By ERWIN CHLANDA
If you’re getting all excited about the September 7 election – don’t.
That, in a nutshell, is the advice of the CDU’s Alice Springs based Professorial Research Fellow Rolf Gerritsen (pictured): “Nothing much will change” no matter who forms government in Canberra, nor who gets elected as the Member for Lingiari.
No votes, no money will remain the bottom line: “Neither would seal the east-west Outback Way.” That sort of money goes to the densely populated states.
The Intervention will continue “perhaps a bit more whole-heartedly” if the conservatives win, he says, and they would also be more likely to support the Northern Territory alcohol strategies.
Will these succeed? “I have not a clue and no-one else has either,” says Prof Gerritsen.
In education, “Abbott has signed up to Gonski lite” and won’t subscribe to The Full Gonski of Labor. On the ground that would mean that the Territory gets an additional $150m a year which would be added to the present budget. There would be no funding reduction for NT schools getting more than Gonski recommends.
“No redistribution would need to occur,” says Prof Gerritsen.
“Going ’round and ’round in circles” will remain the way health is being run, with today’s announcement by sitting Member Warren Snowdon of $20m for dealing with foetal alcohol syndrome a good example: those funds come from the same source as does the money that buys the alcohol.
“Short of abolishing welfare” any notion of large-scale agriculture in the bush making a dint into the unemployment catastrophe remains a pipe dream. Would stopping the dole for people refusing to accept work (as is the case around the nation) make a difference?
“The government would land in court in a twinkling over discrimination,” says Prof Gerritsen.
“This is a debate we’ll be having in 30 years time. The economics don’t stack up: why work 40 hours a week when you can do nothing for $150 less?” He says things will change when demand for material goods “goes beyond iPods and motor cars”.
In national politics “we don’t even rate. Some things are being done for Aborigines but usually that’s not for the blackfellas. It is for the voters in the leafy suburbs” of the coastal cities: “My guess is that their votes will reflect the national result because they will be less influenced by local issues.”
Lingiari is now a marginal seat, with a 4.5% margin.
In 2004, 2007 and 2010 Lingiari followed the national voting trends. If it does again Mr Snowdon’s margin will evaporate – unless Kevin Rudd can make further inroads interstate.
The usual pattern is that Alice Springs and Katherine vote conservative, Nhulunbuy and Tennant Creek Labor.
Of course in the bush things have changed for the worse for Mr Snowdon: black voters have deserted him in droves. Instead of having NT Parliamentarians supporting him, he has Alison Anderson, Bess Price and Larissa Lea actively hostile to him.
But there is a bigger question hanging over the poll: the up to 30% of people who did not vote here last time. Which way they are going to jump is anybody’s guess, says Prof Gerritsen.
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By ERWIN CHLANDA