Not because of a CLP victory, they governed from the inception of self-govt in 1978 until the loss in 2001, but because they have for the first time won on the back of support from the bush electorates, ie those made up mostly of indigenous Territorians.
CLP’s past electoral success was based on a strategy of winning the major urban centres, which it did with ease. Its stance towards the remote seats could be summed up as – you don’t vote for us, so screw you.
Now all that will have to change. The first sign of that was that the new CLP leader, Terry Mills, actually got out and talked to people out bush, and that they did some good candidate selection. The pre-selection of Maralampuwi for the seat of Arafura was a smart move. He is a well respected man ,and not just on the Tiwi Is.
Labor, strangely, seemed to have adopted the old CLP strategy of shoring up the northern suburbs (Darwin) vote. While that worked fine for the CLP, they never had a swag of remote electorates to lose in a hung parliament (12-12-1). Someone was clearly asleep at the wheel as the sense of disillusionment with Labor was palpable, over 3 things. Firstly, the intervention: people felt let down that the Labor party seemed to go along with it, when they had expected some support to oppose. The Labor Party’s last minute re-branding of the intervention can be seen as a belated nod to this reality. Second, Labor managed to give the appearance that they were walking away from the outstations, a central element in indigenous self-determination. And finally, the very unpopular move to amalgamate community councils into Shires was a poor policy choice, badly implemented. Even if the others could have been overlooked, this was salt in the wounds and a real blow to local decision making.
For its part, the CLP had promised to restore local decision making, support homelands/outstations and focus on employment. How it proposes to achieve this is another question entirely, and most of what we have to go on amounts to little more than motherhood statements. The Homelands ‘policy’ consists of a massive 2 page document. The only firm commitment at this point is $50m for homelands housing, which is for maintenance only and amounts to around $4000 per house per year. CLP announcements and statements have waxed lyrical about the need for infrastructure projects; roads, bridges, housing. All perfectly true. Yet they need to square this with their other significant pledges, standard conservation election fare; reduce waste, and reduce government debt. The infrastructure needs in remote areas would easily amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s quite a juggling act the CLP are promising to perform.
And there is a little internal tension within the CLP. Former Federal MP, now MLA, David Tollner, has made no secret of his wish for the top job, and would be only to happy to depose Terry Mills. Yet, Tollner has been very explicit in his opposition to outstations calling them “hell-holes”.
I predict a rocky road for this new partnership between the CLP and the bush electorates.