Gillard’s Labor Loses Power in Australia 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 15 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 by the Australian Electoral Commission today.

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 on issues including strengthening the police, affordable housing, government funding in remote and rural areas, and indigenous rights. Treasurer Wayne Swan told reporters in Canberra today the election result was largely decided on local factors.

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.

Nielsen Poll

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 also holds power in the Australian Capital Territory, home to the national capital of 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 an opinion poll in six months as Gillard seeks to overcome public opposition to her carbon tax introduced in July, according to a Nielsen poll published in The Age newspaper today.

The Labor government was favored by 32 percent of voters, up 2 percentage points from the previous poll, compared with 45 percent for Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National opposition coalition, down two points. Nielsen survyed 1,400 respondents on Aug. 23-25, and didn’t provide a margin of error.

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