Incumbent chief minister Michael Gunner has ruled out Labor’s involvement in a minority government as the Northern Territory goes to the polls.
His party is tipped to retain power at Saturday’s election but there’s a chance his numbers in the 25-seat parliament could slip from the current 16.
“No deals. Stability and certainty, no deals,” Mr Gunner told reporters on Saturday when asked of his willingness to form a minority government.
“Particularly during a public health emergency.”
Mr Gunner refused to say if he would step down as leader if Labor loses and conceded it was a close contest against the Country Liberal Party and newcomers Territory Alliance.
Labor has campaigned on its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, telling voters it’s the party to see the NT through the crisis.
“We are asking them to choose between secure borders or open borders. We are asking them to choose between jobs not cuts,” Mr.Gunner said.
Despite its success protecting Territorians from COVID-19, the Gunner government has been criticised for its handling of the economy – rated as the nation’s worst performer by CommSec for the June quarter.
Mother-of-two Brydie Hill said she’s not worried about the NT’s finances and voted Labor because of their environmental programs.
“I’m not sure everybody should be trying to make the Territory Singapore,” she said when asked about the economy.
“If people move away and Darwin gets smaller, it won’t bother me.”
CLP leader Lia Finocchiaro has repeatedly pointed to the NT’s skyrocketing debt during the campaign, saying 11,000 jobs had been lost on Labor’s watch.
“We want the Territory to be a can-do place that it used to be. This government has squandered that opportunity to make people’s lives better,” she said.
Ms Finocchiaro has promised to fast-track major projects and simplify mining taxes to “signal to the world the territory is open for business”.
Retiree John Britton says he voted for CLP in the past but supported Labor this election.
“The last six months have been tough and I think they’ve done as good a job as anywhere and deserve another go,” he said.
Ms Finocchiaro has also ruled out doing deals to secure power, saying she was fighting hard to win a majority in parliament.
It’s a view shared by the Territory Alliance leader Terry Mills who says the pollsters and bookies tipping Labor have got it wrong.
“They didn’t predict Morrison. They didn’t predict that change,” he said.
Mr Mills has also promised to reactivate the Top End’s ailing economy but unlike the CLP and Labor, Territory Alliance won’t support onshore gas-fracking projects, which have been touted as a potential saviour for the NT’s financial woes.
Plans to frack in the Beetaloo Basin have caused concern among many voters, with fears it could jeopardise groundwater and Australia’s efforts to meet the Paris emissions reduction target.
It has led to the NT Greens running nine candidates and activist group GetUp reportedly handing out how-to-vote cards in six seats, including two exceptionally marginal Labor electorates.
Mr Mills, a former CLP chief minister and architect of the year-old Alliance party, said hydraulic fracturing doesn’t have a social licence to operate in the NT and if Territorians support it, they can “vote for the other two parties”.