• Marginal seats in the NT election (NITV News)Source: NITV News
The Northern Territory election is just two days away, with Indigenous voters holding enough power to sway the result.
Ella Archibald-Binge

25 Aug 2016 - 7:01 PM  UPDATED 25 Aug 2016 - 7:03 PM

Off the back of recent polling, the Country Liberals face the prospect of becoming the Territory's first one-term government –  something the Chief Minister has put down to a damning report on the treatment of juveniles in detention.

Four years ago, Indigenous voters played a key role in bringing the Liberals to power.

But this election, the Indigenous vote looks set to swing the other way.

 “I think Labor will win back the bush seats,” says Rolf Gerritsen, of the Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute.

“In the two intervening federal elections, the Aboriginal vote has swung gradually back to Labor and was strongly Labor in the last federal election.”

Chief Minister Adam Giles has pointed the finger at the ABC's Four Corners program that triggered a royal commission into juvenile detention in the Territory

Mr Giles says the timing of the program was politically motivated.

"It's certainly Four Corners who have tried to give Labor a leg up, and I think that's unfortunate for a public broadcaster to do that, particularly one that's taxpayer-funded," the Chief Minister said.  

But Rolf Gerritsen says the ABC’s report is unlikely to be the deciding factor in the minds of most Aboriginal voters.

That Four Corners story played out in the southern capitals. It didn't influence very much in the NT. Aboriginal people already knew that was happening, and it's been happening with the previous Labor government as well.”

The report on the alleged abuse of children at the Don Dale juvenile prison is the latest in a long line of incidents that have plagued the CLP's four years in government.

One year after taking office, Terry Mills was overthrown as Chief Minister while overseas on a trade mission and replaced by Adam Giles.

In 2015, there was another leadership coup. This time it was a failure. Mr Giles refused to resign, instead appointing his challenger as deputy.

Meanwhile, a handful of Indigenous MPs quit the party amidst claims of racism within party ranks.

Another Minister resigned in the wake of a sex scandal.

“That actually had a bigger impact in the Territory than the Don Dale thing,” Mr Gerritsen says.

This chain of events has significantly weakened the CLP's position in the parliament. There are 25 seats in the Territory's single-house Legislative Assembly. In 2012, the CLP won 16, Labor won 8, and Independent Gerry Wood took the remaining one.

But after four years in government, a series of by-elections and party defections, the spread now looks quite different - with the CLP down to 12 seats, and Labor 7, leaving six to the independents.

Five seats will be key in Saturday's contest, and all five are bush electorates with predominately Indigenous voters: Namatjira, held by retiring member Alison Anderson, Bess Price's seat of Stuart, Larissa Lee's Arnhem electorate, and the CLP-held Arafura and Daly.

Last month's federal election saw a 7.4% swing against the CLP, and pollsters predict that swing will increase in the NT election.

But would a change in government bring about change for the Territory's First Peoples?

“The outcomes tend to be inequitable, because the preference is for spending in Darwin on things that concern, if you like, the majority of the electorate, rather than in the bush where the 30% who are Aboriginal live,” Rolf Gerritsen says. 

You can watch more on 'The Point with Stan Grant' tonight at 9pm.

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