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Scott Morrison, Anthony Albanese contest Northern Territory battleground


With dusty desert plains and thundering waterfalls, the Red Centre and the Top End are home to some of Australia’s most famous sites.

But when it comes to the country’s political landscape, the Northern Territory is usually out of sight and out of mind.

With only two lower house seats in the federal parliament – and a relatively lengthy journey required from most capital cities – the Territory is rarely visited by political leaders traipsing electoral battlegrounds.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited Alice Springs this week amid the unofficial election campaign. (Adam Taylor)

But in recent days, the NT has been front and centre in the unofficial election campaign – with both the Prime Minister and Opposition leader spending time here and promising dollars along the way.

The official reason for their coinciding visits was to mark the 80th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin, as the community gathered at commemorative services on Saturday.

But for electoral reasons, both leaders lingered in the NT.

Scott Morrison touched down in Alice Springs on Thursday night and visited a local welding business on Friday with a funding promise for an Indigenous leaders program – getting on the tools to perform for the cameras (in a moment his opponents seized upon, labelling it a cringe-worthy election stunt).

Anthony Albanese has called on Richard Colbeck to resign.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has also been making himself known in the NT. (Alex Ellinghausen)

The Prime Minister then used a naval base in Darwin as a backdrop for a $282m defence announcement – a continuation of the government’s push to convince voters the Coalition is tough on matters of national security, and Labor is weak.

Then of course, there was the inevitable campaign stop-off at a watering hole to mingle with locals over a beer.

The Opposition Leader spent three days doing the rounds of businesses in Darwin – starting on Friday with a promise to improve Indigenous health services. He gave a rained-out pub speech to the party faithful on Saturday evening, and wrapped today, with a pledge to upgrade Northern Territory roads.

The leaders’ schedules reflect the fact at the 2022 federal election, the territory will hold greater-than-usual significance.

There are two reasons to pay attention.

Political photo ops that captured the attention of punters on social media

Arguably the most obvious is that Labor’s Luke Gosling holds the urban seat of Solomon on a margin of only 3.08 per cent, after claiming it from the Country Liberals in 2016.

But interestingly, it’s the less marginal of the NT’s two seats that will be watched more closely.

The sprawling electorate of Lingiari is on a margin of 5.46 per cent – and has been in the comfortable hands of long-serving Labor MP Warren Snowdon since it was formed in 2001.

But after more than three decades in parliament – the Opposition MP is retiring at the next election.

Which means it will no longer be safeguarded by a well-known incumbent – and Lingiari becomes a risk for Labor, and an opportunity for the Coalition.

For each leader, every day is precious at this stage of the election cycle, and their campaign puppet-masters must calculate carefully how to best use their time.

The fact both leaders spent multiple days in the Northern Territory comes down to some simple equations.

The Coalition currently holds 76 of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives.

Labor has 68 – but will pick up another due to redistributions.

Both sides will be aiming to end the race with at least 76 seats (ideally, 77 so they can provide a Speaker in the House of Representatives).

If Scott Morrison loses one seat, his government is in a minority.

If he loses five to Labor, Anthony Albanese could form a government with crossbench support.

And if Labor gains seven, the party will be able to govern in its own right.

When the numbers are this close, every seat matters.

Whether it’s in the bustling big smoke or the remote red centre – if there is a political question mark over it, it will be on leaders’ itineraries, and firmly in their sights.



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