Could this be the end of the CLP Opposition?


CLP candidate and Alice Springs Mayor Damian Ryan could be one of the biggest losers out of the Johnston by-election result.
Mr Ryan, who formally declared his hand as a CLP candidate in September 2019, may now find his task in Araluen harder than initially anticipated as the fallout from the Top End by-election is analysed.
The CLP disaster also helps to mask the big swing against Labor in a traditionally safe seat, which was in part due to infighting and dissatisfaction with Chief Minister Michael Gunner’s leadership, eventually forcing the retirement of Ken Vowles and so creating the need for the by-election.
Former Richmond footballer Joel Bowden claimed victory for Labor with 30% of the vote, stating in his victory speech: “Tonight we won every booth. We had people at our throats, we had people yapping at our feet … and we were able to press on, get the ball and we got it through the goals.”
Mr Gunner said: “Territorians chose us … and you’ve got to do it all again in six months’ time!”
Territory Alliance (TA) candidate Steven Klose secured 719 first preference votes putting him clearly in second place.
While TA has fallen short of winning the seat, the strong show of support will boost Terry Mills’s case to grasp formal opposition from the CLP in Parliament as former Labor-turned-independent MP Jeff Collins considers joining TA.
Mr Collins has been actively campaigning alongside Mr Mills (pictured) and Mr Klose in Johnston this week.
This poses the bizarre question, who can “win” opposition in a TA versus CLP contest?
Winning the right to be in second place as an alternative government is an odd concept.
If TA can form the official opposition it would give the party a new level of legitimacy as a political operation and provide a platform for “Terry Mills, as Leader of the Opposition” – a position he first held back in 2008 for the CLP.
If Mr Mills were to become the new Opposition Leader, he would receive a 65% salary increase, and his deputy would receive 30% more, and the TA whip would bank a 15% increase.
A TA Opposition would also receive extra staff and resources, which would be helpful ahead of the Territory-wide election in August.
Former CLP President, now Ban Fracking Fix Crime Protect Water party candidate, Braedon Earley achieved 338 votes putting him in fifth on first preferences.
ABC election analyst Antony Green stated on Twitter: “It is a terrible result for the CLP. August’s Territory election could be wild.
“Labor received 47.3% of preferences. The CLP listing Labor as its second preference helped. The CLP how-to-vote also makes it hard for the Greens to pass the Territory Alliance.”
UPDATE 10.26am

ED – Robyn Lambley (pictured), the sitting Member of Araluen, who has been in discussions with Territory Alliance – confirmed this morning that she will contest the Alice Springs seat, again as an Independent.

Comment writer “David” gets it wrong – see exchange below. The Josh Thomas (CLP) how to vote card clearly has the number “2” alongside Labor’s Joel Bowden name.
Given that he has now had a shot at our commentator, Mark J Smith, and the ABC’s Anthony Green, generally accepted as one of the nation’s foremost election experts, we are requiring “David” to publish his full name with any further comment on this issue.
UPDATE 8.20pm
“David” retracts his comments and apologises.


  1. Mark: Wouldn’t be a bad idea to do a fact check.
    CLP did not preference labor second. CLP did not do any preference deal with any party as was clearly printed at the top of the how to vote card handed out for Josh.
    It was the voters choice whom they preferenced, CLP only asked the voter to put Josh 1 and to fill in all the other square’s as they wished.

  2. @ “David”: Thank you for your comment. Mark J Smith was quoting a statement by ABC election analyst Antony Green on Twitter about the preference issue you are raising. Mark wrote his comment piece a few hours after the poll closed. He would have found it hard to do a fact check at that time: The Alice Springs News asked the CLP office for the mobile phone numbers and email addresses of all the party’s endorsed candidates, but those contact details were denied to us. They are not on the website.
    Erwin Chlanda, Editor.

  3. @ Erwin Chlanda: Antony Green a Twitter twit. His statement is clearly wrong. Obviously he didn’t do his home work. How to vote cards for Josh all over Facebook with instructions re no preference deals, as I mentioned. ABC analyst said it, must be a fact. Ha Ha!! Please note slight sarcasm.

  4. I am sure Mr Bowden is a good fellow though I have never had anything to do with him and cannot endorse him as a capable Member of Parliament.
    It does cause concern in my mind that some in the electorate are so uneducated in the affairs of their community; that because Mr Bowden played footy that he is their best choice of a member of Parliament. Mr Bowden’s experience would be that of sport which in any Ministry of Government is associated with the least capable candidate in that Ministry, and be given light portfolio responsibilities at best.
    The message is that if the Northern Territory is to realise its great potential; and it has great potential, is that we as a community need to have a better understating of whom we are electing.
    Otherwise, we have no recourse to complain when we arrive at technical bankruptcy as is the present state of the Northern Territory economy, with social issues driving people out of the Northern Territory.
    If not for the Australian Federal Government covering the Northern Territory’s debts, we would not have the ability to raise loans in the billions of dollars to keep the Northern Territory Government afloat.
    Loans will need to be repaid in the future and at this point we have mortgaged our kids’ future and their kids’.
    Be assured, Canberra will fight tooth and nail not to pay our debts. This means the Northern Territory government is being forced to mature or give up its status of a territory and be consumed by surrounding States.
    Charles Darwin University in my opinion is not a university rather a left wing anti Northern Territory political activist platform.
    CDU has been pressuring government to close down our comparative advantage which is mining, something that underpins the Territory and Australian economy.
    You will find a hotbed of Labor Party plants there and this needs to be addressed in my opinion. How can debt be paid with such enemies of the state or in our case the Territory?
    If we look around the Norther Territory Parliament we see a loose confederation of warring tribes in both mainstream parties, now with Labor’s Chief Minister Mr Gunner accused of serious misappropriations $12 Million dollars of tax payers funds paid into an incorporated entity into his electorate of Fannie Bay – the Darwin Turf Club; that would see the resignation of any responsible Premier or Prime Minister rendered immediately.
    This matter has been referred the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption. What is a test of transparency for the Northern Territory Parliament and whether it has the integrity to ask the Chief Minister to stand down whilst this investigation is being conducted?
    Feedback from Canberra is that of ridiculing the Northern Territory Parliament as usual NT “fragile Government”.
    On a positive side – and we surely need this – we have gas reserves that can, if managed properly, raise the living standards of all Territorians and pay back debt.
    The underlying issue we need rectified, is that we have not measured our Parliamentarians’ ability to govern social problems which directly affect economic growth, which is also a social degradation we see in too many areas. In Alice Springs and when I walk down the Darwin CBD, I am harassed by Indigenous people who are invariably drunk or drug induced asleep on the verge.
    What tourists take back to their place of abode does make me wonder what damage is being done to our reputation as a tourist destination.
    The small number of cruise ships and the plummeting tourist numbers are testament to this.
    To our gallant Northern Territory Police and Australian Federal Police Officers, I thank you for not going on strike as you are the only deterrent to anarchy in the Northern Territory.
    Government should take away these silly Indigenous programs that do not and will never work, and put these precious resources into supporting the police to do their very arduous work.
    What we have in the Northern Territory is an inability to obtain men and women that possess vision and leadership qualities from both life experience combined with academic education that creates great leadership that delivers for the people – you, – and therefore the end result, a better standard of living for you and your kids.
    I genuinely hope we select before we elect.

  5. The Johnston by-election is a disastrous result for the CLP.
    It isn’t much better for Territory Labor.
    The next NT government is likely to be a minority Labor government supported by a variety of unreliable independents all with superficial policies.

  6. It has become apparent that my views on the intent of Josh’s how to vote card would not pass the pub test.
    I therefore withdraw all my previous remarks and concede that the average person would believe that Labor was the second choice on that card.
    I unreservedly apologise to the journalists previously mentioned.

  7. Erwin, noting “David’s” initial emails, and then retraction, the CLP’s voting card was confusing. CLP President Ron Kelly publicly and consistently made it clear the CLP would not be doing preference deals in Johnston, and that it was up to the voters to decide the order of their vote.
    On the other hand the how-to-vote card does number the boxes 1-7 (as you note), and it is in an order that is reasonable to assume supported at least Ron Kelly’s view of the world.
    Although, again, the text on the how-to-vote card reads, “the order is your choice”.
    Either the numbering of the boxes was intentional and meant as a preferred voting guide regardless of the CLP’s public comments, or it was accidental and merely used as an illustrative guide to what numbering seven boxes 1 to 7 actually means.
    Doesn’t really pass the pub test either way and if the NT Electoral Commission are scratching around for something to do this week it might be worth considering the card as either appropriate or not appropriate.
    Broader consideration for the CLP needs to be whether they’re going to roll over and die in August, or are going to actually have a go at maintaining viability.
    Putting Ron out to pasture might be a decent start.

  8. IMHO best option for Northern Territory population is for the Commonwealth to resume it back into South Australia.
    Commonwealth may agree to write down some current debts to achieve this.

  9. The short answer is no.
    The Country Liberal Party should win the August 2020 election as long as its leadership functions properly.
    Mr Gunner should be brought to account over the $12m Darwin Turn Club rort and made to resign creating sorely needed accountability for Territorians.
    As an analogy QLD Labor were comprehensively routed in 2012 and came back to govern the next term. The CLP Country Liberal Party can do the same.
    Queensland Labor suffered one of the worst defeats of a state government since Federation, and the worst defeat of a sitting government in Queensland history.
    From 51 seats in 2009, it was reduced to only seven seats, suffering a swing of 15.6%.
    The LNP Liberal National Party won a majority, jumping from 34 seats to 78 seats to win the largest majority government in Queensland history.
    The CLP The Country Liberal Party has a very broad base and well experienced people and infrastructure.
    This will tell in the end when Territory Alliance falters as its resources are tested in a tumultuous election campaign.
    Terry Alliance, as it should be called, is a straw man set up. Mr Mills has a bee in his bonnet over his treatment when he was a Member of the CLP, however Mr Mills well knows that politics is not a nice business at times and he experienced this.
    I do not feel that Territorians will elect a fellow that bases his politics on vengeance and splitting the conservative vote.
    It is up to the CLP, the Country Liberal Party, to expose what could be a government that cannot operate in a hung Parliament at the very time it is critical a conservative hand guides us through a bankruptcy period in the Northern Territory.
    If you want your kids to have a decent future, we need to think about the reality of a hung Parliament with a vengeful recalcitrant minority wrecking much needed progress in socio economic terms.
    Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true. And you kids’ future goes down with it.

  10. The result last weekend was a disaster for the CLP but worse, their petulance with preferences likely enabled Gunner’s Labor Party to keep the seat. It was a long awaited opportunity to take the seat from Labor that may not be repeated for years.
    Many voters moved away from Labor but they showed that they were not ready to trust the CLP again.
    Given the CLP clearly cannot win Government in their own right in August the best they can hope for is to share government with Terry Mills and Territory Alliance (TA).
    That can’t happen if they repeat the disgrace of supporting the Gunner Government ahead of TA. Even though TA put the Greens and others ahead of the CLP, they put Labor below the CLP.
    The CLP must realise that if they continue to support the Gunner Government ahead of TA they will keep the conservatives in opposition, and if Saturday’s results are any guide, the CLP will be the minority party behind Territory Alliance whatever happens.
    [By the way] the Alice Springs News wrote: “Terry Mills, as Leader of the Opposition” – a position he first held back in 2008 for the CLP.
    In fact “On 14 November 2003, he [Terry Mills] replaced Denis Burke as Leader of the Opposition … He resigned on 4 February 2005” from Wikipedia.

  11. Basing an argument on an electoral result from a by-election has and will always be viewed as courageous, or Poppycock.
    The CLP has exceptional candidates in Alice Springs in particular and will win the 2020 August election.
    Paradoxically, because Mr Mills cares not a jot for Alice Springs, there are no candidates for the Mills Party below the Berrimah Line.
    Mr Mills is so full of hate and anger for Mr Giles and his association with Alice Springs that I expect Alice Springs will be a negative target if Mr Mills has any say in Government.
    There is a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and August and I suspect Mr Mills will not run Alice Springs candidates or if he does they will need to be YES Men and Women.
    Mr Mills cares not for Alice Springs, is not interested in Alice Springs and in his mind sees Alice Springs and anything below the Berrimah Line as superfluous.
    The Country Liberal Party is charged with a very important duty for the people of the Northern Territory, reinstall integrity in government as Mr Gunner has disgraced us with his Gunner Gate $12m [expenditure].
    Also to give the people of the Northern Territory stable government with a plan to reinvigorate the Northern Territory economy and resolve serious social issues.
    Mr Mills creating a hung Parliaments will be disastrous for the people of The Northern Territory.
    A hung Parliament is dysfunctional, creates a dilemma for business to invest, inhibiting or stopping economic growth.
    A hung Parliament allows recalcitrance to rule, issues that should be addressed and corrected fall down and corruption becomes easier to pervade our community.
    A hung Parliament must be avoided at all costs so the NT can get back on its feet economically and socially.
    These issues affect you, the people, in so many ways including your families’ living standards and that if not viewed seriously will be left for the kids to endure and correct.
    On a positive, this election like so many is an opportunity to get the Northern Territory moving again, we have the hard working people, resources, great lifestyle, and now we need government to make us the best in Australia.
    As Sir Winston Churchill said when the things were not going well in WWII: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”


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