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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1346

Mr McVEIGH(10.15) —I take this opportunity in this adjournment debate to praise the results of the Northern Territory's National Party election campaign. To say the National Party did not perform to expectations is to deny the good vote we did gain in certain metropolitan and outer metropolitan seats. Overall, we ended up with 17.86 per cent of the vote. I repeat `overall' because there has been a tendency for political journalists and watchers alike to translate the total figure of 17.86 per cent to a national figure. This is wrong and incorrect, to say the least.

I acknowledge that there were some seats which the National Party polled poorly in because our natural constituency was not located in these outer rural areas, such as MacDonnell, Stuart and Victoria River. Yet in the seats which do identify with the values and policies the National Party stands for, we did remarkably well. For instance, in Katherine, a diverse area of voters, we polled nearly 29 per cent of the vote, and the Labor Party has a big defence base building program going on there-an inbuilt constituency. In Araluen, an area consisting mainly of hobby farmers and townspeople, we polled 27.52 per cent of the vote. And in Flynn, much like Araluen, the National Party polled 25 per cent of the vote.

Let us be honest with ourselves: When we put these percentages in the perspective of a new party without a party structure to speak of, set up only two months before a snap poll was called and challenging well-established parties, we did very well indeed. To say the National Party will not be able to translate its rural image to the city slickers of Sydney and Melbourne is to deny the reality of the Darwin vote-the major centre of population for the Northern Territory.

Mr Martin —Oh!

Mr McVEIGH —The honourable member does not understand. Sure, in the Aboriginal areas we got only 5.6 per cent of the vote. The National Party does not believe in discrimination against anyone. The Government does not score at all. We did very well in Darwin. If the critics want to be fair and logical they will say that, as we got 29 per cent of the vote in Darwin, we will get 29 per cent in Sydney. That is what they were saying. They said: `If you can't get the vote in Darwin, you won't get it in Sydney or Melbourne'. I am just suggesting to honourable members that, if we got 29 per cent of the votes in Sydney and Melbourne, we would be picking up a lot of seats for the National Party.

In Ludmilla, a seat containing a Royal Australian Air Force base and a large Aboriginal reserve, we polled over 23 per cent of the vote; in Wanguri, a sitting Minister's stronghold, the National Party won over 24 per cent of the confidence of the people; and in Port Darwin the National Party polled over 19 per cent. Even in the area where one would expect the Country-Liberal Party to be strong, the young struggling family area of Leanyer, the Tuxworth Nationals picked up a swing of well over 18 per cent.

In the 19 days of electioneering available, and with a three-month old party, the Nationals managed to achieve the same polling results that the Queensland Liberal Party, with 40 years of experience, achieved in the last State election and half the Labor Party vote, with its 70 years of existence, in Queensland. It is not too bad for a young party to achieve the results that the Liberal Party and the Labor Party in Queensland have only been able to achieve over a lifetime. This was achieved despite being denied equal time on the Territory Australian Broadcasting Corporation station, which was biased against the Nationals. We were not guaranteed the same time. That is the only Territory-wide communication link. And it was achieved despite block voting by the Aboriginal community against the National Party.

This election result has not slowed down the National Party movement, it has not marked the beginning of the end of the Joh push, nor have the wheels fallen off the Joh bandwagon. We did well in the metropolitan areas of Darwin, we did well in Katherine and we did well in the Alice Springs electorate. We are obviously a very strong force if we look at the total results, with only three months to establish our party and with a natural inclination to follow previous voting patterns. The Nationals will achieve the desired results on the national level, as we have in the Queensland scene. We have a clear view of what is needed for Australia and what the average, hard working, over taxed Australian wants from a reformist government. We are ready to embrace the challenge the people of Australia are ready to issue us with and to make this the strong, proud nation we all want it to be.

I conclude, Madam Speaker, by asking that we all be honest and clear. We got almost 30 per cent of the vote in some of the Darwin electorates. If those armchair critics who have tried to confuse the issue were fair they would say that if that result were transferred to Sydney and Melbourne we would do very well indeed. Madam Speaker, I suppose one of the disadvantages would be coming into this Parliament and not having you here as Speaker. I would hope, Madam Speaker, that whoever follows you fills your job with equal charm.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.