One of my earliest political memories is from the May 1954 general election for the House of Representatives only. Menzies narrowly won against Doctor Evatt. For me personally, however, the main memory is of the fact that my parents were denied the right to vote as a consequence of our local member, Harry Turner (Liberal), being returned unopposed in Bradfield.

It was a common happening in those days. At the November 1963 House of Representatives only general election John Norman Nelson (Labor) was returned unopposed for the Northern Territory. It then went entirely out of fashion for any member of the House of Representatives to be returned unopposed.

However, unopposed returns continued at state elections. In South Australia in March 1965 there were unopposed returns in Albert, Angas and Light. In Queensland in May 1966 there were unopposed returns in Mackenzie and Warrego. In New South Wales in September 1981 there was an unopposed return in South Coast. In Western Australia in February 1983 there was an unopposed return in Narrogin.

To the best of my knowledge there was not a single case of an unopposed return during the 1990s in any Australian parliamentary election.

Consequently I came to the conclusion that the idea of an unopposed return had gone entirely out of fashion in this country. Therefore when I studied the nominations for the Northern Territory general election on August 9 I was surprised to notice that two of the 25 members of the Legislative Assembly have been returned unopposed. They are both Aboriginal women first elected as Labor members in June 2005 in predominantly Aboriginal electorates.

The first case is Barbara McCarthy in the Top End division of Arnhem. However, she seems to have changed her name to Malarndirri McCarthy. The second case is Alison Anderson in the Central Australian division of Macdonnell.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off