2020 Northern Territory Election – Analysis of Results

With counting complete for the 2020 Northern Territory election, it’s time for a preliminary analysis of the results and summary of changes to the composition of the Legislative Assembly.

Swings and change in seats below are based on adjusting the 2016 result for the 2019 redistribution. Details of the redistribution can be found in this post, and detail on changes in party composition can be found in my ABC NT Election Preview.

2020 Northern Territory Election – Votes and Seats by Party

Party Candi
Change Votes Pct Swing
Labor Party 25 14 -4 40,291 39.43 -2.76
Country Liberals 24 8 +6 32,021 31.34 -0.46
Territory Alliance 21 1 +1 13,184 12.90 +12.90
Independent 23 2 -3 10,977 10.74 -8.09
The Greens 10 .. 4,453 4.36 +1.49
Federation Party 4 .. 942 0.92 +0.92
Ban Fracking Fix Crime Protect Water 1 .. 226 0.22 -3.36
Animal Justice 1 .. 78 0.08 +0.08
Others 0.00 -0.72
Formal 109 25 102,172
Informal 3,661 3.46 +1.46
Total / Turnout 105,833 74.94 +0.92
Enrolment 141,225

Source: Percentages and change in vote calculations by author based on results published on the NT Electoral Commission website. Statistical Returns for the election will not available for some time and may contain some minor adjustments to the above table.

Note: The change in seats column compares the 2020 results by party with 2016. It does not take account of Namatjira becoming a CLP seat in the redistributon, nor two Independents and a Labor MLA forming the Territory Alliance. See notes on Change in Membership below for more details. The Ban Fracking Fix Crime Protect Water party was called 1 Territory in 2016.

Turnout and Informal Voting

Turnout was up 0.92 percentage points, 1.3 points in greater Darwin but only 0.3 in the rest of the Territory. The re-introduction of full preferential voting saw informal voting rise from 2.0% to 3.5%, from 2.1% to 2.9% in greater Darwin, from 1.9% to 4.4% in the rest of the Territory.

In majority Indigenous districts, the low turnout, high informal vote rates and change in informal vote were Arafura (52.7% turnout, 5.2% informal, +4.0 percentage points), Arnhem (58.1%, 7.4%, +5.5), Barkly (63.2%, 4.3%, +2.9), Daly (73.5%, 6.2%, +4.2), Gwoja (52.8%, 5.3%, +4.4), Mulka (68.4%, 2.3%, +0.2) and Namatjira (66.1%, 5.3%, +4.4).

The low informal rate in Mulka is due to there being only two candidates, removing numbering errors and the use of a tick or cross as a cause of informal voting. Based on informal vote research at previous NT election, the high rate of informal voting in remote electorates will be due to numbering errors, a disenfranchisement of Indigenous voters who bothered to turn up and vote in electorates that already have problems with under-enrolment and low turnout.

Notes on First Preference Votes

The Country Liberals polled 32.6% in the 24 seats the party contested, up 0.2% on 2016. The Territory Alliance polled 14.8% in the 21 seats it contested, and the Greens 10.4% in the 10 seats contested.

The Territory Alliance’s highest votes were Araluen 29.2% (Robyn Lambley), Katherine 29.1%, Blain 23.0% (Terry Mills), Namatjira 22.4% and Karama 21.0%.

Highest support for the Greens was 18.6% in Nightcliff, 17.2% Johnston, 12.0% Casuarina, 10.4% Araluen and 10.2% Fannie Bay. The Greens would have finished second after preferences in Nightcliff if more Territory Alliance voters had followed the party’s how-to-vote.

At 70.77%, the 2020 election recorded the lowest combined vote for the two traditional parties, lower than the 74% in 2016. The CLP vote recorded its lowest ever first preference percentage vote, though the party only contested 24 seats. The Territory Alliance’s 12.9% was the highest third party vote since the Nationals polled 17.8% contesting all 25 seats in 1987. The 4.4% vote for the Greens was the party’s highest , above the 4.3% recorded in 2008.

Changes in Assembly Membership at 2020 Election

  • Compared to 2016, Labor lost five seats, Barkly, Braitling, Brennan, Katherine and Namatjira but gained Blain from Independent turned Territory Alliance member Terry Mills. The result in Namatjira confirmed that the seat had switched from being Labor held to CLP held in the redistribution. Labor won Fong Lim in 2016 and won it back in 2020 from party defector Jeff Collins.
  • The CLP gained Barkly, Braiting, Brennan and Katherine from Labor at the election, and its redistribution gain of Namatjira from Labor was confirmed at the election. The CLP also gained Nelson following the retirement of Independent Gerry Wood.
  • There are three fewer Independents, Robyn Lambley in Araluen elected in 2020 for the Territory Alliance, Terry Mills defeated in Blain, and Gerry Wood retiring in Nelson.
  • Four members retired – Gerry McCarthy (Labor Barkly), Gary Higgins (CLP Daly), Sandra Nelson (Labor Katherine) and Gerry Wood (Independent Nelson)
  • Five members were defeated – Terry Mills (TA Blain), Dale Wakefield (Labor Braitling), Scott McConnell (Independent Braitling), Tony Sievers (Labor Brennan) and Jeff Collins (TA Fong Lim).
  • There are nine new members – Steven Edgington (CLP Barkly), Mark Turner (Labor Blain), Joshua Burgoyne (CLP Brailting), Marie-Clare Booth (CLP Brennan), Ian Sloan (CLP Daly), Mark Monaghan (Labor Fong Lim), Jo Hersey (CLP Katherine), Bill Yan (CLP Namatjira) and Gerard Maley (CLP Nelson).
  • Labor’s Chancey Paech switched seat from Namatjira to Gwoja (formerly Stuart), while Labor turned Independent MLA for Stuart Scott McConnell contested and was defeated in Braitling.

As in the last Assembly, the gender balance will be 12 female and 13 male. The numbers by party are Labor (7 female 7 male), Country liberals 8 (3 female 5 male) and cross bench 3 (2 female 1 male).

There are five Indigenous members, four Labor (Lawrence Costa – Arafura, Selena Uibo – Arnhem, Chansey Paech – Gwoja, Ngaree Ah Kit – Karama) and one Independent (Yingiya Mark Guyula – Mulka). This is one fewer than were elected in 2016, Labor’s Ken Vowles having resigned as member for Johnston in early 2020.

Of the 25 electorates, nine were won on first preferences (6 Labor, 2 CLP, 1 Independent) and 12 by the candidate leading on first preferences (7 Labor, 4 CLP, 1 Independent). Four seats were won by a trailing candidate after preferences, Araluen (TA), Brennan (CLP), Katherine (CLP) and Port Darwin (Labor). In Namatjira, the CLP’s Bill Yan was passed on preferences but recovered the lead and won on TA preferences.

Before the election I wrote that Labor started the election with 16 seats, having lost Namatjira in the redistribution and Fong Lim following the defection of Jeff Collins. With Labor having poor prospects of retaining Braitling and Katherine, I stated the election would come down to Labor winning back Fong Lim, and holding on to Port Darwin and its Palmerston seats, areas where Labor had never previously managed to re-elect a sitting member.

That is how the result unfolded. Labor returned to office by winning Fong Lim, and by re-electing sitting members in Port Darwin and Drysdale in Palmerston for the first time. Labor lost Brennan but gained the neighbouring Palmerston seat of Blain with the defeat of Terry Mills. Labor failed to win back Mulka (formerly Nhulunbuy) from its Independent MLA.

New Electoral Pendulum

Labor Seats (14) Country Liberal Seats (8)
Margin Electorate Margin Electorate
ALP 0.2 Blain CLP 0.1 Barkly
ALP 1.4 Arnhem (v IND) CLP 0.3 Namatjira
ALP 1.9 Port Darwin CLP 1.2 Daly
ALP 2.6 Fong Lim CLP 1.2 Brennan
ALP 3.6 Arafura CLP 1.3 Braitling
ALP 8.0 Drysdale CLP 2.5 Katherine
ALP 9.6 Fannie Bay CLP 8.3 Nelson (v IND)
ALP 9.8 Karama CLP 15.0 Spillett
ALP 15.9 Casuarina
ALP 15.0 Gwoja Others (3)
ALP 16.5 Johnston TA 0.5 Araluen (v CLP)
ALP 17.3 Wanguri IND 5.0 Mulka (v ALP)
ALP 19.3 Sanderson IND 6.8 Goyder (v CLP)
ALP 24.3 Nightcliff

Two-Party Preferred Analysis

(30 October 2020 – this section has been updated with the final release of alternative two-party preferred counts for Araluen, Arnhem, Goyder and Nelson.)

The table below sets out the final two-party preferred margins for the 2020 election and swings since 2016. Swings are based on margins adjusted for the 2019 redistribution. The table has been set out to highlight swings in greater Darwin.

To summarise the table, there was a two-party preferred swing of 1.0% towards Labor in Darwin’s northern suburbs, 2.5% to the CLP in the three inner-Darwin seats, 2.7% to the CLP in Palmerston, producing an overall swing against Labor of 1.2% across the 13 seats in Greater Darwin.

In the 11 Regional/Remote seats there was a 7.5% swing against Labor, producing a 24-seat two-party preferred swing of 3.9% to the CLP, the Labor 2-party preferred vote in 24 seats down from 57.2% in 2016 to 53.3% in 2020.

The territory wide 2-party preferred vote in 2016 was 57.5%, a figure that may have been inflated for Labor by the use of optional preferential voting in 2016. A territory wide comparison is not possible as there was no CLP candidate in Mulka at the 2020 election.

The two-candidate preferred swing in Araluen was 8.1% against Robyn Lambly, in Goyder 18.5% against Kezia Purick, and in Mulka 4.9% towards Yingiya Mark Guyula.

Analysis of Two-Party Preferred Results and Swing

2-Party Preferred Pct
Electorate Labor CLP Swing
Casuarina 65.9 34.1 4.4 to Labor
Johnston 66.5 33.5 0.8 to Labor
Karama 59.8 40.2 2.5 to CLP
Nightcliff 74.3 25.7 2.4 to CLP
Sanderson 69.3 30.7 8.8 to Labor
Wanguri 67.3 32.7 2.6 to CLP
Northern Suburbs 67.2 32.8 1.0 to Labor
Fannie Bay 59.6 40.4 2.9 to CLP
Fong Lim 52.6 47.4 3.0 to CLP
Port Darwin 51.9 48.1 0.9 to CLP
Inner Darwin 54.7 45.3 2.5 to CLP
Blain 50.2 49.8 4.8 to CLP
Brennan 48.8 51.2 3.8 to CLP
Drysdale 58.0 42.0 2.8 to Labor
Spillett 35.0 65.0 0.3 to Labor
Palmerston 47.2 52.8 2.7 to CLP
Greater Darwin 58.3 41.7 1.2 to CLP
Arafura 53.6 46.4 3.7 to CLP
Araluen 37.4 62.6 6.9 to CLP
Arnhem 67.6 32.4 7.1 to Labor
Barkly 49.9 50.1 16.0 to CLP
Braitling 48.7 51.3 4.3 to CLP
Daly 48.8 51.2 0.5 to Labor
Goyder 35.6 64.4 16.4 to CLP
Gwoja 65.0 35.0 7.2 to CLP
Katherine 47.5 52.5 4.1 to CLP
Namatjira 49.7 50.3 1.7 to Labor
Nelson 27.2 72.8 15.8 to CLP
Regional/Remote 46.4 53.6 7.5 to CLP
24 Seat 2PP Estimate 53.3 46.7 3.9 to CLP

Notes on Preference Calculation

There were five electorates with three candidates where Territory Alliance preferences were distributed. In total TA preferences flowed 40.7% to Labor, 59.3% to the CLP. In another six electorates where preferences to the CLP were recommended, the TA candidate was the last excluded. Adding these to the totals, the TA preference flows in 11 seats were 41.3% to Labor and 58.7% to the CLP.

The release of the 2PP counts revealed that TA preferences from Robyn Lambley flowed 67.5% to the CLP, 32.5% to Labor. In Goyder, the last excluded candidate was from TA and preferences flowed 55.2% to the CLP, 44.8% to Labor.

I have not included preference flows for Drysdale and Port Darwin, seats where the TA recommended preference for Labor. The flow to Labor on exclusion in these two seats was 43.9% in Drysdale and 49.6% in Port Darwin.

Green preferences were distributed last in Fannie Bay, Johnston and Nightcliff in 2020, flowing  78.1% to Labor. At the 2005, 2008 and 2012 elections under full preferential voting, Green preferences flowed around 70% to Labor but were stronger in northern Darwin seats.

In Arnhem, Independent preferences flowed 61.7% to Labor and 38.3% to the CLP. In Nelson the Independent preferences were 54.1% to the CLP and 45.9% to Labor.

2 thoughts on “2020 Northern Territory Election – Analysis of Results”

  1. In previous election the NTEC conducted notional two-party preferred counts in seats with a top two other than ALP vs CLP. Will the NTEC still conduct notional two-party preferred counts in Araluen, Goyder and Nelson for this election, or have they stopped this practice like Queensland?

    COMMENT: They did it in 2016 at my request. I’ve made the same request but if it is done, it won’t be until after the end of the appeals period.

  2. This is the NTEC and I can confirm that the notional two-party preferred counts in seats with a top two other than the CLP will be done after 19 October, which is the deadline to petition the Court of Disputed Returns

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