COMMENT 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.
COMMENT by ALEX NELSON