained at this election. Some seats were won by as few as eight votes, which is a clear indication that none of the candidates inspired voters.
For the working class, young people and the poor of the Northern Territory chopping and changing between the two major parties and their ex-pat independents won’t do anything to solve the problems they face.
All of the sitting members of the legislative assembly support the profit-driven capitalist system regardless of their declared political affiliation.
As such, none of them have a plan that can genuinely address the issues faced by ordinary people such as poverty, insecure work, housing stress and worsening environmental problems.
Prior to 2012 the Labor Party were in power in the Northern Territory for 11 years. Their track record shows that they too have no interest in improving the lives of ordinary people.
It was actually Labor who first attempted to privatise the TIO in 2006, but they were forced to back down due to public pressure. Likewise, Labor were in power in 2011 when the abuse at Don Dale was already underway.
Working class people in the Northern Territory will need to build campaigns to resist the pro-business policies of all those in the legislative assembly, including further privatisations and cuts to social services.
A fight for access to decent housing, secure work, accessible healthcare and education, land rights for indigenous people, and a transition to sustainable energy can help throw up genuine representatives of working class people and lay the basis for a challenge to big business rule.
By Meredith Jacka