Did Oz Day row in Victoria scare the horses in Alice?


p1906alexnelsonCOMMENT by ALEX NELSON
The end result for the new council is likely to be as entrenched as I’ve ever seen it. In a sense the wildcard is the extraordinary level of support for Jacinta Price: To see an Aboriginal woman so emphatically topping the poll has never occurred previously, let alone for any Aboriginal candidate in past elections that I recall.
It’s interesting to revisit the council elections of 1984 when 19 candidates also stood, for 10 aldermanic positions.
Dr Richard Lim topped the result on that occasion – and he’d been in town for only three years maximum.
There were five white male candidates elected – all conservative – plus Bob Liddle (also conservative), the first Aboriginal person elected onto any council in the NT.
There were three successful female candidates – Lynne Peterkin (conservative), Michelle Castagna (thoroughly independent), and  just managing to scrape in, Di Shanahan, a strong Labor identity.
The mayor, Leslie Oldfield, was elected unopposed. Oldfield was her own person but did have an association with the right of politics, as she had been Roger Vale’s electorate officer even after she was elected mayor in 1983 (she resigned from Roger’s office later that year).
Thus there was diversity in the genders and cultural backgrounds of the council members but still a strong dominance of conservative supporters.
Returning to the current result, it’s no surprise that the incumbents are likely to be returned, history shows it’s rare for a sitting alderman / councillor to lose an election.
Many – probably most – voters don’t take much notice of local government politics so when it comes to choosing candidates they’ll put numbers against names they recognise from the media.
There is, of course, the usual factor of major local support towards conservativism in this town and also all the social networks that exist but I think one factor that didn’t help the progressive cause was the controversy from Victoria of Greens-dominated councils abolishing Australia Day citizenship ceremonies.
That had huge media coverage coinciding with the period of the election campaign in the NT. The timing couldn’t have been worse if they tried and I think, simply through association with that side of politics, all the local left-leaning candidates were seriously hampered as a consequence. That’s just my opinion but it won’t surprise me if this factor played a significant role in the outcome.
Another observation to make is in regard to Jacinta Price, who clearly has benefited from a high media profile (including her role with Yamba the Honeyant, not to be dismissed as inconsequential) – all of which is noted in the Alice Springs News Online piece about her published a week ago.
I think a failing of the progressive camp was to run so many candidates and attempt to dominate the discourse of the campaign.
That approach simply creates alarm and a negative reaction from the rest of the community; it comes across as potentially disruptive and threatening.
It would have been better to select maybe three or (at most) four high profile and credible candidates and not be seen to be trying to take over the council.
As it stands, their campaign clearly backfired badly. Of course, that doesn’t rule out any number of individuals from nominating as candidates but implementing change at any level of government in Australia is best done by evolution rather than revolution.


  1. It looks like the Oz Day row down here in Mexico has done more than scare the horses in the Alice Council election.
    I see in the news that the NT Chief Minister has taken the political bait and is now rabbiting on about banning Oz Day throughout the Territory – following the lead of our illustrious Green-Left local councils of “progressive vision” in the Big Smoke.
    Scaring the horses now looks escalating to a stampede of water buffalo through the halls of the NT Parliament.

  2. I love reading your insightful comments with their relationship to the history and facts of the subject, Alex.
    In this case subject to the final count I think you have summed up this 2017 council election outcome very well.

  3. Alex, the electors of Alice Springs have spoken. The voting pattern said that they want stability, they want traditional values.
    They are, as a tribe, not interested in “progressive” politics. They may be interested in Left, Right and Centre politics, but not anarchy.
    I was in the NT during the campaign period, although no longer an elector I read and listened with interest to the first time candidates and the “looneys”.
    The main thing that came out of their rantings was that they have no idea what Local Government is all about.
    It is not about Darwin and Canberra, it is not about social engineering and cultural bullying.
    Local government is about rubbish, roads, parks and gardens, supplying sports facilities and street lighting.
    Law and order, like active environmentalism and utilities (Power and water), is a police and NT Government matter, not a municipal council priority.
    You seem a bit miffed that it’ll be more of the same, well Alex, all I can say is “Thank God”.

  4. @ David Stokes (Posted August 28, 2017 at 12:51 pm): Not sure how you come to the conclusion I’m “a bit miffed” David, but you’re welcome to jump to conclusions as you see fit.
    Democracy is about the expression of ideas and proposals by eligible candidates, and of their assessment and choice decided by electors.
    Historically the Alice Springs Town Council and its predecessors, the Town Management Board in the 1960s and the Alice Springs Progress Association of the late 1940s and 50s, have always been active lobbyists about issues you consider to be in the realm of higher levels of government.
    @ Bob Taylor: Thank you for your compliment, it is appreciated.

  5. I fully agree with David Stokes.
    The people of Alice knew what they wanted an voted accordingly. The support for Jacinta is / was not surprising and is more to her own credit rather than media exposure.
    To answer the question asked in the byline no horses were disturbed in Alice but maybe a few donkeys could be heard braying quietly ’round the edges.

  6. From a distance, Mr Nelson’s reflections on the election stats appear objective, well balanced and interesting.
    His personal view on how the diversity lobby could have been more successful seems logical and worthy of note for next time.
    The problem as I see it for the diversity individuals is that because of their very diversity of ideals, and their lack of knowledge how a council operates from day to day they will have extreme difficulty getting their collective act together to focus on two or three leading candidates.
    They will have to form a political platform, become a power bloc, as the Greens have done. Just as Damien and Jacinta et al have done.
    It would seem from the election stats that Alice people generally liked what they saw in the existing power bloc. Getting things done.
    And so Council life and getting things done in the best interests of the Council charter – and the Alice electorate – goes on.

  7. Alex, I got the feeling you weren’t happy, just the tone of the article.
    As for Alice Springs Town Council lobbying into areas not of its direct concern, I know of instances where they have lobbied upwards, and history shows that the upper levels, usually, take no notice, or rubbish the issue publicly, and then funded council to take the issue on leaving councils holding rather hot potatoes.
    Local councils are the “child” of territory and state governments and as such are expected to “behave”.
    New candidates with little experience often, during their election campaigns, step outside of the implicit boundaries.
    Like party politics, there are things that happen in local government that should not be happen.
    OK Alex, I know you’re going to tell us that most of our councillors since the inception of ASTC have had party affiliations, but that does’t make it right.

  8. I think it would be interesting to see how many voted 19th for Jacinta and Jimmy. Jacinta got 15% and Jimmy 10% of the electorate, how many 19ths did they get?
    Enough to balance out the positives? And of course the largest vote went to “who cares” so many not interested enough to vote.


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