And if that wasn’t enough, Deputy Chief Minister Willem Westra van Holthe in Katherine was also ousted, leaving the CLP with a mere two seats.
Although Ms Wakefield won by a slim 27 vote margin and with the help of preferences from a gaggle of Independents, her determination and effort were remarkable: She resigned from a job she was dedicated to, running the women’s shelter, and she campaigned untiringly.
She spoke with editor ERWIN CHLANDA this morning.
NEWS: Congratulations on becoming the first Labor MLA ever to hold an urban Alice Springs seat. What were the stand-out messages you received in your very extensive door knocking in Braitling?
WAKEFIELD: People were sick of having a local Member not focussed on local issues. Transparency of government. Fracking was big along with solar development, youth issues and the future of young people who perhaps were heading down the wrong path. Concern over hooning was raised across the town.
NEWS: The party which held power in the NT by far the longest has just moved from a comfortable majority four years ago to near annihilation. Could that happen to Labor?
WAKEFIELD: This election shows that if you don’t listen to the electorate, and you don’t take their concerns seriously, anybody can lose their seat. Michael Gunner has given that message to us very strongly. We need to bring trust back to government because I think that has been eroded.
NEWS: How will you do it on the ground – when there is a groundswell of opposition to a government proposal, as we saw with the sale of TIO, for example, or when the government leased the Darwin Port to a Chinese company with links to the Chinese military?
WAKEFIELD: I’ve learned a lot from door knocking. We must have opportunities for people to catch up with me regularly. I learned a lot from standing in Yeperenye [shopping centre] – I had a wide range of people coming up to me. Michael has talked about having community cabinets, including young people. We’re talking about basing community cabinets in high schools. It’s a matter of being committed to making things happen on the ground.
NEWS: What is the role in political decision making of the town’s big lobbies – Town Council, Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Central Australia, Congress and ALEC?
WAKEFIELD: Michael made catching up with the Mayor his first priority when he was down here this week. We’ve talked about local decision making in the bush as well, so we need to be working with local government. Our restructuring of departments is designed to provide for direct lobbying. The decision making process within them will be very clear and the advocacy roles will be much stronger. We want to work particularly with the NGO sector. They are the people on the ground doing the work.
NEWS: Do you think the lobbies I have mentioned were assertive enough vis-a-vis the Giles government? Were they taking it to task?
WAKEFIELD: What I have heard from many people is that they feared there could have been consequences if they criticised the previous government. It seems there was a sense of people not feeling as free to speak out as they could. I am not afraid of full and frank public discussion. That’s how we get to good outcomes, to be brave enough to have these difficult conversations. Government needs to be able to do that.
NEWS: Will the three Labor Members in The Centre work against the Berrimah Line syndrome and if so, how?
WAKEFIELD: There are no CLP Members south of the Berrimah line. We have very strong voices. We know the Berrimah Line is a concern within the community. I’m confident we can get that concept out of Territory politics.
NEWS: How and with whom will you consult on a national Indigenous culture centre?
WAKEFIELD: We haven’t assigned ministries yet. Once we have more detail I will be happy to talk about the process.
NEWS: What can we expect to see from Labor on the family violence front? For instance, will Labor move to ensure more housing options (beyond the shelter) for women and children who want to escape violence?
WAKEFIELD: We will make sure that our housing policies, including in remote communities, and our domestic violence policy are strongly aligned. We’ll be working with the sector on moving this forward.
NEWS: Will you be seeking a portfolio tomorrow and if so, which one?
WAKEFIELD: I am absolutely focussed on being the local Member for Braitling. I’m still letting this sink in.
NEWS: Would you reject a portfolio if you were offered one tomorrow?
WAKEFIELD: I would serve in any way the Chief Minister and the rest of the team think is the best way for me to be a strong advocate for Braitling and the Territory.
NEWS: There is concern about the Festival in Light. It will cost $1.3m each time it is held and the Government has apparently been committed to six events, as is the case with the Red Centre NATS, at the same cost. Should these go on or not?
WAKEFIELD: For the Summer NATS I know there is a contract in place. I’m not so sure about the Festival in Light. I’ll be seeking information very quickly because some people have raised concerns with me about animal safety.
NEWS: What’s it feel like to be entering Parliament?
WAKEFIELD: I want to give a big thank-you to anybody who has given me support. I’ve had so much of it. Since it was announced yesterday I’ve been flooded with messages of encouragement. It really has been quite overwhelming.
PHOTO: Dale Wakefield got the rockstar treatment from Warren Snowdon MHR on election night in anticipation for of her defeating Chief Minister Adam Giles. Yesterday, after completion of the postal vote count, it became a reality.