By ERWIN CHLANDA
Independent candidate Phil Walcott, who will be standing against Chief Minister Adam Giles in Braitling, says the planned introduction of optional preferential voting is a cynical bid by the government to cling to power.
Under that system a voter is not obliged to put a number against all candidates on the ballot paper and can put just one choice, if he / she wants.
Mr Walcott (pictured) says the change, which he believes will be raised in next week’s Parliamentary sittings, seems to be a way for Mr Giles to reduce the likelihood of being put last.
Independent Member for Nelson Gerry Wood agrees. He says it is a bid by the CLP to avoid defeat.
He says optional preferential voting favours sitting Members. The argument that it reduces informal voting is moot – only around 3% of votes were informal in 2012 and half of these were deliberately informal.
“There is no point in changing a good system for the sake of 1.5% of the vote,” Mr Wood says.
“In both the Federal and local government elections there is a requirement to fill in all the boxes on the ballot paper. That presently is the rule for NT elections.
“If Mr Giles gets his way then in the next NT election you will only have to fill in one space on the ballot paper.
“That will mean we will have two methods of voting, something that will more than likely cause an increase in informal voting at the next Federal election.
“It is dumb idea, will cause confusion and the legislation should not have been debated or considered six months out from an election,” says Mr Wood.
Mr Walcott, a psychologist and resident of Alice Springs for 22 years, and frequent traveller to Darwin (at his own cost, of course) to observe Parliament, says the ballgame in Braitling is a lot different this time.
Mr Giles was “a very good local member” early in this term and at times they worked together solving constituents’ problems.
“He didn’t have that sense of arrogance. And clearly he lived in Alice Springs most of the time. He could be a phone call away.
“It’s public knowledge that his partner doesn’t want to live outside Darwin.”
Mr Walcott says he frequently referred patients to Mr Giles, for example, with housing issues, “and Adam would say to me, what are we going to do with Mary Jones, or whatever. If you can provide me with a letter of support I can fix it.”
The new Braitling, in the wake of the abolition of Greatorex, will include the New and the Old Eastside, and more than three quarters of the CBD, which was previously Araluen, and Larapinta (see map below).
“The white ute brigade” are new voters in Braitling, says Mr Walcott. “Young tradies. And they’ve got little ones, and partners. I’ll need to get to talk to the wives, girlfriends, about their kids’ schooling and so on. The new pre-school in Braitling is a good thing.
“There are different people now living in Alice Springs, not vastly different, but enough.
“Barbara Shaw asked me to talk to the people in some of the camps, get Aboriginal people engaged in the process.”
Braitling has some of the biggest camps, Morris Soak, Trucking Yards, Warlpiri Camp, Mt Nancy and Charles Creek.
Mr Walcott is not ruling out seeking a preference deal with Labor candidate Dale Wakefield but says he won’t be making up his mind for a while.
In the last election, when he stood in Greatorex, now to be abolished, he didn’t make any preference deals.
He says this time it would depend on who else is putting their hat in the ring. For example, are the Greens and 1Territory fielding candidates? Are there more independents? What’s the draw for positions of names on the ballot paper, and so on?
In 2012 Adam Giles won with a whopping margin, 67.6% of the primary vote and 73.6% after preferences.
Labor’s Deborah Rock scored 17.5% and 26.4%, respectively, with her preferences likely to have come from the Greens’ Barbara Shaw, who had 9.1% of the primary vote. Colin Furphy came last with 5.8%.
Meanwhile Mr Walcott says his platform includes the following policies:–
• Health & Education: Amalgamate the NT health and education departments, delivering quality programs especially relating to early childhood. Start a “Minus 9” project for expecting mothers leading to better infant and maternal health, reducing the incidence of FASD, FTT and other preventable developmental disorders. Once born, the baby will be nurtured within the combined health and education systems. Australia has spent the past 50 years evolving a dependency model plagued by a sense of entitlement.
• Employment: Focus on creating job opportunities in the renewable energy sector. There is no longer any need to carve up our natural environment with mining. R&D funds need to be directed into these new world technologies. Corporate subsidies (paid for by taxpayers) should be removed from the dirty fuel organisations and re-directed. Employer groups should focus on the newer technologies and develop apprenticeships and trade skills within the renewable energy sector.
• First Home Owner grants: Limiting them has had a drastic, negative influence of the housing market in Alice Springs. Young people and couples trying to enter the home buyer markets are compromised by this policy. Look at how the grant is accessible and review the rates at which stamp duty is applied. Paying should be by installments over five years (first installment due at the end of the first 12 months). This would stimulate the housing market, enticing people to stay.
• Seniors: As they continue to contribute to the lives of their children and grandchildren living here, seniors play a significant role in child-care, sporting and social clubs, volunteering services and the like. We need to encourage them to stay. The government needs to review its entitlements schedule, including government sponsored bus travel (where available) on weekends. I ask the seniors, what other benefits would you like to see to support you continuing to live and be here?
MAP below: The seat of Namatjira (including all of the town that’s south of the ranges) is to the right (east) and below (south) of the two electorates shown. (“Inset A” is not shown.)
Voting change CLP's bid to stay in power: Independents
By ERWIN CHLANDA