Gillard’s Labor Loses Power in Australia’s Northern Territory

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor Party lost power in elections in the Northern Territory after 11 years in office.

The Country Liberal Party, led by Terry Mills, won at least 14 of the 25 seats in the Legislative Assembly to oust Chief Minister Paul Henderson’s Labor, according to incomplete results from the Aug. 25 election published in the media.

People “voted for change and for a better future,” Mills said in comments broadcast by Sky News yesterday.

The Northern Territory, about the size of Mongolia, is a sparsely populated region in Australia’s arid central-north. More than half of the territory’s 230,000 people live in the port city of Darwin, and about a third of its population is indigenous compared with the national average of about 3 percent, according to government statistics.

The election was fought primarily on local issues, including strengthening the police, affordable housing, government funding in remote and rural areas, and indigenous rights. The Northern Territory’s population is too small for it to be declared a state.

Gillard, in an e-mailed statement yesterday, congratulated Mills and paid tribute to Henderson’s work as chief minister.

Henderson “leaves the economy in superb condition, with an unemployment rate of just 4 percent, down from 7.4 percent,” Gillard said.

In March, Labor suffered a landslide poll defeat in Queensland, leaving Gillard with her party governing just two of the nation’s six states. Labor holds power in Australia’s other territory, the Australian Capital Territory, home to the national capital, Canberra.

Federally, the Northern Territory has two lower house seats out of 150 nationwide and two senate seats out of 76.

Labor recorded its best performance in opinion polls in six months last week as Gillard seeks to overcome public opposition to her carbon tax introduced in July. The Labor government was favored by 35 percent of voters in a Newspoll survey published in the Australian newspaper on Aug. 21, up 2 percentage points from two weeks earlier, compared with 45 percent for Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National opposition coalition.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Canberra at jscott14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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